California players collect six of the seven MVP awards at the annual Northern California stop of the national Nike football tour. Four of those players also were handed out invites to Nike’s version of “football heaven” to be held this July at its world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.
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This year’s one-day fiesta of football known previously as the Nike Football Training Camp and now billed as The Opening Oakland had more of a multi-state vibe than ever before, but players from California on Sunday still walked away with the most hardware.
The event was held not in Oakland but at nearby Burrell Field in San Leandro and included elements of three previous one-day events grouped into one. There was the testing that one would have seen at the combine, then the drills, one-on-ones and quarterback comparisons that would have been witnessed at an Elite 11 tryout and the NFTC itself.
Players from throughout the country attended the event, partly because the weather in the East Bay in mid-May is almost always perfect and because it’s one of the last opportunities they have to show what they can do to earn an invite to Nike’s prestigious national event, The Opening, which will be conducted from July 7 to July 10 at Beaverton, Ore.
The warm, sunny weather that usually greets the players, volunteer coaches and camp organizers never materialized, but the cool, overcast conditions actually were better for most. It’s similar to the conditions distance runners prefer when running a marathon.
The cast of characters at this year’s NorCal Nike stop included highly ranked national recruits from Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington.
It wasn’t just mostly Northern California players who came to represent the Golden State, either. Players from every CIF section outside of the Bay Area were there.
Results from the combine portion of the event, which often give promising juniors-to-be and even a few sophomores-to-be a great first exposure to the elite camp atmosphere, will be sent out to those media members who attended on Thursday of this week.
The camp did end the same as it has over the years with Student Sports football events director Brian Stumpf (a former Cal-Hi Sports all-state medium schools player from Arcata) announcing MVP awards and then handing out invites to The Opening.
Despite the multi-state group of athletes, six of the seven MVPs went to California players with Camilo Eifler from Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland leading the way. He not only was the MVP of linebackers but also had the highest football athlete ranking of the day based on his SPARQ score of 116.85.
The other five MVPs were Kevin Davidson of Oakland McClymonds for QBs, Najee Harris of Antioch for RBs (a junior-to-be), David Long from Loyola of Los Angeles for DBs, Frank Martin from Mater Dei of Santa Ana for OLs and Elijah Parks from Edison of Fresno for DLs.
Eifler used the experience he gained in getting the highest SPARQ score at the Saturday combine from last year to his advantage.
“It helped a lot,” said Eifler, a Cal-Hi Sports all-state underclass pick from last season who has numerous college offers. “I already knew what to do and what to expect and I worked hard to get ready to beat that score from last year.”
Eifler also said the presence of so many highly regarded athletes from throughout the state and beyond was hard to ignore.
“I knew some friends who were going to be here and I wanted to compete against them,” he said. “Like myself, I think we’re all just out here trying to maximize this opportunity.”
The only MVP of the event not from California was Kalakaua Timoteo (the Hawaiian Punch) from Mililani, Hawaii. He won for the WRs.
Four of the six California MVPs also were later given their invite cards for The Opening this summer: Eifler, Harris, Long and Martin. They were joined as invites by LB Caleb Kelly of Fresno Clovis West, DB Jordan Parker of Pittsburg and DL Oluwole Betiku from Serra of Gardena. Other non-Californians getting Opening invites were DB Jordan Fuller of Old Tapaan, N.J., DB Byron Murphy from Saguaro of Scottsdale, Ariz., and QB Jake Eason from Lake Stevens, Wash.
Harris was perhaps the most watched player of the day as the 6-foot-3, 220-pound power-packed running back already has committed to Alabama and who is generally in the top five overall in Class of 2017 national player rankings. Harris so far also is just the sixth Class of 2017 player who has an invite to The Opening.
In talking to Harris, however, he’s doing his best to stay playful and keep himself from believing anything written or said about him.
“I’m a nobody really and don’t want to think anything different,” he said while laughing. “If I could control it, I would. I’m ready for (the attention). I’m nothing special.”
Davidson did not get an invite to The Opening to go with his MVP award, but that could still happen with two more Nike tour stops to go.
“The day went well,” said Davidson, who played four games at McClymonds last fall before being declared ineligible by the CIF. “I started strong and felt I really started ripping it in the next set of drills.”
Davidson’s eligibility at McClymonds for next season is still not known but the quarterback clearly wants to play at the school, which was unbeaten on the field last season.