Integrity, responsibility, natural talent -- they are all key ingredients that makeup Future All-American football players.
This week, Tampa is hosting the first-ever Future All-Americans Bowl. There will be three games held at Plant High School that kickoff Thursday at 1:00. The games will consist of 7th, 8th and 9th graders.
For the 150 All-Americans, their futures start now. The invited young come from all over the nation. They were selected based on performance and personality.
The size of these middle school kids is remarkable: Some 12 year olds weigh up to 300 pounds.
"These are young men that don't quite fit the norm," said NFA founder Darin Slack. "Here, they can open their wings and kind of be the athlete they are going to be. Use their God-given talent."
Twelve-year old Zach Lewis and his family came to Tampa all the way from Seattle just for this inaugural five-day event. It's a true Bowl game experience with two-a-day practices and players lodging together in a team hotel. It's a first taste in what could be in their future.
Zach says his strength is throwing.
"How far can you throw?" we asked.
"50 yards," Zach said.
For these future All-Americans, this is a showcase about talent. But more importantly, it's about building character, because for most of these kids, as good as they are now, this is a sport that can be very short-lived.
"It is a moment in which we get a chance to see the kind of player you are, the kind of man you are," Slack said during his end of practice speech.
For 25 years, Darin Slack has been dedicating himself to delivering a life lesson through his National Football Academy.
"We believe that if you can get the heart of the young man, you not only have gotten the heart of the young man, but you got the heart of the football player too. So this is a context, football is your first opportunity to showcase your talent and your character," Slack said.
Tony Arena from UYFL partnered with Slack for this first-time free event. The only cost for players is travel and lodging.
Measuring success won't come this week, it will be in the future.
"Come back and talk to me in three years when these 9th graders are saying, ‘Hey Coach Arena, thank you I'm going to college,' " Arena said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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