High school players showcase talent in 7-on-7 tournament
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
When he played on offense, MaKell Young showed a great ability to gain yards after the catch.
On defense the Florida High receiver/running back was just as quick getting after the ball as soon as it left the opposing quarterback’s hand.
Across three other fields at Lewis Hall Woodville Park and Recreation Center, other middle school and high school football players were also showcasing their talent. They came together for the Sam Madison IMG 7-on-7 Tournament this past Saturday and Sunday.
The event, said Leonard Inge, one of the organizers, was primarily to give the young players an opportunity to hone their skills during the off season.
They came as all-star teams that featured some of the best high school talent in the state. Some teams could play as many as seven tournaments between early spring and summer.
“This gives them the extra work to better their athletic ability,” said Inge, a former player and graduate assistant coach at FAMU during the late 1990s. “It gives a young man from North Carolina an opportunity to play against a kid from Florida. They normally wouldn’t be able to do that until they get to college.”
The tournament drew 40 teams from throughout the Southeast, mostly from Florida. They opened the day with a pool play format to determine which team made it to the championship round.
But it wasn’t all about winning or losing for the Big Hits team coached by former NFL linebacker Ernie Sims.
“Seven-on-seven helps with my skills, especially when I come out here and I’m not in pads,” said Young, who had an interception and scored a touchdown in their first game.
Young is already being courted by Louisville, UNC-Charlotte and USF, schools that he said have offered him scholarships already.
Through each game, Sims was relentless in his coaching from the sidelines. During timeouts he didn’t seem to miss a detail. Sometimes he was critical and other times he had plenty of praise for his players.
“The biggest thing I want to share with these kids is my experiences,” said Sims who played at FSU and later in the NFL. “Not a lot of people are fortunate to make it to that ultimate level in the NFL.
“The thing I try to instill in these kids is the drive and dedication that you have to have and everything that comes along with that; the coaching, the schemes. Those are the things I’m trying to help these kids develop.”
The 7-on-7 experience has a huge upside for players who otherwise wouldn’t be facing each other, said George Campbell, a sophomore receiver at FSU. Just two years ago Campbell, who was at the event to support a younger brother, was on the same circuit.
“It’s a big step to help you get your confidence up,” he said. “You come out here and you play with the best people who bring out the best of you. It only helps you get better.”