Tuesday, May 1, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Cimarron's Brandon Marshall gets the call from Jacksonville
One high school football player wouldn’t have been able to catch a beach ball on a breezy day, awkwardly attempting to haul in a pass that bounced off his open palm and then his head before falling helplessly to the turf.
Another was easily pushed into the ground while attempting to pass block during a one-and-one drill — again and again, and on some plays, by a significantly smaller player.
Unfortunately, this is a generous evaluation.
That was part of the scene Friday and Saturday during the annual Southern Nevada Football Coaches Association combine and skills competition at Rancho High School. On the same weekend of the NFL Draft, I attended the event with hopes of watching the Las Vegas Valley’s next great football prospects, who — if their career panned out — would be picked in five or six years just like the five with local ties who were selected Saturday.
Then, it hit me: While the five players picked in the draft were standouts during their senior years of high school in Las Vegas, they were more of a work in progress than a finished product — just like the rising seniors who participated in the skills competition last week.
It’s simply too early in the process to predict an athlete’s full potential. They need time to develop, let their bodies grow and receive the proper training.
Such is the case with Shadow Ridge High’s Korey Toomer. He spent two years in junior college at Arizona Western College and had to red-shirt one year after transferring to the University of Idaho, yet despite the struggles, the linebacker is on an NFL roster after being picked in the fifth round Saturday by the Seattle Seahawks. (On a side note, Toomer wasn’t invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and didn’t expect to be drafted. He received a phone call from the Seahawks while eating breakfast at Hash House A Go Go in Las Vegas.)
D.J. Campbell of Cheyenne High didn’t start until his final season at Cal but still was selected this weekend, going in the final round to the Carolina Panthers.
Cimarron-Memorial High graduate Brandon Marshall was considered too undersized to play linebacker at the next level and had just two scholarship offers, but eventually became UNR’s leading tackler as a senior. He went in the fifth round to the Jacksonville Jaguars, playing with a chip on his shoulder to prove the skeptics wrong and developing into a tackling machine.
These players could have very easily thrown in the towel on their dreams. But they didn’t. Because of that, they are a great example to the current players in the Las Vegas Valley. Just because you don’t play for a perennial power, or have multiple scholarship offers, don’t stop chasing the dream.
If Marshall or Toomer would have listened to the skeptics, they wouldn’t be in line to play on the sport’s biggest stage.
Some high school players leave Las Vegas as heralded college prospects, picking between multiple major schools and being anointed as sure-thing professional prospects. Some live up to the hype — such as Bishop Gorman grad DeMarco Murray, who starred last year as a rookie with the Dallas Cowboys — while others struggle miserably in attempting to adjust and become the superstars they were expected to become. Some even quit playing.
It’s the players you don’t expect, those players without the recruiting stars next to their name by the evaluating websites, who have reached the highest level.
Silverado graduate Ben Jacobs wasn’t drafted out of Fresno State but worked his way into the linebacker rotation last year with the Cleveland Browns. Michael Cosgrove was an afterthought most of his career at Desert Pines High but continued to progress at Idaho and signed a free agent deal Sunday with the Detroit Lions.
At Desert Pines, Cosgrove weighed 250 pounds and fell under the recruiting radar until signing with Idaho. He red-shirted in 2007 and didn’t become a full-time starter until 2009. Now, he’s a 300-pound defensive tackle who was one of the Western Athletic Conference’s top defensive lineman last year.
Do a Google search for Cosgrove, Marshall or any of the others and you’ll find stories documenting their college careers. They have one thing in common: the desire to work hard.
They always had the talent. It just took rolling up their sleeves, being patient and putting in the long hours to reach their potential.
Sure, they might have dropped a pass or two along the way, but they didn’t let the adversity define the journey.
It’s a lesson from which we all can learn.