The t-shirts Diamond Flight campers received at Friday's opening read "Academic All-American" on the back. Perhaps curious without context, but on Day One of the Diamond Flight Camp it was evident that the weekend-long in La Jolla, Calif. is focused on more than on field play.
"We've been fortunate enough to assemble the top young athletes in the country, but they're also the top students," said camp director Shaon Berry. The founder of Junior Rank, Berry is hosting this first ever national camp for pre-prep talent.
Only 100 invitations were issued for Diamond Flight from over 1400 nominees, and among the criteria Berry said were grades.
"It's not just about how fast can you run, how high can you jump. You have to offer more [as a student-athlete]," he added.
During Friday's orientation, former Wake Forest and NFL standout receiver Ricky Proehl said that "[college football programs] bringing in athletes and just babysitting, those days are over." Proehl is a coach for Junior Rank and regularly appears at the national combines that the organization hosts throughout the nation.
"The biggest thing the camp does is teach the kids to be good citizens, well-rounded student athletes," Proehl said after Friday's workouts. "Smart kids in the classroom are smart kids on the football field. If you don't have the grades, you can't help on the football field."
DAY ONE NOTES
- The younger brother of USC signee and San Diego area high school star Dillon Baxter, Mozes Mooney, is among the wide receiver invitees in the youngest age group. But that doesn't mean Mooney doesn't have designs on following in his brother's footsteps and playing on Saturdays. When former UCLA and Minnesota assistant coach Randy Taylor asked Mooney if the sixth grader would be ready to commit to a college today, Mooney declared yes without hesitation.
- The largest camper at Diamond Flight is 6'5 quarterback Ryan Novak of Heritage High School in Denver. During passing drills, the sophomore-to-be was paired set to throw a three-step drop pass to Beaver Falls, Pa. quarterback Chandler Kincade.
"Use your speed," advised JuniorRank camp coach Randall Cunningham to Kincade. "Because [Novak] is going to air it out."
Wing it Novak did, unleashing an almost effortless 40-plus-yard long ball.
"It's just awesome learning from greats like Randall Cunningham," Novak said.
- At wide receiver, a trio from Illinois stood out in Day One workouts. Ty Isaac of Joliet, Zach Strittmatter from Batavia and Chad Beebe of Aurora have worked out together prior to Diamond Flight under the guidance of former NFL receiver and Chad's father, Don Beebe. The three ran routes together in drill stations and exhibited reliable hands and quickness.