New York Jets: Why NCAA satellite camps truly matter
The New York Jets, and the NFL as a whole, have many talented players that come from humble beginnings. A recent decision by the NCAA may hinder the ability of lesser known high school athletes to be noticed and successful.
An undrafted free agent is now starting in the secondary.
Growing up in extreme poverty, he beat the odds to become successful.
Coming out of high school, no major college program would offer him a scholarship.
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Time and time again, NFL fans are regaled by thrilling underdog stories. We find hope in the realization that hard work, determination and talent matter far more in the NFL than one’s name or draft stock. Tom Brady (6th round pick) is a four-time Super Bowl champion while JaMarcus Russell (#1 overall pick) sits on his couch at home. The league is a true meritocracy.
Jan 16, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) looks to pass the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half in the AFC Divisional round playoff game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
From The Replacements to Remember the Titans, the tale of the underdog has even permeated our entertainment. With a collective consciousness, we root for the little guy. Unfortunately, a controversial decision by the NCAA threatens underdog athletes everywhere. The organization recently decided to ban satellite camps.
For those who don’t know, satellite camps are when college coaches travel to universities across the country to serve as guest instructors. In doing so, they provide an opportunity for high school athletes to meet with multiple college coaches at one location.
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Satellite camps are not without their detractors. Many coaches, particularly those in SEC and ACC programs, objected to other programs encroaching on their recruiting turf.
After Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh began a particularly aggressive string of satellite camps, the practice was quickly banned.
While satellite camps gave some coaches a potentially unfair recruiting advantage, the greatest loser from this ruling isn’t Harbaugh.
It’s thousands of high school athletes across the country. Many of those athletes, including future Texas A&M quarterback Tate Martell, quickly expressed their disgust with the NCAA’s decision.
I feel bad for the kids who don't have money to travel to the colleges and were using satellite camps to get recognition by college coaches!
— Tate Martell (@TheTateMartell) April 8, 2016
Athletes that come from anonymity or impoverished communities will particularly suffer, as they benefited the most from having one-stop shops to showcase their skills for college coaches. And if you think that most of the players in the NFL come from wealthy communities or powerhouse schools, think again.
Since this is a site on the Jets, let’s examine a couple examples of underdog players who wear the green and white.
Oct 4, 2015; London, ENG; New York Jets cornerback Marcus Williams (20) intercepts a pass intended for Miami Dolphins tight end Jordan Cameron (84) at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports
Jets cornerback Marcus Williams was never supposed to play in the NFL. As he himself acknowledges, he was fortunate to even receive an opportunity to play in college. Written by Rich Cimini of ESPN, here is what Williams had to say about not being recognized:
"Coming out of high school, I was overlooked as well. It just adds fuel to the fire. It tells me I have to keep working and keep proving people wrong."
And prove people wrong he did. Williams was eventually granted an opportunity to play at little North Dakota State, where he shattered the school’s interception record. He went undrafted, but he refused to give up on his dream to play in the NFL. He eventually ended up with the Jets, where he lead the team with six interceptions last season.
Jets’ linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin is a different kind of underdog story. To say Mauldin had a rough upbringing would be a colossal understatement. As a child he lived in poverty, bouncing around from foster home to foster home.
Against all odds, Mauldin was able to channel his anger and frustration on the football field. He excelled, earning a scholarship to Louisville and eventually a roster spot with the Jets. For many athletes, football is a passion or enjoyable hobby. For Mauldin, football may have saved his life.
Throughout the league, there are countless other examples of athletes rising from either anonymity or poverty to become successful NFL players. Satellite camps matter because they provide players who aren’t blue chip prospects or wealthy enough to travel the country with a chance to meet with multiple college coaches.
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In doing so, they increase the likelihood of players being offered college scholarships, and maybe even a chance to play in the pros down the road. The road to the NFL should be open to any athlete with the ability and drive to be successful. Support the underdog. Bring back satellite camps.