USC head football coach Lane Kiffin expects David Sills to be the next in a long line of great quarterbacks for the Trojans, and it’s easy to see why.
Search for his name on YouTube, and it’ll bring up enough highlight tape to fill an entire episode of Sports Center.
Of course, you might also notice that Sills looks a bit young to start for a Division I college football team — five years too young, to be exact.
At 13 years old, Sills is easily the most prized seventh-grade recruit in the country. He’s already been profiled by the likes of Sports Illustrated, ESPN and CBS Sports.
Despite his young age, Sills verbally committed Thursday to play for the Trojans in 2015.
Sills began working with private quarterback coach Steve Clarkson — tutor to Ben Roethlisberger, Jimmy Clausen, Matt Barkley and Terrelle Pryor, to name a few — when he was only 9 years old.
“I know he’s young but there’s always an exception; he’s the exception,” Clarkson said of Sills in 2007. “This kid is on his way to being the greatest high school recruited quarterback ever.”
According to his father, Sills began receiving recruiting information from major Division I programs when he was 11. Although he is the most high-profiled recruit in his age range, Sills is not the only junior high school player receiving scholarship offers.
Since NCAA recruiting laws say players don’t become prospective student athletes until the ninth grade, meaning they don’t have to adhere to the same rules as high school players, recruiting out of middle schools seems to be the next step in building football programs for college coaches.
Youth football, it seems, is now as much of a business as it is at the professional level. But in the quest to find the next great player, coaches, media and various athletic organizations are destroying everything that is great and pure about the sport.
The problem isn’t that a 13-year-old committed to play for USC; the issue was that it was national news when it happened.
Parents trying to live out their failed sports dreams vicariously through their children push them to be better, faster and stronger at younger ages. Groups such as the Amateur Athletic Union are working to evolve youth sports by setting up leagues where the cream-of-the-crop players compete against each other.
With all of these forces pushing young athletes to be the best they can, it’s impossible for youth sports to be fun.
Kids are no longer learning about teamwork and sportsmanship, but rather to selfishly put themselves before the needs of their teams to assure they’ll get the most exposure. Amateur sports are officially all about “me,” instead of the joys of playing a game.
The NCAA would be wise to step in and amend its rules to make any non-collegiate athlete off-limits to recruiters before things really get out of hand. Being that this is not the first time a college coach has recruited a middle school player, it’s unclear whether the NCAA views this as a serious problem.
And maybe it really is no big deal; perhaps all of this attention early in their careers is good for young players.
If he works hard enough, Sills just might turn out to be the next Todd Marinovich.