Before they became some of the biggest names in high school football, young athletes like Trevor Lawrence, Jeremiah Holloman and Isaiah Pryor had only two things in common: raw talent and attendance at one of the Elite Football Showcases held in multiple parts of the region each year.
Organized by the Elite Football Talent Academy and former NFL player Derrick Tatum, the special skills development camp has kickstarted many middle and high school athletes' football careers by giving them a moment in the spotlight.
And on Saturday, April 15, the camp is returning to Ridgeland High School to give even more students an edge in the upcoming recruiting season.
Since the showcase began three years ago, more than 170 attendees have been offered scholarships after attending the camp, Tatum said.
Georgia and its surrounding states are home to many gifted young football players, but not all of them get equal time in the limelight, said Tatum. Many times, kids who play really well are paired against teams with weaker players, diminishing the weight of their accomplishments.
The showcase changes that by giving students like Ridgeland defensive back Markeith Montgomery, who had no scholarship offers despite being named the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year for Class 4A, a chance to compete against some of the top players in the region.
"It gives a kid who's a good player but hasn't really been seen on a major scale a chance to come out here and play well and get the exposure that leads to scholarship offers," Tatum said.
Much of that exposure comes from the many media outlets, like 247Sports, Scout.com, Bleacher Report and ESPN, that flock to the camp each year. Their coverage of standout players piques the interest of recruiters, and as a result, stars like Montgomery — who has received five scholarship offers in the last month alone — are found.
"Those are the type of kids that came to our camp," Tatum said. "They were unknown, unranked kids at the time, and then after this camp, it actually helped their recruiting process."
Attendees will also receive coaching from former college and NFL players like himself and Calvin Middleton, who played for the Los Angeles Rams.
Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. The middle school camp runs from 9 a.m. to noon, and the high school camp from 12:30-4:30 p.m. Visit elitetalentfootball.com for more information.