David Sills, a 13-year-old boy, who is in the 7th grade, said the other day, "It has always been my dream to go to USC." Always? Since when, like when he was 12? Sills, who is growing up -- can't yet say 'grew up' -- in Sills, Delaware (what, no dreams of leading his home state's Fighting Hens to glory on Tubby Raymond Field?) has verbally committed to play quarterback for Southern Cal in 2015. Guess who loses in this story? It has the look, feel and smell of a train wreck waiting to happen, and the kid is the casualty. Where is the NCAA while this potential disaster festers for the next five years and beyond?
Where is David's dad in all of this? David Sills IV says of his son, "David's always wanted to go to USC. I mean, is there a better place to play football in the country? How can you pass up the best offer you're ever going to get?" Ever, Mr. Sills, is a very long time -- especially when you are a 13 year old boy.
Young David has had his very own coach since he was 10. A quarter of his life with a quarterback coach. There seems to be little question that this boy has extraordinary talent. His personal coach Steve Clarkson says, "He's already six feet as a 13 year old, and he's breaking down NFL footage. His skill set is off the chart." I don't know Steve Clarkson from Kelly Clarkson, but he sure sounds a lot like Cus D'Amato, Mike Tyson's Svengali, 25 years ago. We all saw how well it worked out for Tyson. And Clarkson sounds like Marv Marinovich 20-years ago, father of Todd. We all saw what happened to "Robo-Quarterback's" train wreck of a life. For those who have forgotten, Todd Marinovich also went to USC. Marinovich's arrest record is lengthier than his football and/or academic records. More recently another child prodigy was unleashed; does the name Tiger Woods ring a bell?
What is lost in this story is the kid himself, not the young quarterback whose skill set is seemingly infinite. How different were you, for example, from the time you were in the 7th grade until your first day of your freshman year in college, besides your acne almost having run its course? It is plenty hard enough just growing up. Now young Mr. Sills is entering the Wonderland world of You Tube, ESPN and beyond. Every game he plays, every day he lives will be examined differently. He still has to complete the 7th grade, and the 8th, 9th, 10th 11th and 12th.
How much attention are David's parents, his school coach, his personal coach, is he, paying to his personal growth? No helmet, no pair of shoulder pads can protect him from the great expectations that just might go unfulfilled. Even if David lives up to the advanced billing as a football player, what kind of adolescence will he have had? He may mature as a quarterback throwing passes, riddling defenses and breaking down film, but how will he mature as a human being?
And then there is Lane Kiffin the new coach at USC who recruited Sills. Kiffin pulled a similar stunt only last year, offering another 13 year old a scholarship to play at Tennessee, in his ONLY year as head coach of the Vols. What are the chances Kiffin will be at USC to greet Sills for freshman orientation in 2015? What are the chances the Mike Garrett will still be the Athletic Director at USC? If Kiffin and Garrett are gone, what does the then 18 year old Sills do? Will Kiffin and Garrett care? Will the NCAA?
Now let's assume for a moment, all works out as those involved in this sordid story hope it will in 2015. David Sills, all-American boy arrives on campus with television cameras with a horde of reporters awaiting, and for some reason is unable to play to the lofty levels they project for him. What if he is injured? What if he wilts under the enormous pressure he will face? How will fans and alumni react? How will he deal? Will his dreams of playing at USC turn into a nightmare?
But most importantly: What kind of a man will this child prodigy turn into? Not only in 2015, but 2025, 2035 and beyond?