CHARLOTTE — It’s no coincidence that the rise of high school football in the state of North Carolina has mirrored the formation of the Carolina Panthers National Football League franchise which …
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CHARLOTTE — It’s no coincidence that the rise of high school football in the state of North Carolina has mirrored the formation of the Carolina Panthers National Football League franchise which now enters its 25th season. The presence of the Panthers has turned a once basketball-dominated state into one that’s equally rabid about football.
With that has come increased emphasis on football at every level, including the high school ranks which now even has spring practice.
It’s been huge for the sport of football, according to former Jordan-Matthews star and current Barton University Defensive Coordinator Treiston Burnette.
“I think North Carolina has always had the talent. I have been recruiting the state of North Carolina for nine years,” said Burnette. “It’s crazy to see how football has evolved. People have always looked at North Carolina as a basketball state but kids are now beginning to get the same opportunities to prepare themselves in football just like they do in basketball, whether it’s spring ball or 7-on-7 leagues. Not to mention the training facilities these kids workout at in which kids are setup to be able to get better all year. I know we may not have the same training facilities and 7-on-7 leagues in Siler City but they definitely have them 30 minutes away in Greensboro.”
One budding addition in the last 10 years has been the explosion of combines and camps for prospects in N.C., as well as nationally, to showcase their talents. One such event took place at Mallard Creek High School at the VTO Sports All-American Challenge over the weekend with nearly 200 participants from all over the country attending the event, which resembles an NFL combine coupled with a college camp-style atmosphere.
Combines measure the height and weight of competitors as well as 40 times, shuttle times, vertical and the bench press, among other things.
On into the day the competitions really heat up with one-on-one drills with defensive linemen and offensive linemen going at it while the remaining offensive and defensive positions compete in 7-on-7 passing drills. Many of the drills are often handled by former college and NFL players.
Burnette says these combines are a valuable asset to players in getting their names out there to college coaches.
“I think combines are a good opportunity for all kids. It puts you directly in front of coaches from all different levels,” said Burnette. “The information you gain from different collegiate coaches is one of the most valuable things you can do. Not only is it about recruiting but it’s also about perfecting your craft, and you can no longer blame your high school coach for not putting you out because the camp circuit is open to the public.”
The well-coordinated schedule allows each kid the chance to exhibit his talent in a variety of ways, and some excel more than others and come to the combines with a big reputation like 2021 quarterback Drake Maye of Meyers Park, already committed to the University of Alabama, or Desmond Evans of Lee County, the later of which is the top ranked recruit in the state of North Carolina for the 2020 class.
“Some kids are just God-gifted and can just show up and be the perfect height and run the fastest times,” noted Burnette. “From a coaching standpoint combines and camps are big for networking and it’s the time of the year for you as a coach to get better. You have to put yourself in front of different coaches so you can see how they are teaching different things. How can you hold your players to a standard if you are not trying to get better yourself. It also puts you in the situation to let other coaches see how you coach and interact with the kids. If it were not for camps I would have never met my former Head Coach at Averett University or my current Head Coach at Barton College.”
Burnette says the highest-ranked players are more of the exceptions to the rule, and that most players must work hard to garner attention, and the combines offer that opportunity.
“If you hit a good time and compete at a high level it can put you on their radar quickly,” Burnette pointed out. “I always tell people to pick your dream school your first year and then pick 3 more schools camp to attend throughout the summer. Everybody has the dream of going “D1”. But if you are not putting in the work everyday it will not work. You have to be willing to get up everyday and do the same thing over and over again to reach your goals. Another good thing about camps is it can be a reality check. You will see how you stack up against the best talent from different states. Most kids who show up to camps and are serious about it have some form of personal trainers. Whether it’s a sped coach or if it’s someone that works on position specific training. It is tough for a kid when you show up not knowing what drills you are going to see as well as not knowing how to properly perform them to put forth the best version of yourself.”
Making your high school years count with dedication and hard work just some of the advice Burnette gives to high school players aspiring to play at the collegiate level.
“You only get to be in high school once. It’s about how much are you willing to sacrifice,” closed Burnette. “The crazy thing is if you can’t afford to travel to these different places to train the internet when used the right way has all of the information you need on how to prepare. It’s just are you willing to take advantage of it. Tons of coaches put drills and teach tape online. Use your resources to perfect your craft.”
The VTO Sports All-American Challenge did just that for a trio of players of note locally who posted Top 10 performances according to the combine staff. Senior tight end Kevin Cruz of Randleman, senior defensive lineman Justin Rhodes of Northern Durham, junior linebacker Anthony Freeman of Northern Durham, and senior defensive back Tanoah Lockley of Southern Lee were tabbed at the top performers from North Carolina at the event.