BRADENTON — Money is tight, and many parents are hard-pressed to pay the bills.
But most of them can see a good investment when it comes along, particularly if it involves their child; so they find a way to get their kid into a summer college football camp.
The math is simple. The potential return on their money can be mind-boggling if their son signs a pro contract someday. And if he doesn’t, a free college education is nothing to sneeze at.
Brian Poole Sr. was a receiver for Southeast in 1988 and played in the state title game. His son, Brian Poole Jr., is a junior defensive back for the Seminoles who is getting looks by major college programs.
Poole felt strong enough about his son’s potential that he paid close to $300 for him to attend Florida’s Friday Night Lights camp. There were no opportunities like this for him, and he never played in college.
“That type of money for one day is ridiculous, but we promised Brian if he did certain things this summer, we would pay for it,” Poole Sr. said. “He worked hard, went to summer school, got his grades over a 3.0 and did what we asked. He likes the Gators and really wanted to go to their camp.”
It may have paid dividends for the Poole family.
At the FNL camp, Brian was timed at 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which puts him in an elite status and might have won him a scholarship to Florida when the school starts offering to the class of 2012.
Southeast quarterback Dyron Speight went to the Western Kentucky camp and was offered a scholarship when it was over. He had an inkling that would happen.
“My dad, who lives in Arkansas, flew me out to Western Kentucky. I was there for three days, and it was fun,” Speight said. “I told my dad before I left that I might get an offer if I went. I like the school a lot, and it might be where I go.”
Palmetto High had about 25 players hit the camp circuit this summer. Melvin Burston and transfer Chris Calloway went to Auburn, while Calloway and Marquis Green raised money to help go to the Rutgers camp in New Jersey.
“The kids raised money to pay for their flight to Rutgers,” Palmetto head coach Dave Marino said. “You go to camps to get exposure. If you are not a blue-chipper, you get a chance to show a good work ethic, coach-ability and other skills they might know about.”
Manatee High receiver Quenton Bundrage and sophomore quarterback Cord Sandberg visited four college camps (Georgia, Auburn, South Carolina, Clemson) before ending their summer tour at FNL.
Somewhat of a late bloomer, Bundrage has offers to BCS schools Cincinnati and Louisville, but he’s looking for more and knows the best way to improve his chances is to attend these camps.
“My family wants me to get the exposure and is willing to do whatever it takes. I love the camps because you get to showcase your talents,” Bundrage said. “The coaches all asked me to come and visit their school and see whether I like it. They get to see people they have never seen before, and if they like you, they might offer. I think it’s a recruiting tool, but at the same time you get help.”
What Bundrage did was put his name on the college radar screen, and if he has a productive senior year, the schools that saw him this summer could very well make him an offer. He laid the ground work by allowing them to meet him personally and see his favorable characteristics.
It’s never too early to get your name out, and Sandberg, who has yet to start a regular season high school game, has done that.
At 15, he was among the youngest at the camps he attended, but it didn’t appear to diminish the attention he received from coaches, particularly at Auburn.
“After the drills and stuff, they talk to you about how you did and that they want you to visit again,” Sandberg said. “Some of the juniors and seniors I met at the camps got offers. The coaches at Auburn called me into their office and said if I kept doing what I was doing and remain healthy, they may offer me down the road.”