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Choice, commitment and enthusiasm.
Former NFL linebacker and current NFL Player Engagement representative Chris Draft emphasized the importance of these three values to football players from across the United States and Sweden on Saturday at University of Texas at Darrel K Royal Memorial Stadium’s Eighth Floor Lounge in Austin, Texas.
The Welcome Lunch was attended by players, coaches and parents taking part in the USA Football Under-17 International Development Week.
Draft played 13 seasons in the NFL after graduating from Stanford with a degree in economics. He now works with the NFL to prepare incoming players, as well as college and high school athletes, for their football journeys.
“I wouldn’t know how to respect the game and how to approach the game if it wasn’t for a few things that I learned while growing up,” Draft said to open his speech.
He shared three stories with the athletes and their families.
When Draft was 5, he started playing soccer. Instead of being given a ball and then let loose to roam free with it, Draft was told that he had to begin by running around the field.
Draft ran to his parents to complain. They gave him a simple choice: “You either practice with your teammates or you sit on the sidelines. You either listen to your coach or you can’t play.”
Five years later, Draft joined organized football for the first time. He loved watching the Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett with the Dallas Cowboys.
When Draft showed up at tryouts, he had his mind set on lining up in the backfield and mimicking Dorsett. The coach’s, though, wanted him on the offensive line.
Draft tried as hard as he could the first day of practice to show that he was the best running back on the squad, but when he got home he felt a soreness that soccer and baseball had never caused. Quitting crossed his mind, but his father told him that they were going to go for a run to move the soreness out.
“If you start, you’re going to finish,” Draft said.
When Draft was in high school, he had the opportunity to teach special education students through a volunteer program. The energy that the students brought to classroom had a huge impact on Draft. He was constantly reminded of their energy and desire and craved their enthusiasm.
One player at the event who exemplified the enthusiasm, commitment and choice that Draft spoke of was Tyler, Texas, quarterback Grady Atkins.
“This experience has been great,” Atkins said. “The guy sitting next to me is from Nebraska, and I just met him. I’m making a lot of friends already. It’s just cool to see the level that other kids from around the country are playing at.”
Atkins and the rest of the athletes displayed that enthusiasm Draft spoke of, demonstrating their commitment to the game as well as his choice to get better by making the trip to Austin.
“My goals are to get better and to hopefully get a starting spot out there whenever we begin our games,” Atkins said.
ONE GAME Craig Way, the play-by-play announcer for the Texas Longhorns, opened the Welcome Lunch by speaking about the common bond shared by everyone in the room.
“When you look around your table and you look around this room, you will see that you come from different hometowns and different states and even different countries,” Way said. “What really binds us all together during this event is a shared love for the world’s greatest game.
Taase ‘Pooch’ Suaese of American Samoa named Coach of the Tournament; Canada defensive back Kevin McGee takes the tournament MVP award
The International Federation of American Football has selected the All-Tournament team for the 2012 IFAF Under-19 World Championship played at Burger Stadium in Austin from June 30 to July 7.
American Samoa head coach Taase “Pooch” Suaese is Coach of the Tournament, while Canada defensive back Kevin McGee is Most Valuable Player.
Suaese took his team from its eighth-seed ranking to a fifth-place finish. The first-time entrants on the international stage became the first team to score a touchdown against the United States in a first-round 27-6 loss. American Samoa then bounced back to defeat Panama, 51-0, and France, 27-14.
“I thank our assistants and all of our players,” Suaese said. “Their effort made this happen. It’s also special with our governor being here tonight.
“Our experience here means a lot because the community back home went through a lot of effort to finance the trip to make it possible for us to be here. The players had to work through a lot to be here. They had to work hard.
“We’re getting ready for 2014, and we’re already getting emails from people interested in playing for us. American Samoa players are scattered everywhere, and they want to participate in 2014, so it’s going to get better.”
McGee’s two interceptions helped Canada defeat the United States, 23-17, in the the Gold Medal game. McGee finished the tournament with 14 tackles, including 2½ for loss, to go with four pass breakups and the two picks.
“I didn’t think I’d even be a game MVP let alone the tournament MVP,” McGee said. “It’s unexpected. They’ll be really happy and really proud of me back home (at Champlain College in Sherbrooke, Quebec). I’m pretty happy.
“Everybody expected the Americans to win, and we shocked the world. Hopefully, everybody realizes we’re not just a hockey nation. We’re a football nation.”
McGee led the tournament with 4 passes defended and had 2 interceptions and recorded 12 tackles.
The all-tournament team featured 24 players in total with nine from the United States, eight from Canada, two from American Samoa and Japan and one each from Austria, France and Sweden.
Canadian quarterback Will Finch, who completed 19-of-29 pass attempts for 380 yards and three touchdowns, was joined by his Canada’s leading receiver Doug Corby, who had 12 receptions for a tournament-high 290 yards and two touchdowns.
American running back Tarean Folston had 26 carries for 184 yards and three total touchdowns was joined by USA receiver Demarcus Ayres (12 receptions, 179 yards, two touchdowns) and tight end Durham Smythe (seven receptions, 55 yards).
American Samoa running back Ietiaia Manu completed the all-tournament backfield in recognition of his tournament-best 27 carries for 208 yards and two touchdowns.
USA had Hunter Bivin and Logan Tuley-Tillman selected for offensive line honors alongside Louis-Gabriel Beaudet from Canada, Daniel Feichter of Austria and Japan’s Kenzo Shimano.
On the defensive side, Canada’s Edward Godin-Gosselin and Charles Remi-Sarrazin were joined by Dakota Jackson of the USA and Justus Faaiu of American Samoa on the defensive line. Faaiu led the tournament with three sacks and was second with 4 1/2 tackles for a loss
Eric Beisel and Reggie Chevis from Team USA were joined by Canada’s John Rush as the linebackers. Rush was the tournament’s third-leading tackler with 14½, while Beisel posted 3½ tackles for a loss and Chevis three for loss among their stats.
Four different nations were represented in the defensive backfield. McGee joins Cameron Walker from USA, Yuta Shimozuru from Japan and Carl Tembo from France.
Two players were honored as specialists. Canada kicker Louis-Phillipe Simoneau made 4-of-5 field goals with a long of 37 yards, 8-of-10 extra points and punted eight times for 309 yards and a 38.6-yard average.
Swedish running back Oscar Nevermann scored a tournament single-game record five touchdowns in his team’s seventh-place win over Panama and led the tournament in points scored with 30. He also led the all-purpose yardage with 445.
First team all-tournament selections:
Replays of all 12 tournament games can be found at USA Football’s YouTube channel: www.YouTube.com/usafootballeducation.
Team Canada defeated the U.S. Under-19 National Team, 23-17, on Saturday in the Gold Medal game of the 2012 International Federation of American Football Under-19 World Championship at Burger Stadium in Austin, Texas.
Canada, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, jumped out to a 10-0 lead that it never relinquished and went on to stun top-seeded Team USA.
“Both teams played hard,” Team USA head coach Steve Specht of Cincinnati St. Xavier H.S. said. “There was ebb and flow. They just made one more play than we did. Give Canada credit. They played a heck of a game.”
Team Canada’s Alexandre Huard returned a punt 59 yards for a score and Louis-Philippe Simoneau kicked a 21-yard field goal to give Canada its early lead.
Simoneau opened the scoring with a 21-yard field goal late in the first quarter. The score was set up by an interception by defensive back Kevin McGee to give Team Canada the ball at the U.S. 40-yard line. The big play on the drive was a 22-yard pass from Will Finch to Doug Corby down to the Americans’ seven-yard line.
The interception was the first turnover by the United States in six games of IFAF Under-19 Championship competition, including the team’s three 2009 world championship games in Canton, Ohio. Canada’s early 3-0 lead also marked the first time that the United States trailed in Under-19 World Championship tournament play.
“I’m happy for the team,” said Canada’s McGee, who earned the team’s Gold Medal game MVP honors with five tackles and a pair of interceptions. “It’s an honor to be named MVP but this was a team victory. We worked really hard for two weeks. We’re really happy right now.
“This week has been the best experience of my life. I met some new people, I worked really hard and I think I’m a better football player after this.”
Canada’s first touchdown came when Huard fielded a Cameron Van Winkle punt and returned it 59 yards for a score with 8:24 left in the half.
Huard did not fare as well on the next U.S. punt, fumbling a fair catch at the Canada 14. The ball caromed back to the Canadians’ 35-yard line before safety Darius Mosely fell on it for Team USA.
Following a Canada pass interference penalty on first down that moved the ball to the Canada 20, U.S. quarterback Brayden Scott found DeMarcus Ayers for 15 yards down to the 5-yard line. Scott hit Ayers again three plays later for a touchdown to cut the Canada lead to 10-7 with 4:39 left in the half. For the tournament, Scott led all passers in yards (412) and touchdowns (six). Ayers and Canada’s Corby tied for a tournament-best 12 receptions.
Canada increased its advantage to 16-7 on the opening series of the third quarter as Finch moved the Canadians 81 yards on five plays with Christopher Amoah taking a screen pass and rumbling 26 yards for the score. A bad snap on the extra-point attempt left the lead at nine.
“We had to control the tempo of the football game, and we knew it had to happen up front with the offensive line, and that was our game plan going into the tournament and we kept with it all the way through,” Canada head coach Noel Thorpe said.
Team USA answered on its next drive, moving 78 yards in 11 plays before Scott hit Rodney Adams from 12 yards out to trim the Canada lead to 16-14 with 4:08 left in the third quarter.
Canada extended its cushion back to two scores with a 64-yard drive midway through the fourth quarter, making it 23-14 with 5:10 left in the game on a 10-yard run by Mercer Timmis.
Canada appeared to have iced the game when Scott was intercepted for the second time on the night by McGee to end the next drive. Canada drove to the Americans’ 26-yard line before a bad shotgun snap rolled all the way back to the Canada 45, where it was recovered by Team USA safety Tyler Willis. A personal foul called against Canada on the play moved the ball to the Canada 30, and Van Winkle drilled a 43-yard field goal to cut the lead to 23-17 with 1:47 to go.
Out of timeouts, Team USA went with an on-side kick. The Americans fielded the ball but before it traveled 10 yards, which would have given the ball to Canada but the Canadians were ruled to be offsides on the kick. On the re-kick, the U.S. tried a pooch kickoff, which Canada recovered on its own 24-yard line and ran out the clock.
“The kids played their hearts out,” Specht said of his U.S. players. “I’m proud of these young men. I hope they don’t put the destination ahead of the journey. They made friends for a lifetime here these two weeks. That outweighs any game.”
“We had one goal and one goal in mind and that was to come back with a Gold Medal around our neck,” Canadian head coach Thorpe said. “These guys believed in it, and they played 48 minutes of solid football. I couldn’t be prouder of these guys.”
Ayers was named Team USA’s MVP for the second time in the tournament, catching five passes for 38 yards and a touchdown.
Earlier in the day, Japan defeated Austria, 7-0, to earn the world championship’s bronze medal. Japan also earned bronze in the first IFAF Under-19 World Championship in Canton, Ohio, in 2009.
Game stories and statistics from all 12 tournament games can be found at: http://u19championship.com/schedule.
(Photo: USA Football/@CIMAGES)
By Chris Hummer
Practice was on the baseball field right next to Burger Stadium, but for players participating in the Under-19 National Trials, the work was about as far away from baseball as it gets.
There was a lot to digest, and the coaches had high expectations. But, for the most part, players excelled at picking up the systems.
“We got a lot thrown at us today,” said Jimmy Struble, a wide receiver from Round Rock, Texas. “But they’re confident we can do it, so I’m confident, too.”
On offense, the players had to quickly pick up on the intricacies of the option, which is very intensive on the quarterback. The QB must read what the defense is doing and make the right decision for his offense.
The coaches were pleased with the performances from the quarterbacks.
“I’m really impressed by the way that they handled it, and they don’t all come from that background,” said Terry Shea, a former NFL quarterbacks coach. “They did very well with the mechanics of it. They haven’t seen any live bullets yet, but I thought they sure handled it mechanically very well and understood the concepts.”
It wasn’t just the quarterbacks that got the mental workout at practice; running backs have a lot of responsibilities with the option, too. But it was the receivers who got to improve on an underutilized portion of their game – blocking.
“The stock blocking was good, especially for the screens that we were running,” said Charles Clarke, a wide receiver from Pleasant Grove, Texas. “We’re always the last blockers on that play, and if we do it right it’ll get us 10 to 15 yards.”
The defense had a busy day as well. They worked on making quick decisions and anticipating the offense’s plan with the spread.
When playing against a quick strike offense like they were preparing for, a combination of athleticism and mental fortitude is key.
“It shows the guys who can play and space with good pad level, proper technique and alignment,” said Everett Hibbard, a coach from Cincinnati, Ohio. “Shows the guys who are not just athletic, but can also execute detail-oriented schemes.”
GREAT LEARNING EXPERIENCE USA football prides itself on teaching the game from the ground up, and their camps are no different.
They’re structured to teach the details of the game and place a high priority on knowledge and the interworkings of football.
Parents have noticed and been pleased with how much their kids have learned this week.
“This is the most organized camp we’ve been to,” said Steven Hudson, father of quarterback Deion Hudson from South Orange, N.J. “Even for the kids that don’t make the team, they will get something out of it. The details are game-specific training, and it’s just a great camp.”
STAYING SAFE IN THE HEAT It hit 100 degrees in Austin again Saturday. Despite the rising temperatures, there have been no injuries, thus far, at the Under-19 trials.
This is because of the diligence of the staffers at the camp. They stress hydration and keep contact to a minimum, while still teaching skills that transfer directly to the field.
“The practices are very structured, and they do a good job of limiting unnecessary contact,” said trainer Joe Gutzwiller of Indianapolis. “It’s a lot of instruction, teaching and a lot of fundamental skill involvement. It’s not just a lot of ‘Let’s go out there and hit.’ It’s a lot more focused than that.”
LEARNING ACCOUNTABILITY Football is not an individual sport. In order for a team to succeed, all 11 players on the gridiron need to work in unison, a message the players really took away from their practice on Saturday.
“It takes teamwork to form a great team,” said Raymond Rodriguez, a running back from Taylor, Texas. “It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, Hispanic, it all comes down to teamwork.”
HUNGER GAMES After practice, the players were treated to a barbecue dinner before they headed over to Burger Stadium to watch the finals of the IFAF Under-19 World Championship.
The athletes thought the food was great. Only problem was, some were still hungry.
“The barbecue is really good, but I’ve got to say I want some seconds,” Clarke said with a grin.
By Nick Cremona
The Under-17 International Development Week kicked into full-gear Saturday evening as the U.S. and Swedish National Teams practiced mini-camp style in preparation for a week chock-full of drills and scrimmages.
Like their Under-15 and Under-19 counterparts, the U.S. players are led by many of the nation’s top high school coaches. Offensive line coach Dave Walsh, who holds the same position at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Okla., wants his players to treat this week like any other team practice.
“After the first couple of days, all these guys are real close and they might as well have been playing together for years,” Walsh said. “The great thing about this week is the lasting relationships that the players and coaches foster. Camps like this are great tools for young football players.”
As soon as the players from Team USA arrived by bus at the practice field, it was time to work on their skills. After a few quick stretches, players were on the field practicing full speed. Coaches took every opportunity to emphasize fundamentals first during drills.
“I would like to work more on my technique and routes,” said Marquise Calhoun, a sophomore wide receiver from Henrietta High School in Henrietta, Texas. “Hopefully by the end of the week, we will all see improvement and have something to be proud of.”
Like Team USA, Team Sweden split into smaller groups by position, just with a few less players. Head coach Stefan Clavebring, also the coach of the Swedish U-15 National Team, knows his players may have a slight disadvantage as far as size, but he doesn’t see it as a hindrance to his team’s performance throughout the week. Sweden will have the chance to play against all three U.S. teams this week, and its players are eager to showcase their talents alongside Team USA.
“The guys don’t care so much about their size compared to Team USA,” Clavebring said. “It motivates them to work that much harder to show everyone that our players can compete. Once again, we are just here to learn and get better in the end.”
TRAINERS KNOW BEST With temperatures lingering near 100 degrees during the day, it’s important for both the U.S. and Swedish trainers to keep a close eye on players’ health.
“One of the most common injuries players will suffer in the heat are cramps,” Team USA trainer Tommy Anderson said. “Lots of water is important, but also stretching and just being careful on the field helps prevent major injuries.”
A BIT OF HOME When you’re more than 5,000 miles away from home, little things like having family make the trip can make all the difference. And while it’s not legal to bring food items into the States from overseas, one Swedish player still found a way to have his favorite dessert while in Austin for a week.
“In Sweden, we have a dessert called Ostkaka,” said Isak Hohn, a defensive end from Lund, Sweden. “It is a bit like what you would call cheesecake, but my mom was able to make some and share it with the team. It was good to have even though we are not in Sweden.”
SIBLING ASSISTANCE Team USA coaches weren’t the only ones trying to get their point across to players during mini-camp drills. Tyree Davis — the younger brother of Sean Davis, a junior outside linebacker from Clayton High School in St. Louis — was right alongside his brother to offer input as well.
“Sean will always listen to me,” said the younger Davis. “I may not know as much as the coaches, but we always work on drills in the backyard together, and I can help sometimes. I try not to get in the way of the coaches too much.”
Ryosuke Nishizawa broke a scoreless tie with a one-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter to give Japan a 7-0 win over Austria in the Bronze Medal game at the International Federation of American Football Under-19 World Championship at Burger Stadium in Austin, Texas, on Saturday.
The win netted Japan its second consecutive bronze medal in IFAF Under-19 World Championship play, with its other coming in 2009 at Canton, Ohio.
Japan’s defense limited Austria to just 90 yards of total offense on the day. Linebacker Naoki Hayashi earned MVP honors for the Japanese with seven tackles in the shutout victory.
“This experience will help American football in Japan,” said Tema Japan head coach Takao Yamazaki. “Not only to develop players but also human beings who can learn different cultures. In the future, Japan will continue to improve and build a better team.”
A rapidly-moving opening half saw the defenses dominate. The only serious scoring threat came late in the second quarter when Japan reached the Austria 19-yard line following a failed Austria punt attempt. Japan could not capitalize as kicker Nanami Ariwa’s 36-yard field goal attempt was wide right.
Austria reached Japan’s 26-yard line late in the first quarter following an interception by Thomas Meznik, but Austria came up short on fourth-and-six from the Japan 26 and turned the ball over on downs.
“We played together as a group,” Hayaski said “The defensive backs did a very good job. This was an accomplishment for the entire team.”
“We prepared well for their offense but they prepared for ours as well,” Austria head coach Horst Obermayer said through a translator. “Japan made some adjustments from what we’d seen so far and played a little differently defensively. We didn’t really have anywhere to go.”
Japan’s opening drive of the fourth quarter began in Austria territory at the 48. On first down Satoshi Sagino broke free on a 31-yard run down to the Austria 17 to set Japan up deep in Austria territory. Six plays later, quarterback Ryosuke Nishizawa plunged over the goal line from a yard out for a 7-0 Japan lead with 8:42 left in the game.
On Japan’s next series, Austria’s Thomas Meznik forced a fumble that was recovered by Thomas Oberdorfer near midfield with 6:51 left in the game. But Japan’s defense held at the 50 and Austria was forced to punt.
“Austria deserves great credit, especially on defense. They did a very good job stopping us,” Japanese head coach Yamazaki said. “The entire tournament, I think our defense did a really good job.”
Austria had one final chance with 1:09 to go but could not advance beyond midfield and turned the ball over on downs to end the game.
Austria defensive lineman Christoph Leitner earned MVP honors for Austria with six tackles and a sack.
The tournament marked Austria’s first appearance in an IFAF Under-19 World Championship after having won the 2011 Under-19 European Championship. Seeded No. 5 at the tournament’s outset, Austria finished fourth out of eight competitors spanning four continents.
“We played a good game defensively but they were able to get that touchdown late in the game,” Leitner said. “It was a great experience and I’m glad we had the chance to do this. I think we learned a lot.”
“I’m really happy to have been here and very excited about the entire experience,” Japan’s Hayaski said of the World Championship. “Being so close with other players and other teams in the dorms, I made a lot of friends and had a lot of conversations with people from other countries.”
(Photo: USA Football / @CIMAGES)
As American Samoa players, coaches and fans sang and danced on the sideline following their team’s 27-14 win over France on Friday night at Burger Stadium, they celebrated victory, honored their opponents and filled the Austin, Texas, night with joy and laughter.
The result secured fifth place for American Samoa in the eight-nation IFAF Under-19 World Championship, but the cheers could be heard all the way back to the tiny island of 60,000 people that put their little corner of the world on display.
“It means a lot because of what it took for us to get here, all the fundraisers that we did, the $150,000 we had raise,” American Samoa head coach Pooch Taase said. “The walking from one side of the island to the other with a wheel barrel and having people donate money – from little kids to elders to pastors, the high chiefs, the whole community – I think that’s why it means a lot more. The whole trip was funded by the community.”
Quarterback Ben Langford had a hand in three touchdowns – throwing for one, running for one and catching another to earn team MVP honors. Running back Faafouina Sitagata ran for 80 yards and the other touchdown.
An opening-round loss to the top-seeded United States relegated American Samoa to the consolation bracket, but Langford said that did not get his team down. The two weeks he spent in Austin was like a family trip. His teammates are brothers, the coaches are dads and uncles.
“We eat with each other, brush teeth with each other, sleep together, smell each other,” Langford said. “We do everything together.”
France took an early 7-0 lead when linebacker Etienne Roudel stripped stripped loose a ball that was recovered by defensive lineman Adrien Baudard at the Samoa 43. Four plays later, Mathias Soler connected with Maxime Durand Gasselin on a 13-yard touchdown pass.
Roudel was his team’s MVP with 15 tackles and the forced fumble.
We talked about ripping the ball loose whenever possible, and it worked pretty well there,” Roudel said. “We prepared very well. It was very good work by our coaches to make us a better team.”
Taase was not pleased with how his team was performing. France had the advantage along the line, and penalties once again were giving their opponent extra possessions.
“We expected a very good game coming in,” Taase said. “We knew we had to take care of things before we go off. I told the kids, ‘We’re still a .500 team. We’re only 1-1.’ ”
A bad snap on a punt attempt set American Samoa up at the French 42, and Samoa took advantage as running back Faafouina Sitagata pulled up on a toss sweep and threw back across the field for an 8-yard touchdown pass to Langford to tie the game 53 seconds into the second quarter.
More problems on a punt again set American Samoa up deep in France territory. Langford found Sione Latu alone in the end zone from nine yards out to give the Samoans a 13-7 lead following a failed two-point conversion attempt.
Samoa made it 21-7 after Langford directed an 11-play drive in which he carried the final 10 yards for his second score of the day. Shalom Luani ran for the two-point conversion.
France cut the lead to 21-14 on the opening drive of the third quarter as Soler found Anthony Mahoungou down the right sideline from 34 yards out, capping a 60-yard drive.
Both of France’s touchdowns came through the air as Soler and Remi Bertellin combined to throw for 235 yards.
It was a vastly different offense than France’s first two games, in which the European silver medalist combined to gain just 34 yards passing.
“We knew we were in for a difficult game tonight. The goal was to control the ball, keep drives alive and finish,” France head coach Olivier Moret said. “We lost the game on details. It was not that we weren’t prepared. We just aren’t at the level we need be to beat teams like this. We need to work all year long.”
American Samoa looked poised to extend its lead early in the fourth quarter following an interception by Shalom Luani that set the Samoans up at the France 19, but the French defense held a 37-yard field goal attempt fell short.
France ensuing series stalled at its own 42. The French lined up to punt, but Remi Bertellin’s attempted pass on a fake fell to the turf incomplete. Langford then drove American Samoa for the clinching score as Sitigata reached the end zone from nine yards out for a 27-14 lead following a blocked extra point.
France gathered for a final rally as Soler drove the team to the American Samoa 8-yard line before turning the ball over on downs with eight seconds left.
As the clock wound down, Taase was doused in Gatorade and the Samoan fans erupted. American Samoa Gov. Togiola T.A. Tulafono came down to address the team, sharing the pride felt by everyone back home.
“You played hard. You played fair. And it is very obvious. Congratulations,” Tulafono said. “It’s a milestone for American Samoa. You make us proud. You’ve elevated our name, our identity to a much higher place. Thank you.”
(Photo: USA Football / @CIMAGES)
Facebook and Twitter have stormed onto the scene during the last few years.
Social media affects the way we get news, display our personal lives and interact with celebrities and athletes.
It puts sports figures closer to their fans than ever before, and anything a player tweets or posts is on full display to everyone.
Exercising caution with social media was part of the focus during the Player Development Session on Friday for athletes taking part in the U.S. Under-19 National Team trials.
Former NFL linebacker Chris Draft and Tierra Barber, an assistant athletics director at Baylor, engaged with about 150 players and their parents about the importance of responsible social media and the correct way to use these tools.
Draft made it simple when it comes to what’s appropriate to post:
“If you have something on your Facebook page that your mama wouldn’t approve of, don’t have it on there,” he said.
Social media is a platform that allows anyone to send a message to the world. There are dozens of stories of players losing scholarships or getting kicked off of teams because of an insensitive Tweet or Facebook post.
Poor word choices can stay with players for the rest of their lives. And as it turns out, so do the tweets, because the Library of Congress catalogs every Twitter post.
But it’s not all bad. Social media can be used as a positive outlet, according to Draft and Barber. It’s a way to send out positive messages about your work ethic and interesting tidbits of your day-to-day life.
Social media can be a great tool – as long as it’s used correctly, which is a message that sank into the players.
“A lot of us probably need to clean our act up a little bit,” said senior D.J. Dean, a defensive back from Newton, Texas. “It’s definitely going to make me take a second look at what I post on social media.”
IF YOU’RE NOT EARLY YOUR LATE The session was scheduled to start at 2 p.m. sharp, and it didn’t end up starting until 2:07. Despite the minor delay, Draft began the session by apologizing for the wait.
In order to make it to the next level and improve as a person, Draft said, punctuality is paramount.
“In college and the NFL, if you’re not early your late,” Draft said.
GET YOUR DEGREE Many high school and college athletes think their college experience is a fast track to the pros and often ignore their education.
According to Draft, the only way to get the full value of the college athletic experience is to finish out and get a degree.
“Playing college football is a job, and if you don’t stay and get your degree they just stole from you,” he said. “You don’t get anything.”
2 A.M. SAYS A LOT There is an old adage that goes: “Nothing good happens after midnight.”
For prospective college athletes, this is especially true.
The decisions players make on their own without coaches or parental supervision separate one from another.
“Socially there won’t be anyone there to tell you what and what not to do (in college),” Barber said. “The biggest downfalls happen because a player couldn’t make the right decision at 2 a.m.”
A DOSE OF REALITY Stressing the importance of earning a degree was a major topic at the seminar. That idea was never more evident than when the statistic for the length of an NFL career was displayed.
An average player’s career is only 6.8 years. However, the most telling statistic was that the majority of players are out of the game by age 25.
When many players leave, they don’t have a degree to fall back on and struggle to find a life after football. This is why Barber and Draft stressed earning a degree.
“Finish while you can, because it is a rare opportunity to get a free education,” Barber said.