Later this week, the NFL Combine begins in Indianapolis. It's quite the spectacle, as hundreds of prospects gather in one place to participate in drills with the hope of furthering the pursuit of their dream to continue playing football and create a better life for themselves and their families.
That's the big business version of the "combine experience."
This past weekend at the Methodist Training Center here in Houston, a different version of the "combine experience" took place. The dream was essentially the same -- to keep playing football as a means to a better life. While it was done on a far less publicized scale, it was just as important to the participants.
The participants were area high school seniors, and the event was the Greater Houston Senior Football Showcase.
Created in 2009 by Milby head football coach Phil Camp and current Reagan High counselor Coby Rhoden, the Showcase gives nearly 500 high school seniors from Houston (and a few from other nearby places, like San Antonio) the opportunity to work out for and network with over 40 Division II, Division III, and NAIA colleges.
It's NFL Combine meets college admissions fair as the first few hours are spent with kids divided up by position running drills and eventually 7-on-7, and the final hour or so is spent with kids visiting tables (set up in a horseshoe configuration surrounding the field) and picking up collateral material from the schools that show interest.
Unlike the NFL combine, which was born from 32 businesses trying to streamline and make better business decisions, the Showcase is born solely with the focus on the participants.
It is completely run by hundreds of volunteers, and the Texans open their doors to house the event at no charge. Even the food for the college coaches (recruiting budgets being thin and all) is provided by some of the more high profile local eateries.
Most of all, kids get a chance to go to college, which is what it's all about. Last year, over $10 million in scholarships and grant were offered, and hundreds of kids were given an avenue to a better future.
There are a lot of things that can motivate high school coaches, and not always are their motivations in line with what's best for their kids. The Showcase truly represents high school coaching at its most generous.
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"I just want to help these kids get to college," said Rhoden.
Check out my column on the Showcase that runs in this week's print edition of the Houston Press, including quotes from participants, college coaches, and Houston Texans president Jamey Rootes.