Remember when you were mad that “recruiting analysts” were tracking 8th graders and colleges were offering scholarships to 9th graders? Rivals made news over the weekend when word got out that the site had given 12 year old quarterback Daron Bryden his very own tracking page, the first time a 6th grader had been honored with such a prestigious accomplishment.
Let me give you a quick recap of how this all happened. Bryden has been the subject of trick throw videos since he was 8. ESPN eventually ran the videos on a couple shows and he had his viral moment in the sun. Then, at 10, Bryden was on LL Cool J’s “Kids Do The Darndest Things” show where he competed against Matt Hasselbeck.
Now 12, Bryden ends up at an offseason camp called NextGen, which is calling its program an “all america camp.” Parents pay $99 to send their kid to the camp, which has a mission statement that it was “created to discover and provide exposure for the top middle school football players in the country.” NextGen claims that it will view about 5,000 athletes in 12 cities this year.
Quick math: 5,000 x $99 = $495,000 gross from parents looking to get “exposure” for their middle school football player.
Former NFL defensive end Brent Williams is the brains behind the operation. NextGen promises middle schoolers that “the top performers at each camp will be placed in our Future Five Star Newsletter that is distributed to our network of college coaches and personnel directors.” Daron Bryden and another 12 year old, Tyson Thornton, are the first two 6th grade faces for what Williams and NextGen are doing.
Bryden and his family don’t seem to mind being the face of 6th grade football. Daron already has a busy Twitter page where he posts tweets such as this one where he’s about to grind…that’s him in the Steelers hat.
He also wears Superman socks…because of RG3?
He is also trained — at 12 — that there is no offseason.
And so this is where we’re headed with kids and sports. It’s easy to see why most of us see these kids as little Madden characters that are being used by parents and camp directors to make money. Some parents think of the kid as a meal ticket. Camp directors definitely see the kids as meal tickets. And the kids are like little Chinese Olympic robots that are practicing for some magical day in the sun. In 2012, the NCAA stated that the odds of high school football players making the NFL is 0.08%. Even if your child plays collegiate football, the odds only rise to 1.7%.
So now we roll on with NextGen and its promise that your child, if he’s good enough, will get into a newsletter that’s sent to college coaches. All you have to do is pay $99 and hope your child is good enough.