Just three from the state were MVPs out of the many who participated in Sunday’s Northern California edition of Nike’s The Opening Regionals national football camp tour. But when one sees all of those who were there from Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, Washington and Oregon plus some from Canada and beyond it’s obvious that California not getting all seven of the positional MVPs is a result of intense competition and not just an attempt to spread it around. After the event, three more from California also received invites to Nike’s national The Opening to be held in July in Beaverton, Ore.
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De Anza High of Richmond was the site on Sunday for the second consecutive year for the annual Northern California stop of the Nike-sponsored national tour now known as The Opening Regionals. For many years, the NorCal Nike camp was held at colleges and for Northern California the most often used site was Stanford University. It’s been several years, however, since the NCAA banned colleges from hosting these events so the NorCal Nike camp has been held at Laney College in Oakland, Chabot College in Hayward, San Leandro High and now at De Anza High for the last two seasons.
Wherever the site and whatever the format — this year since the camp only had two fields to work with the day lasted until well past 5 p.m. — the common factor in all of the Nike events is that they attract a high percentage of top incoming senior, junior and a few even younger football players from almost all of the top programs in Northern California combined with some from Southern California and many more from states throughout the West Coast. There seemed to be a few extra more this year from Canada as well.
At Cal-Hi Sports, we use the NorCal Nike event to kick off our preseason coverage for the upcoming season. Sure, identifying players we may not have even heard of before and watching some players prove themselves in a highly competitive environment is part of the fun, but it’s also helpful to see if one team may have multiple prospects coming up and that helps for preseason team rankings. And if you didn’t know, Cal-Hi Sports was part of Student Sports (the company that produces these events for Nike) from 1989 to 2012 so for us it’s also a chance to catch up with old friends.
Of the seven who were selected as MVPs for their positions on Sunday, the three from California who pocketed those patches were Will Craig of Granite Bay for offensive linemen, De’Gabriel Floyd from Golden Valley of Santa Clarita for linebackers and Chase Williams from Roosevelt of Eastvale for defensive backs.
The other four MVPs were Dylan Morris from Graham-Kapowsin (Washington) for quarterbacks, Gunner Romney from Chandler (Arizona) for wide receivers, Ja’tai Jenkins from Verrado (Arizona) for running backs and Kukea Emmsley from Kapolei (Hawaii) for defensive line. Linebacker Brandon Kaho of Reno High (Nevada) also had the top SPARQ rating of the day.
At the end of each event, it’s also announced if any players who were there pushed themselves over the top to receive an invite to Nike’s annual summer football festival known as The Opening. This year, those announcements were done on social media approximately one hour afterward. Roosevelt’s Williams bagged one of those in the “athlete” category while also earning them were defensive backs Steve Stephens (Fresno Edison), Jevon Holland (Oakland Bishop O’Dowd) and Stephan Blaylock (St. John Bosco) along with Kaho, the linebacker from Reno.
“I was confident coming in, and knew I had the abilities to play well,” said Williams, who has committed to Nebraska. “The goal was just to ball out and do all of my techniques that I’ve been working on.”
Williams was more known as a wide receiver last season for a Roosevelt squad that lost only to national powerhouse Corona Centennial in the Big VIII League and then fell to Calabasas in the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs. He caught 42 passes for 1,017 yards and 19 TDs and had 37 tackles on defense with one interception.
“Right now, I’m maybe the best at corner,” Williams said. “But I’ll play everywhere and we may have some surprises for people next season.”
Floyd was a first team all-state sophomore last season from Hawkins of Los Angeles. He transferred to Golden Valley near Magic Mountain approximately six weeks ago and is one of several players who’ve checked out of Hawkins.
“I’m going to be living with an auntie of mine who lives down the street from the school,” Floyd said. “I’m making a lot of new friends and I’m learning the playbook.”
As anyone in the recruiting media will tell you, going to Golden Valley or Mater Dei or Centennial or St. John Bosco or Sticksville High doesn’t matter much to the colleges and it won’t matter for Floyd, who impressed all with his 6-foot-3 size, 225-pound frame and general athleticism.
“I didn’t come out here to be an MVP,” Floyd added. “It was a just for fun thing, but you do always dream as an underclass player to be the MVP. All Glory to God.”
Last season at Hawkins, Floyd had 85 tackles and 10 sacks and also rushed for 751 yards on 68 carries with five touchdowns scored. He has offers from numerous D1 colleges.
Craig said it was helpful for him to play on the right side of the line on Sunday instead of where he usually starts for Granite Bay, which is on the left.
“Yeah, I did come in with some confidence, but at this event there is such great competition,” he said. “I’ll be playing on the left again this season, but for college I’m flexible.”
Other than USC, Stanford and Oregon, Craig said that he’s received offers so far from all of the other schools in the Pac-12. So it’s not quite for him as if doing that well on Sunday was a big surprise to many.