Texans Ambassador Bubba McDowell (black hat) leads a huddle of high school seniors at the Greater Houston Senior Football Showcase across the street from Reliant Stadium.
The Texans hosted a camp for hundreds of college football hopefuls on Saturday at the Methodist Training Center, the team's practice facility across the street from Reliant Stadium.
At the Greater Houston Senior Football Showcase, 361 local high school seniors who did not sign Division I scholarship letters put their skills and academic prowess on display for Division II, III & NAIA colleges. Students came from 77 high schools in the Houston Independent School District and Greater Houston area; coaches and administrators from 18 colleges around the country gathered to survey the talent.
"We don't have a lot of small liberal arts colleges around here, but we have plenty of athletes that can play at a small liberal arts college," said Coby Rhoden, the Play It Smart coach at Milby High School who helped to organize the event. "The Houston area has twice as many high school athletes as the state of Iowa does, but Iowa has 12-15 small liberal arts colleges that have football. That's more than all of Texas. Those smaller schools have a limited budget, so now their coaches can come down and see these kids all at once and try to pick them up."
The annual showcase is run by local high school coaches and administrators free of charge and without profit. Student-athletes must meet minimum SAT/ACT and GPA requirements to participate in the high school equivalent of the NFL Scouting Combine. Players receive coaches' instruction in position-specific drills, are measured for height and weight and tested in the vertical jump, 40-yard dash and bench press.
The Texans lent their three outdoor practice fields for the event, which last year was held at Milby High School.
"If you've ever been to Milby High School," Rhoden said, "it's in the middle of the ship channel. We've got one field. We don't have any goal posts. We don't have a lot of stuff, and we also found out that there were rules requiring us to have it at a neutral site. We don't have a lot of neutral sites around here, and we can't have it at a college, so that's where the Texans came in. Thank God the Texans were able to help us out."
A couple of Houston Texans Ambassadors were at the event. J.J. Moses, a kick returner for the Texans from 2003-04, visited the showcase in the morning. Former Houston Oilers safety Bubba McDowell, who now coaches at Willowridge High School, was there for the entire day providing instruction to defensive backs.
"We take them through a lot of drills, fundamental drills, so they can be seen by Division II and III schools and hopefully the guys will like them and they can get a scholarship to play football," McDowell said. "I think it means a whole lot to these kids, especially those who sweated all spring and summer long and some of those kids who come from a good program who had a great season but fell short of going to a Division-I college. I think it's very important that we've got all these kids here today."
Last year, 22 high schools, 20 colleges and 200 seniors that participated in the event, which generated more than $3 million in scholarship offers for 117 players. This year, the event was opened up to all Houston-area schools. With the larger pool of high school seniors, Rhoden said they were expecting to reach $6 million in scholarship offers.
"One of the (college) coaches, he put it best: 'I can't look at athletes like this in Kansas. They don't exist. I can't get them,'" Rhoden said. "What we want to do is start having the word trickle down that if you have good grades, you can still play football in college. Hopefully, that'll get the kids concentrating more on school, which is always our end all goal."