JC Boice, the 2016 Canadian Junior Football League Coach of the Year, has made a difficult decision – he is resigning from Victoria’s Westshore Rebels football program to focus on family and further accelerate quarterback development in the United States and Canada.
Boice is leaving a program that is now a recognized brand of excellence across Canada and was the 2016 BCFC Cullen Cup champion. Boice and the Rebels’ past season ended with a close loss in the Canadian Bowl National Championships, finishing No. 2 in Canada.
“I am extremely proud of our effort,” Boice said. “I have done my job to the extent that the Rebels have stabilized and should continue to climb. During our growth phase we attracted some good new people. The Rebels have have a very solid coaching staff, they have great facilities and will continue to have access to the WTA training facility. We have laid the foundation and provided the blueprint for sustainable success.”
Boice took over the Rebels before the 2015 season. At that time, the program was mired in the basement of the BCFC and had only 23 athletes on the roster along with three coaches.
Undaunted, Boice recruited top players and coaches from across Canada and guided the Rebels to the 109th annual Canadian Bowl this past season.
“We worked for it and we did it,” said Boice, who has a long track record of establishing successful football programs. “I guess I’m just a builder by nature. I love the challenge and the reward of a build. I greatly valued my time with the Rebels and I’m proud of what we did. Some very talented and very determined people joined me in turning this organization around for this great Westshore community.”
Should a need ever arise in the future, Boice would definitely consider a return to the sidelines.
“Myself and our entire Rebels coaching staff was 100 percent volunteer,” he said. “We are the only staff in the CJFL that coach without compensation. That commitment brought us all very close together and I am very proud of the work they put in and the job they did. As the head coach, I was just the tip of the spear.
”I am a person of faith and when I took the Rebels on two years ago, I knew it was what I was supposed to do. It was my calling. I truly want to thak everyone, especially Victoria and the Westshore community. The South Island is an amazing place with wonderful people.”
While it is very difficult for Boice to depart, he takes great comfort in knowing the Rebels’ program is in a very good place and in equally good hands.
“I believe there’s a group of people now in place that are unified and will continue to build on the great things that have been started,” Boice said. “President Doug Koybayashi continues to provide stability and new Rebels GM Jonathan Poppit is now going to put his mark on the Rebels moving forward. I have strongly encouraged my assistant head coach, Shane Beatty, to apply for the head coaching position and I have encouraged Jonathon and the board to retain Beatty and the remainder of the staff we assembled over the last two seasons. Coach Beatty and our staff have brought tremendous passion, commitment and skill to the Rebels’ organization.”
Moving forward, Boice is going to devote his time to his family and continue building the highly successful National Football Academy, where he serves as senior certified quarterback instructor/evaluations coordinator and the director of business development and strategic alliances.
“While I am struggling with the decision to depart from the Rebels, I am now in a season where I want to focus more on building my family and building NFA,” Boice said. “My amazing wife Janine has been very supportive of my time spent with the Rebels. Now I have the opportunity to support Janine and help her build her growing opportunities. My son Court is playing football at University of Alberta and I want to be able to travel and watch him play. My oldest daughter Karter is also at the University pursuing her career as a trauma nurse and I want to be available to support her more. My daughter Brook is loving life here in Victoria and preparing to graduate from Pacific Christian. Brook is doing some amazing things and I want to be able to be with her more for the last few months she has in our home. My youngest daughter Jordan just came through some very challenging health issues and I’ve learned that life is very precious and I want to spend more with her. And my little boy Landon is growing up fast and I don’t want to lose anymore moments with him. It’s just time to build on my family.”
Leaving the Rebels is also going to allow Boice to devote more time to NFA. He has received offers to coach several NCAA and Canadian CIS programs but has declined all overtures to refocus on his executive position with NFA.
“I am stepping back from team coaching all together and going back to football program consulting and high-end quarterback development,” Boice said. “There are some tremendous opportunities right now with NFA and my partners (Darin Slack and Dub Maddox) need my focus on supporting our clients. NFA’s new R4 Football Systems are exploding and changing the game of football. Dub and Darin have done an amazing job with R4 and we are preparing to announce some new developments that I am looking forward to building. Darin and Dub and all of NFA Nation have been very supportive of the Rebels’ program and have been patient with me as I dedicated so much time throughout the building process.”
Boice has spearheaded NFA training throughout Canada in recent years and that trend is going to increase.
“I am going to be spending a lot more time on quarterback development in Canada,” he said. “There are some great players and programs up here and I have been hindered by my time commitment to the Rebels. Now I will be more able to focus on those programs, coaches and players. NFA is going to be more aggressive in bringing our quarterback/receiver and passing game systems to Canadian programs. There was a lot of NFA in the Rebel turnaround. A lot! NFA has so much to offer and these Canadian coaches and players deserve the chance to be exposed to it. Getting things going in Canada is a new challenge I am looking forward to.”
Below are links to Canadian sites where NFA training opportunities are going to be available in 2017:
February 3: Vancouver, BC
March 5 – 6: Toronto, Ontario
March 7 – 8: Halifax, Nova Scotia
March 9: Winnipeg, Manitoba
March 10 – 11: Calgary, Alberta
March 11 – 12: Edmonton, Alberta
March 30: Vancouver, BC
April 20: Vancouver, BC
May 26 – 27: Montreal, Quebec
June 10 – 11: Calgary, Alberta
June 11 – 12: Edmonton, Alberta
July 14 – 16: Victoria, BC
Regina, Saskatchewan – Date TBD
If you are interested in attending an NFA Camp in Canada or US or hosting a QB Camp or Clinic, please email: email@example.com
As NFA Nation grows in size and skill, memorable head-to-head quarterback matchups are becoming more and more common.
Who can forget last season, when NFA veterans Brett Kean of St. Edward and Mitch Guadagni of Hudson High School squared off in the Ohio Division 1, Region 1 state championship game?
St. Ed’s got the best of Hudson, and Kean is now playing at the University of South Florida while Guadagni took his game to Toledo.
Also last season, rising NFA star D’Andre Weaver II from Oak Ridge High School in Orlando, Fla., matched up against East River’s Tanner Heard in a district showdown game, and the duo combined to pass for 608 yards and 6 touchdowns.
This season, two more up-and-coming NFA quarterbacks matched up with fairly typical results.
Battle of offenses
Late last month, Brownsburg East Middle School played Zionsville West Middle School during an eighth grade game in suburban Indianapolis.
Behind quarterback Orin Edwards, Zionsville prevailed 46-32 over QB Brayden Davis and Brownsburg.
Davis completed 12 of 19 passes for 228 yards and 5 touchdowns while Edwards connected on 11 of 16 passes for 189 yards and 4 touchdowns while rushing for another score.
“It was a blast,” Davis said of the game. “It was kind of like a battle of offenses with passing touchdown after passing touchdown. It was a lot of fun.”
Said Edwards: “It was a great game. It was a lot of fun, really fun. It was a back and forth game. Brayden would throw a touchdown pass and then I would throw one.”
Davis and Edwards live in neighboring towns, and they played against each other as seventh graders. This summer, they got to know each other better at an NFA camp.
“Getting to know each other like we have, the game is more like a rivalry,” Davis said. “We talked after (last month’s) game and asked each other about how many touchdowns we had and how we did.”
Look for the duo to continue pushing each other to get better as they progress into high school football.
“We were really competing against each other the whole game this season,” Edwards said. “I know my goal was to have more touchdown passes than he did and he had the same goal.”
Through seven games with Brownsburg Middle School, Davis has completed 49 of 85 passes for 859 yards and 12 touchdowns, good for a 112 passer rating. He has also rushed for 3 TDs.
“I think I can do a little better, but I feel pretty good about the season,” Davis said. “I usually check down to the same side, so I’m trying to be more open to the field, see both sides of the field.”
Davis, a 5-foot-10, 136-pounder, has been playing quarterback for eight years and he continues to elevate his game. “Playing defense, I always switched around,” Davis said. “On offense, quarterback has just been my favorite position. You feel like you’re the leader and it’s fun to get the play calls and always be next to the coaches. And as a quarterback, you have to be able to get close to your teammates and lead the offense.”
Over ther last two years, Davis has polished his QB skills while attending five NFA camps. “NFA has been a big help,” he said. “They completely changed my form.”
Eric Davis, Bryaden’s dad, has also been impressed with NFA. “ I had some people come up to me last year, and they asked, ‘What did you do to him?’” Eric said. “I had to laugh. It was totally NFA that built him up to what he is now.”
Like Davis, Edwards has had a great eight-grade season, passing for 12 touchdowns and rushing for 3 through seven games with Zionsville West.
“I think my accuracy has gotten a lot better this season, and my spiral is also better from last year,” Edwards said. “I’ve also been able to throw the ball a lot farther with accuracy. Last season, it was more like throwing it to a spot.”
The 5-foot-10, 140-pounder can throw the football 40 yards, and Edwards already has the perfect mentality for playing quarterback.
“One of my goals has been keeping all of my receivers included,” he said. “I know some of my receivers only have one catch or so on the season, so I want to try to keep everyone included. Being a leader on the team, you have to make sure everyone likes you and you keep everyone involved.”
Edwards will be a freshman at Zionsville High School next year. “Not many freshmen play on the JV team, but that’s my goal,” he said. “I hope to play JV. If I do play freshman football, I want to go undefeated.”
Edwards started training with NFA this summer and has already benefited from participating in two camps.
“They always preach about getting your arm to zero and getting your arm around fast,” Edwards said. “That’s already kind of become routine for me. I watch the film from our games and I don’t even notice it during the game, but my elbow is always getting to zero. They’ve also helped my accuracy a lot.”
Just the name alone invokes an image of intense competition that puts skill to the supreme test.
That is certainly what NFA had in mind when the Duel was born in 2010. And with each passing year, the competition has showcased more and more quarterback talent from across the United States and Canada.
Not only do youth, junior high and high school underclassmen travel from all over the country to match their talents against similar aged QBs, they have the opportunity to gain national – and international – attention.
Xavier Tremblay got his first Duel invite this summer and he journeyed to Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon, Ohio, from his home in Laval, Quebec.
Tremblay speaks French, but his Duel excitement was not lost in translation.
“The Duel was an unforgettable experience for me in terms of development, technique and execution, as well as in terms of culture,” Tremblay said. “I was so impressed by everyone’s love for the sport of football.”
American or Canadian, there was one common thread among all of the Top 3 competitors at this year’s Duel. The summer success in Ohio carried directly into the season.
“I was third at the Duel (in 2014), so to finish first is an incredible achievement for me,” said Taden Blaise, who placed first among incoming juniors this year. “It defintely added to my persona as a quarterback. It was really cool because it put me on the map a little more.”
Said Jack Curtis, who finished second at the Duel among incoming sixth graders: “I just wanted to be in the Top 10, so finishing where I did gives me a lot of confidence going into this season.”
To qualify for the Duel, athletes eager to match up against talent of the same age must first attend an Off-Season Development camp or a Preseason Prep Football Camp and receive an NFA Coach nomination. One of NFA’s many regional partners can also issue Duel invites.
The competition is open for athletes preparing to enter Grades 5-11. If an invite doesn’t come right away, keep working at it.
While the Duel features intense competition and tests every skill a rising young quarterback has, the two-day event is also a celebration of the benefits of hard work, training and the desire to get better.
One of the many Duel highlights are the memorable speeches delivered by Darin Slack, NFA’s Founder and President. “His motivational speeches are off the hook,” said Ryan Bolduc, this year’s third-place finisher among incoming eighth graders. “They are very, very amazing.”
Here is the list of this year’s Duel Top 3 finishers:
First: Aliam Appler, Wilmington, North Carolina
Second: Kennith Minchey Jr., Hendersonville, Tennessee
Third: Jacob Winters, Gallipolis, Ohio
First: Caden Buckles, Knoxville, Tennessee
Second: Jack Curtis, Charlotte, North Carolina
Third: Ryan Fontaine, Tucson, Arizona
First: Zak Acuff, Knoxville, Tennessee
Second: Caleb Ellard, Athens, Georgia
Third: Tucker Pope, Cleveland, Tennessee
First: Ken Seals, Azle, Texas
Second: Madden Lowe, Spotsylvania, Virginia
Third: Ryan Bolduc, Bradenton, Florida
First: Michael Kern, Orlando, Florida
Second: Dylan Emery, Parker, Colorado
Third: Xavier Tremblay, Laval, Quebec
First: Chad Briden, St. Louis, Missouri
Second: Josh Jones, Wilmington, North Carolina
Third: Wyatt Rector, Leesburg, Florida
First: Taden Blaise, Parker, Colorado
Second: Nathan Martinez, Yucaipa, California
Third: Jake Froschauer, Summit, New Jersey
The calendar says football season starts in late August and possibly runs through through the New Year, depending on a team’s playoff status.
In reality, football season runs year round.
When the gridiron’s bright lights are dim, football’s shining stars are prepping for the next game. Or, for the season that lies ahead.
In either scenario, NFA is a major influence.
As we journey into the summer months, NFA’s Off-Season Development Camps are in the books.
Now, it is almost time for the critical Pre-Season Preparation Camps.
Let’s let NFA Founder/President Darin Slack expound on the importance of the OSD and PSP camps:
“I stay motivated year-round because I’m talking to people every day that have needs,” Slack said. “I was recently on the phone with a father who is looking at our program not as a single event, but as an experience to condition his son for future growth. No one event is going to be what an athlete needs to get better. What we’re looking for is to create a partnership, so I have to stay pretty motivated year round to assist people to achieve the objective they have, not just build a one-and-done quarterback or a one-event player, but a player who connects with us on a partnership level and takes our material and is able to use it in a way that helps him gain a competitive advantage.”
Welcome to NFA
Clearly, NFA is committed to building quality football players on a year-round basis. But the upcoming PSP camps – followed by the wildly popular Duel in Massilion, Ohio – are special.
“With the PSP camps, what I like about this particular group, this is a different group,” Slack said. “Our OSDs, many of them have already bought in, we get about a 50-60 percenrt retention rate. PSPs, it’s an awful lot of new people. We get a lot of new people that we don’t yet know. It’s a lesser priced point camp and it’s more entry level. It allows people to be exposed to our material.
“What I get excited about are the new faces, the new people, that come in and learn about NFA and then they recycle and join the program in December coming back to our OSDs for the coming year. What you end up with is you cycle them into a deeper, more meaningful experience in their specialization once they find out about us through the PSP program. I get excited about the new faces we’re going to meet every summer in the PSPs and forging that partnership that’s going to give them that advantage they’re going to need.”
Remember that word.
Among many other things in the NFA experience, advantage is critical.
“Anytime you get immersed in material that’s going to help you be more effective in self-correction, it’s going to be a good thing,” Slack said. “Most people go to camps for the opportunity to do drills or get noticed or get exposure. I believe in that very, very much. There is a time where you have to pursue exposure. But when there’s nothing to export and you’re not at that point yet, you need to be in development mode. You need to be constantly looking for opportunities to challenge you to prepare for the upcoming season.”
Position to succeed
NFA has been preparing up-and-coming football players since 1988 with a roster full of some of the top coaches in the country.
“NFA’s approach to leadership, as well as the way we do drills, are going to put kids in a position to succeed a lot faster than other kids because we’re drilling down on things they’re actually going to do in the fall at their programs in high school or at the youth levels, not things they hope to do one day in an offense they don’t play for yet,” said Slack, an All-American quarterback at the University of Central Florida. “We’re preparing them for the actual season they’re going to play in, giving them that competitive edge. We’re not focused on giving them things that aren’t going to matter in the upcoming season. We’re focused on what matters most, and that’s preparation to serve their team as leaders and as the men they need to be as well as the quarterbacks they need to be, and the wide receivers and running backs they need to be.”
At the end of the PSPs, the best of NFA’s best meet up at Paul Brown Stadium in Ohio to compete at the Duel.
Here are last year’s Duel winners:
First – Kristoff Kowalkowski
Second – Aidan Pieper
Third – Eli Holstein (competed as fourth grader)
First – AJ Simpkins
Second – Coleman Smith
Third – Joey McCann
First – Ken Seals
Second – Trent Graves
Third – Shaun Wimberly Jr.
First – Michael Kern
Second – Keegan Holloran
Third – Trey Brown
First – Davis Brin
Second – Josh Jones
Third – Jake Dilcher
First – Kiernen Hamilton
Second – Johnny Carnagio
Third – Taden Blaise
First – Zach Simons
Second – DJ Phillips
Third – Nathan Hamby
Darin Slack was an All-American quarterback at the University of Central Florida, and the Founder/President of NFA has trained thousands of young QBs over the years.
When he started working with Trevor Siemian, Slack knew he was a special talent.
“I trained Trevor from sixth grade until ninth grade,” Slack said. “One of the first things I noted was his great feet. Trevor had incredily fast feet. He was very athletic and played multiple sports at that time. We were constantly trying to work through that process. And we worked through mechanical issues as we do with all the young men. But he was very, very quick and that always played in his favor.”
Siemian continued working with NFA and Will Hewlett and wound up starring at Olympia High School in Orlando, Fla.
After that, the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder went on to play college ball at Northwestern in the Big Ten, and Siemian ranked among the Wildcats’ all-time leaders with nearly 6,000 yards passing and 27 touchdowns.
Drafted by Broncos
In the NFL draft earlier this month, Siemian went to the Denver Broncos on the seventh round. He’ll have a chance to learn and develop under future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. “An unbelievable opportunity,” Siemian told reporters.
While Slack knows a good quarterback when he sees one, he wasn’t predicting the NFL for Siemian a decade ago.
“I’ve only had that with a handful of kids,” Slack said. “I wouldn’t necessarily say that with Trevor. I definitely saw college in his future. I wasn’t sure about the NFL because he had to devlop as a passer. Where he played, they didn’t pass that much. He had to develop into that, and he did. He did the work necessary to develop into the passer he needed to be. I think you put all the athleticism together with his good, strong arm, and he pulled it together. Good for him.”
Slack is proud of Siemian starring in high school, college and now getting a shot to play in the NFL. But he’s able to keep the success in perspective.
“Is there some pride? Sure,” Slack said. “But I think you have to take that in context as well. There were a lot of people that influenced Trevor. One of the things I think is important, in my job we take great pride in being able to help play a small part in helping these guys achieve their dream. But I think there are those in our industry that lose perspective and think it was all them. I think that’s an unfortunate reality because it takes away from the great influence of the many others who had an opportunity to help the young man achieve his goal.”
It takes a team
Having been around the game of football as a standout player and coach, Slack knows it takes a team of support to create success.
“I don’t think anybody got there on their own with just one guy,” Slack said. “I think it’s a group of people, and we played our role and we’re very grateful to do so. If he were to say one day, ‘Yeah, they helped me a lot,’ that would be great. But we don’t rest on that because it’s harder, we live in a world where people are looking to get the credit for somebody that they put in the league. It’s becoming nauseating because I’ve spent most of my life trying to help kids be more that just football players, be more than just quarterbacks.
“Not every kid is going to the chance to do what Trevor is doing. It is nice when one makes it, absolutely. But can I take credit for it? Only in the context knowing that I did everything I could to help him and influence where he was at that time of his life. Yeah, it was a critical time, no question about it, and it’s gratifying to have played a part.”
NFA has known about Sean Clifford for years.
The standout quarterback from Cincinnati has been training with NFA since he was in second grade, and Clifford started opening even more eyes as a seventh grader at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy.
Already standing 6 feet tall and splitting his season between the seventh and eighth grade teams at CHCA, Clifford passed for 1,375 yards and 18 touchdowns in nine games.
Clifford has continued to grow, both in the physical sense and as a quarterback.
As a sophomore at St. Xavier this past season, the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder was the varsity starter. While helping the Bombers go 10-3 and advance into the third round of the Ohio state playoffs, Clifford connected on 67 of 115 passes for 762 yards and 8 touchdowns. He also used his 4.6 speed in the 40 to rush for 217 yards and 2 TDs.
“With 1,600 guys at our school, I was definitely surprised about winning the varsity quarterback job,” Clifford said. “But I think I worked hard enough to become the guy.”
Even as a sophomore, Clifford had the athletic ability and physical tools to step in and quarterback a powerhouse St. Xavier program. And he didn’t shy away from being a young leader.
“Gaining leadership throughout the season, I thought I really improved in that area,” Clifford said. “But it took a big team effort. It wasn’t just me alone. I felt like I was really part of a brotherhood and the other guys really took me in and made me feel accepted, especially the seniors. They taught me everything I needed to know to have success.”
With two more seasons of football with the Bombers, Clifford is not going to be satisfied with his rousing success as a sophomore.
“With a year of experience on the varsity, I expect to be better next season,” Clifford said. “I’m working hard to make myself the best player I can be. Decision making is something I really need to work on. Making throws that shouldn’t be made is one thing I want to correct.”
Clifford is already good enough to be noticed by college football recruiters. Akron has already offered a scholarship, and Clifford picked up another one while visiting Pittsburgh last weekend.
“Going to Pitt, it was a lot of fun,” he said. “I learned a lot about the school and the coaching staff. To get an offer, it was a total surprise.”
It will come as no surprise when other colleges line up with more offers, and Clifford is looking forward to the entire recruiting process.
“It’s probably going to be a little hectic, but it’s my dream,” he said. “I think it’s definitely going to be a fun ride through the rest of my football career. I just let it flow. I knew it was going to happen, so I just let it come to me. I’m not going to get too worried about it. I’m not going to let it be any more pressure than I already have.”
Handling the pressures that come with playing quarterback has always come pretty easy for Clifford, and it all started when he hooked up with NFA as a second grader.
“NFA really helped me develop,” Clifford said. “They helped me with my fundamentals, mechanics, leadership, everything.”
The eyes of NFA Nation will be focused on InfoCision Stadium in Akron, Ohio, this weekend.
Two of the best high school football teams in the country – Hudson and St. Edward – are squaring off in the Division I, Region I championship game at the University of Akron.
And two of the best senior quarterbacks in the country – Hudson’s Mitch Guadagni and St. Edward’s Brett Kean – will try to get their teams to the Division I state title game at Ohio State.
Saturday is going to be a very proud day for NFA because Guadagni and Kean are both very polished products of the system.
Guadagni has been training with NFA since he was in seventh grade, and Kean started training with NFA and Will Hewlett when he was a sixth grader living in Florida.
Guadagni has been working with NFA Coach Brad Maendler, who also serves as Hudson’s quarterback coach. Kean moved from Florida to the Cleveland area before his junior season at St. Edward and began training with Coach Maendler and Guadagni.
Now, the two friends, Guadagni and Kean, are preparing to play each other in a huge game.
“We knew we had a great team coming back, and St. Ed’s had a great team coming back as well,” said Maendler, who joined the NFA coaching staff in 2009. “It was always in the back of my mind that there’s a good probability this could happen. Division I football in Ohio is extremely competitive and obviously, you have to play well, you have to stay healthy and you’ve got to get a few breaks along the way as well. All those things have to go right to be able to get into this position, but I felt this was a real possibility. Now that it’s here, it’s really exciting.”
How good are these two teams? Hudson is 13-0 and the Explorers are ranked No. 10 nationally by MaxPreps. St. Edward is 11-2 and the Eagles are ranked No. 3 nationally by MaxPreps.
Guadagni, a 6-foot-2, 193-pounder who verbally committed to play his college football at Toledo, has completed 162 of 271 passes for 2,453 yards with 36 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He has also rushed for 1,004 yards and 6 scores on 128 carries.
Kean, a 6-foot-1, 211-pounder who verbally committed to play college football at South Florida, has completed 167 of 275 passes for 2,084 yards and 20 touchdowns with just 7 interceptions.
“They both make it look really easy, but that’s because they work on their games year round,” said Maendler, a former standout collegiate QB at Bemidji State. “These guys are great athletes, but they have great work ethics and they make it look easy. You don’t want your quarterback being a guy who only thinks about playing from August to November. You want them to be thinking about how they’re going to get better year round because it is such a quarterback driven game. It’s important that they’re able to make the plays to make the offense go.”
NFA training partners
Before the current season, Guadagni and Kean returned to NFA and trained together with Maendler.
“It’s prety surreal,” Guadagni said. “I remember this summer sitting and watching Coach Maendler working with other young kids and me and Brett talking about why our teams were better, going back and forth on why our teams are going to make it here. So it’s prety cool knowing that now we’re here and now we get to play for the big one.”
“It’s going to be weird, but at the same time it’s going to be really cool,” Kean said of Saturday’s epic game. “It’s going to be awesome playing against Hudson. They’re a really good team and they’re having an unbelievable year. Mitch is a really good quarterback, so it’s going to be really fun playing against them. I’ll see him before and after the game. I think it’s going to be a really good experience for both of us.”
Training together before the season with NFA and Coach Maendler has obviously paid off for Guadagni and Hudson and Kean and St. Edward.
“I started training Brett in the off-season before his junior year,” Maendler said. “I didn’t get them together in that timeframe, but in the back of my mind I knew I eventually wanted to do that. I’ve been working with Mitch since he was in seventh grade. Knowing that I’ve had some part in these two great players and their development, it’s a ton of fun. They’re both great kids. It’s interesting, when I first got them together the first couple of times, they knew about each other and there were a number of the same colleges that were after them. It’s kind of interesting, the competitive vibe I was getting, but they were both very respectful of each other. They were kind of quiet and very competitive, but three sessions into it, they were normal high school kids talking about football and school and girls and gym shoes. They ended up busting on each other and having a lot of fun, so it was really fun to see them develop that relationship. They’re flat-out good kids.”
And Guadagni and Kean are having flat-out great seasons in their final year of high school.
“It’s been an awesome year,” said Kean, who transferred to St. Ed after his sophomore year at University High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “I think the pressure of deciding where you want to go to college, I’m happy I got that out of the way and I just put 100 percent into my team. My second year here has been really good.”
Said Guadagni: “So far, it’s been the most fun year I’ve ever had in football. I was able to pretty much relax the whole season, not really worrying about anything but our season. And playing with these guys since third grade, seeing what we’ve done so far, it’s a pretty cool experience. Knowing that all these kids stuck together and have been playing together so long, it’s been a pretty sweet season.”
Praise for NFA
Kean and Guadagni both paid their respects to NFA and Coach Maendler.
“When I moved up from Florida, I wanted to stay with NFA and find somebody I could trust,” Kean said. “I’ve been with NFA so long, going back to training with Will. Getting together with Coach Maendler has been awesome. He is so football savvy. You can talk to him about anything, your form reads, progression, he knows exactly what you’re talking about. He helps you so much. When me and Mitch get together and throw with him, he’s watching every little thing you do. You wouldn’t think that little things make a difference, but they really do.”
“Working with Coach Maendler since seventh grade, he really has formed me as a quarterback,” Guadagni said. “Teaching me reads, the R4 process, the rhythm routes and footwork, which I really didn’t know what to do when I got into the NFA program. I was more like a quarterback that just kind of ran the ball up until seventh grade and then I kind of picked up throwing the ball in more of an offensive set. NFA really has helped me with everything, all the little things that really make the ball so much more accurate.”
Guadagni and Kean are obviously two of the better QBs Coach Maendler has helped develop.
“Mitch, he’s just a great football player,” Maendler said. “He could play every one of our skill positions on offense and he would be a D-I recruit. And he started playing defense mid-year. We were in a playoff run and wanted to have our best athletes out there and he’s made a hugh impact with 3 interceptions. What you’ve got is a good kid that’s a good athlete and is so competitive. His upside as a quarterback is ridiculous, I think, just with how much better he’s going to get. And Brett, he can make every throw, he is tremendously accurate and he is so smart. He’s like talking to a coach when you talk football with him.”
Training together has also helped Guadagni and Kean take their games to the next level.
“Many times, me and Brett were working together and he’d make a great throw and I’d get kind of mad and I would want to make an even better one, and I’m sure it’s the other way around,” Guadagni said. “I remember we were doing a drill throwing to the other side of the field and he came over and talked to me about what I was doing wrong. It just kind of showed how we’re big competitors but we’re still very friendly and willing to help each other out.”
“Mitch is a great person – and he’s a great quarterback – so whenever we’re throwing together in the off-season we’re always pushing each other, telling each other what we think, what we see with each other, and how to help each other,” Kean said. “I think just the competitive nature with both of us, you just want to know you helped each other and pushed each other. Through the whole season, we always wanted to play each other and I think it’s awesome that it’s come down to this. It’s kind of crazy, but it’s awesome at the same time.”
Unfortunately, the memorable season will be over for Hudson or St. Edward after Saturday’s showdown.
“I don’t think it makes it more difficult to compete,” Guadagni said. “At this stage of the playoffs, I don’t think we’d want to be playing anyone else. Playing a great team like St. Ed’s, they are a team we always want to play and a team we always want to beat. Knowing that Brett is on the other side of the field, it’s obviously pretty crazy and awesome. But at the same time, it’s a team we want to play and it’s not going to diminish the competitiveness.”
Mansur Ivie gives NFA big boost in SoCal, Phoenix
Mansur Ivie is back home in Southern California, and that is very good news for NFA.
After spending the past three years working with NFA in the Bay Area, the Acton, Calif., native headed back south and Ivie gives NFA a full-time presence in two talent laden areas – Southern California and Phoenix.
“I’m very excited,” Ivie said. “It’s good to be back in Southern California. It still feels like home. We have some promising young players out here and I’m excited to be here and be able to be at their disposal. I’m looking forward to helping develop some of this premier talent that is out here. Being back in Southern California is a big advantage for NFA because I still have strong ties and relationships in the area.”
SoCal, Phoenix OSD camps
From Dec. 26-28, Ivie will be one of NFA’s primary Senior Coaches helping lead the Southern California Off-Season Developmental Camp in Irvine. The key three-day OSD features detailed instruction on the NFA Self Correct System, filming for video analysis and work on fundamental skills.
Ivie can’t wait for the camp to start so rising young quarterbacks can begin serious preparations for the 2015 season.
“I think the OSD camps are very important,” he said. “The competitive timeline in high school has been bumped up by a tremendous amount with the emergence of 7-on-7s becoming such a key aspect in development. So with that, the pace of which these programs are operating at is even higher. Getting hooked up with NFA or with an NFA coach is instrumental to a young man’s development because of the common language, the systematic teaching, the repetitions – they all accelerate improvement and it helps increase confidence and ability. It’s really important for kids to become engaged early on so that way they have time to develop.”
Ivie will also be joining NFA Senior Partner JC Boice and other NFA Senior Certified Coaches at the Phoenix OSD camp, which runs Jan. 9-11. Like Southern California, Phoenix is a booming area for quarterback talent.
“They are very important markets,” Ivie said. “There is a lot of talent that comes out of here and there’s a lot of talent because there are a lot of coaches working with kids out here. At NFA, we are really confident in what we offer and that will help us establish a foothold in Southern California and Phoenix.
“And with Phoenix, it’s a very strong camp for the Western region of NFA,” Ivie added. “It’s very easy for people from Nevada, New Mexico, California, Washington, Utah … it’s very easy for those guys to get in there and it really gives us a great chance to reach some kids that we probably wouldn’t have had an opportunity to work with.”
In addition to becoming NFA’s official QB Coach for Southern California and Phoenix, Ivie will be providing small group training and one-on-one sessions as followup training to athletes that attend the SoCal and Phoenix OSDs.
NFA is thrilled to have Ivie as a permanent presence in Southern California and Phoenix to provide on-going developmental support for quarterbacks in those regions.
“Coach Ivie has risen very fast in NFA,” said Boice, who also serves as NFA’s Director of Business Development and Strategic Alliances. “I have not been surprised. He is a deeply committed teacher of skills and he has very high energy. If you combine that with his intelligence and his commitment to the mastering of the NFA system and philosophy, you are going to get a very impactful coach. That whole region in Southern California and Phoenix is very lucky to have him. He will make a difference in both a young man’s game and his life.”
Ivie has been on a very fast track with NFA since June of 2010, when he became a Certified Coach. Prior to that, he served as the Junior Varsity Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator at Golden Valley High School in Santa Clarita, Calif., and he also coached at College of the Canyons.
NFA a perfect fit
When he decided to specialize in training quarterbacks, Ivie discovered NFA was a perfect fit.
“Like many of our certified coaches, I came to National Football Academies just wanting to better myself and better serve the people I already had access to,” he said. “A goal of mine has always been to work towards football in a full-time capacity. It just so happened that with where I was at that time in 2010, NFA was that opportunity for me and I took it. I absolutely enjoy it. It’s been an absolute blast and I look forward to keeping it going.”
Ivie continues taking on bigger roles with NFA. After initially becoming a Certified Coach, he branched out and began working full-time with NFA in logistics and coordinating the coach certification program.
“He is an experienced coach and he’s always had lots of energy and a hunger to learn more,” Boice said. “He’s done a great job and that is only going to continue. He has really risen in terms of his abilities to coach athletes and develop them into very, very good quarterbacks.”
An NFA family affair for Cajanos
Vincent Cajano Jr. played college football and he’s also coached football.
But when his son, Vincent III, decided to start playing the sport last year, Vincent Jr. had a bit of a problem.
“My son wanted to play football, and he wanted to play quarterback,” Vincent Jr. said. “I’ve been a football coach since 2000, but I coach offensive linemen and defensive linemen, so I couldn’t really help him at quarterback.”
Vincent Jr. started doing research on finding an organization that specializes in developing QBs. Not surprisingly, he ran across NFA.
Vincent Jr. liked what he read about NFA, and he took his son to a camp J.C. Boice was running in Long Island, N.Y., a short drive from his home in Staten Island. When the Cajano’s arrived, Vincent Jr. crossed paths with James Martinez.
Not only is Martinez a certifed NFA coach, he was Cajano’s college football teammate at St. Mary of the Plains in Dodge City, Kansas. “I hadn’t seen James since college,” Vincent Jr. said. “We automatically clicked again.”
Vincent Jr. was so impressed with the NFA camp in Long Island, and he was so thrilled with reconnecting with Martinez, he decided to become a part of the NFA coaching staff.
“After that first camp, James and I spoke a few times,” Vincent Jr. said. “He saw the passion I had for it and I saw how great the NFA camp was run, how regimented it was, the kids really got it and it worked. I’m a very passionate person and I took the next steps and started my certification process and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
Vincent Jr. became a certified NFA coach in May and is thrilled to be coaching quarterbacks in addition to coaching linemen for New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn.
“It’s been a big change,” Vincent Jr. said. “But everything relates to footwork. With linemen, as clumsy as everyone thinks they are, it’s a dance. If you can’t dance on ice, you’re going to have a problem. The footwork with the quarterbacks, I really gravitated toward that. I started with the basics and it’s a matter of teaching the repetition after that. James has helped me out a lot with the transition.”
Not only did Vincent Jr. like the way NFA helped his son learn how to play quarterback, he’s impressed with the organization’s overall philosophy.
“It’s the values,” Vincent Jr. said. “You see how they hold kids accountable and how they explain it’s not just about football, it’s about life. The microcosms of what actually goes on during a football game, you have to be accountable to your teammates and you have to be accountable to yourself in life. I’m a big family person and I also like how everything is family oriented with NFA.”
Rising young QB
Vincent III is 9 years old and he’s been playing competitive football for less than a year. A tight end and linebacker for the Staten Island Pop Warner Lions, Vincent III is also the backup quarterback.
When the regular starter couldn’t make a game earlier this season, Vincent III stepped up at quarterback and led the Lions to a victory with no practice reps and with no fumbled exchanges from the center during the game.
“I was really excited to play quarterback,” Vincent III said. “We hadn’t beaten that team for seven years, so it was a lot of fun.”
As he gets older and gains more experience playing football, Vincent III looks forward to becoming a better QB. Continued training with NFA will greatly help his development.
“NFA has already helped me a lot,” Vincent III said. “I really didn’t know anything before I started working with them. NFA has taught me everything I know. I was doing everything wrong before I started working with them.”
Rod Robison wins Jeff Menage Award
NFA is built on a foundation of top-flight coaches that have the desire and drive to work with young football players and help them maximize their abilities.
From Founder/President Darin Slack to Will Hewlett to JC Boice to Dub Maddox and all the way down the line, NFA coaches are helping more and more campers realize their dreams of playing college football.
One coach, Jeff Menage, brought a wealth of collegiate coaching experience to NFA. “He was just a wonderful, wonderful coach,” Coach Slack said. “Jeff represented, for us, everything we desire in a certified coach.”
On Dec. 17, 2013, Coach Menage passed away in his native Minnesota at the age of 49. It was a terrible shock to Coach Slack and the rest of the NFA family.
But his memory lives on, and the first annual Jeff Menage Coaches Award was presented at the Duel earlier in July. Among the many deserving recipients, Coach Rod Robison was chosen as the first winner.
“To me, being associated with Coach Menage is an honor,” an emotional Coach Robison said. “We have a great group of coaches, and what Coach Slack said about Coach Menage, as far as epitomizing what we look for in coaches when we’re going through certification, he was that. Coach Menage was that personified. I knew him very well. I traveled with him. He knew my family and he was a great man and a great coach. I feel blessed just to have known him.”
Before joining NFA, Coach Menage was on the sidelines at Worthington Community College, the University of Minnesota, Morningside College, Westmar College, South Dakota State University, the University of North Dakota and Murray State.
Not long after leaving Murray State and returning to Minnesota to work in the insurance business, he got the football coaching bug and went through the certification process with NFA.
Remembering Coach Menage
“He was a guy who had all the reason in the world to declare he was above needing to get better,” Coach Slack said. “You would never know his background when you met him because he came in with the attitude of, ‘Hey, I need to learn how to do quarterback training and I need to learn how to serve.’ So he would take the most challenging groups, he would take the youngest groups, and he was always willing to serve.”
Instead of carrying himself with an arrogant air or trying to take shortcuts, Coach Menage rolled up his sleeves and went to work for NFA.
“He never drew attention to his experience as a way to validate himself,” Coach Slack said. “In fact, it was almost difficult to get him to talk about it, not because he didn’t want to but because he felt if he did he would be leaning on something that was irrelevant to what we were doing. He was really committed to the idea of coaching football and building men.”
Not long before he passed away, Coach Menage traveled across the Atlantic Ocean with Coach Slack for some international football camps.
“When I spent 11 days with him in and around England, it was sometimes hard to find fields,” Coach Slack said. “We had one camp inside on a handball court, and Jeff was demonstrating drills during one of the sessions. He didn’t throw particularly well and he was very upset with himself.
“After camp ended, I asked if anybody had seen Jeff,” Coach Slack continued. “He was in a dark handball gym throwing the football. I found him and said: ‘What are you doing man?’ He said: ‘I’ve got to get better.’ He was almost 50 years old trying to throw better so he could do his job better. That’s the kind of guy he was and that’s the kind of guy we want at NFA. That was the kind of spirit he had.”
Coach Menage’s spirit will always be alive with NFA. And given the way he carried himself, Coach Menage would have been thrilled that Coach Robison won the first award in his memory.
“I’ve known Rod a long time,” Coach Slack said. “We first met in a foodcourt in Reno when I was doing training. We spent 53 days on the road one summer. If there is a guy on our team that has embodied the kinds of things that Jeff did, it’s Rod Robison.”
Another Duel, another rousing success
MASSILLION, Ohio – Take a bow, all of you nearly 150 quarterbacks that arrived at historic Paul Brown Stadium on Friday for NFA’s fifth annual Duel.
And take a bow, NFA coaches. You’ve earned one as well.
“The Duel is payday,” beamed Darin Slack, NFA’s Founder/President. “This is payday for the kids; it’s payday for the coaches. This is our way to come together and celebrate.”
Along with top-flight NFA coaches like Will Hewlett, JC Boice, Dub Maddox, Mansur Ivie, Rod Robison, Adam Britt, Chad Case, Reid Roe, Todd Espeland, Kenny Jackson, James Martinez and Steve Gregory from the Quarterback Farm, Slack made sure NFA’s showcase event got off to a celebratory beginning.
Coach Slack weighs in
In the shadows of the NFA Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, Coach Slack delivered another passionate speech to the upstart QBs who made the trip from all over the country and Canada, then he heaped even more praise on the coaching staff.
“We’re building D-I coaches here, too,” Slack said. “We’re talking about guys that by and large are coaching at a D-I level. Most of the real D-I coaches now are not developmental in nature because they’re recruiting coaches … that’s their job. They have to recruit athletes. They have to recruit kids that can already do it.
“At NFA, we’re a little different,” Slack continued. “We can’t recruit coaches who simply are scheme guys, who are recruiting experts. That’s not what this is about. This a developmental program, which means they have to know and specialize in a way that allows them to communicate to kids that may not be able to qualify for that college opportunity just yet. A lot of college coaches can take them through a camp and filter them out and shuffle them off to lesser coaches and keep the talented ones. Here, every coach has got to be willing to go down to the lowest common demoninator and coach.”
That has been the mission since NFA first opened its doors, and very little has changed through the years.
“The message of NFA, besides the love of football, is we love each other and it’s not about us,” Slack said. “It’s about moving the chains and Passio. We keep those things central.”
NFA also continues to churn out college-ready quarterbacks, and showcase events like the Duel keeps priming the pipeline.
“These kids are here to compete,” Slack said. “And they’re here to showcase themselves. What I hope will happen is each of these guys will get around other people and show out.”
Before the Duel started Friday, Slack gave his usual uplifting address to the assembled QBS.
For this year’s event, Slack addressed the importance of the acronym BEST.
B: Is for Breathe, which is what every good quarterback needs to do when the expected stress and nerves come into play.
E: Is for Engage, which means you do not worry about failure.
S: Is for Sacrifice, which means everything you give has to be your best.
T: Is for Tough, and that means physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
New Direction for Fifth Annual Invitation-Only National Quarterback Competition July 11-12 at Massillon Washington High in Massillon, Ohio
Each year over 1,500 young quarterbacks attend the various Pre-Season Preparation and NFA Regional and Off-Season Development camps throughout the nation.
Every quarterback that attends a camp is eligible for selection, however only a small percentage receives the coveted nomination that leads to an invitation to The Duel of the Dozens
Now in its fifth year The Duel is quickly becoming the premier national competition for rising star quarterbacks.
A new direction
For 2014, on July 11-12 at Massillon Washington High (Massillon, Ohio), not only will The Duel invite around 10-percent of the young men that attended its NFA camps, but for the first time will welcome selections from three other regional development companies, QBF QB Farm, Kaleo QB Academy and Quarterback Factory.
“The other companies we’ve invited to join us see the same values as NFA sees,” remarks NFA Director of Operations JC Boice. “Our visions are aligned, building better quarterbacks and better young men.”
“We appreciate these companies seizing the opportunity to partner with NFA to provide a real showcase event for their athletes alongside NFA athletes,” Boice continued.
One of the companies is QBF QB Farm out of the Chicago area and run by longtime well-respected quarterback guru Steve Gregory.
“Although we’re competitors it’s very smart to align with like-minded coaches that have the same vision about the horizon,” Gregory told NFA Nation. “Of course we have subtle differences but it’s about working together and pooling resources.”
“It’s a huge advantage to the students, whether mine or others, to compete against the best quarterbacks in the country,” continued Gregory. “My guys will benefit from that competition as well as the learning experience of being around the different coaches and their styles.
Another company that’s as excited to be partnered with NFA as we are to be partnered with them is Quarterback Factory based in Maryland.
The Duel is simply the best national quarterback competition we at www.qbfactory.com have found for our clients,” said Quarterback Factory Founder and Owner Chris Baucia. “It takes what we have worked on all year and puts it into action in an even more competitive environment. We like to say ‘be about it , don’t talk about it,’ and The Duel lets our kids live up to that theme. NFA does a fantastic job in the organization of each phase of the event to help each player grow and compete. My clients simply love the event and the experience.”
The addition of the other companies means less NFA quarterbacks have been invited this year. It also means the rising senior age group has been eliminated, but next year there will be a new grade 11 and 12 competition.
How The Duel works and scoring
The Duel is a two-day event that features both an intense development session and on-field competition with scoring derived from the NFA Skill Score System.
That scoring system is an accumulation of a comprehensive battery of assessments that measures all aspects of a quarterback’s ability, including rapid cognition decision making, speed, strength, stamina, and position specific performance. Scoring will be kept for all age groups and the top player in each age group will be named the National Champion.
“The difference between The Duel and Elite 11 camps is our system is not so subjective,” remarked Will Hewlett, the NFA Director of Player Development. “The Duel is a scoring event. You complete certain passes and compete in time and score in drills and some other paces we put the kids through.”
“Either you hit the target or you don’t. There’s no gray area,” continued Hewlett. “At The Duel we don’t measure potential we measure current skill level.”
Last year out of the multitude of kids that attended one of the previously mentioned NFA camps, only around 150 were nominated and selected for the seven age groups combined, grades 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5, with boys under grade 5 grouped with the 5th-graders.
“The Duel invite is not only a quarterback’s reward for demonstrating true potential in a camp setting, but it’s also a chance to experience the motivating encouragement of the NFANation family together,” said NFA President and Founder Darin Slack. Another part of the reward is the quarterback gets to showcase his skills in front of hundreds of people, while seeing how his talent stacks up against dozens of other young men his own age from across the country.”
“We believe quarterback recruiting and college level opportunities arise from being able to excel in the midst of the high pressure of expectations,” Slack remarked and then continued.”
“The Duel rewards the prepared quarterback by acting as a mirror held up to each young man to help them understand where they are in that process. “Their true competitiveness can only be known on game day, but The Duel is the summer’s last chance for a QB to send a message to all present of their readiness to play championship football in the fall.”
Bonds that are made and lessons that are learned
Some of the kids bond with the coaches and other kids, some with just the coaches, and some with just the other kids.
“Being from Northern California I work mostly with Coach Hewlett, but one of the things I really like about The Duel is the other great coaches I can learn from and perform for like Coach Slack, Coach Boice and Coach (Dub) Maddox,” said up and coming freshman Chandler Davis.
Three-time age group second place finisher Mikie Kovich from Virginia is another perfect example.
“One of the best things about The Duel is getting to work with all the great coaches Kovich told NFA Nation. “I like everything they talk about and ask us to do.”
“One of the things I like about Coach Hewlett is he told me to relax and not get too tense,” continued Kovich, who placed second as a seventh, eighth and ninth-grader. “Everything Will has shown me has really helped me. He’s awesome but what’s even more awesome is coming each year and meeting other great coaches like Coach Slack, Coach Maddox and Coach Boice.”
“Over the past three years of being selected I’ve made a lot of good friends at The Duel. It’s great to get to see them when I get there, and the coaches? – they’re the best,” said Massachusetts freshman Conner Degenhardt.
“I have a lot of good friends that go there and its great to see them but of all the relationships I’ve developed it’s the NFA coaches that have been the most important. The NFA coaching has taken my game to a whole new level.” continued Degenhardt, who recently traveled to Philadelphia to work with Hewlett.
The best part of The Duel? It’s about competition
All four NFA boys interviewed for the story specifically talked about competition and being competitive as one of their favorite things about The Duel. It’s no wonder each did well last year.
“The OpC4 is more about getting better and improving,” said Nick Patterson, a sophomore from Augusta, Georgia. “The Duel is a competition showcase.”
“For me the best thing about The Dual is the competition with kids from all around the nation,” continued Patterson, a fourth place finisher last summer. “You don’t get that kind of chance anywhere else to go against the best NFA quarterbacks except at The Duel.”
“Yes sir. I’m very proud I won because I worked real hard, but the competition was the most fun,” said Gino English of Orlando, Florida, the first-place winner in the seventh-grade group. “I love the competitive environment. Going out there and competing against the guys.”
“I just love to compete. At The Duel you’re competing against the best,” remarked Degenhardt.”
“When you’re competing against the best athletes in the country it feels good to show that if you work hard enough it shows,” Kovich remarked. “The best thing about The Duel is hard work pays off.”
If you make the finals, meaning you are one of four boys from each age group, you get to go through The Gauntlet.
“The Gauntlet is a timed and scored event comprised of a series of throws and obstacles that puts the quarterback in a pressure environment against his peers with all eyes on him and him alone,” said NFA Director of Product Development Dub Maddox.
“Another one of my favorite things is when you make the final four and do The Gauntlet,” Patterson told NFA Nation. “Being able to perform in front of a lot of people and perform well when everyone is watching you is a challenge I like.”
This year’s competition? In it to win it
Degenhardt didn’t make the finals last year but as an incoming sophomore he has different ideas.
“I’ve gone the past three years and I’m going again. Last year I came close to the finals but this year I’m in it to win it. I definitely want to take home the championship. I feel it’s my time.”
Although there is no competition between the companies sending quarterbacks to The Duel, signal-callers from those companies want to win just as bad as the NFA boys – and it means the competition is going to be even stiffer than the past four years.
One of Gregory’s top boys, sophomore Steven Frank from Oswego, Illinois is a perfect example.
“My goal is to be one of the best by showing what I can do,” Frank remarked. “To do that I have to start by being focused from the moment I get there on being accurate with my throws.”
And for Kovich, who has three-straight second-place finishes, being top dog would seem like a slam dunk goal.
“Without a doubt to win this year is definitely my goal. I need to speed my game up and pick up the tempo, bring everything I have, and overall just play like I’m under the lights.”
This year the lights at The Duel will be shining not only on NFA quarterbacks but QBs from QBF QB Farm, Kaleo QB Academy and Quarterback Factory.
This year’s version of The Duel is no doubt going to be the most competitive ever.
NFA pumped for Alaska debut
NFA is headed to the Last Frontier. John Wedin, among others, could not be more thrilled that NFA Director and Senior Certified Coach JC Boice and crew are going to be at West High School in Anchorage on June 28-29. Click here for details.
This is NFA’s first foray into the great state of Alaska. “It’s huge,” Wedin said. “We’ve got quite a few players in the NFL out of Alaska. We’ve got a lot of lot of kids, even last year, that are playing Division I football, a lot of D-II and a ton of D-III, but this is a tough, tough road for these kids. We play in a virtual vacuum. We might be playing football in a broom closet up here because there is no football college program at any level in Alaska. Nobody sees us.”
Coach Boice sees a tremendous opportunity to provide talented QBs in Alaska the complete experience – intense instructional training built on NFA’s proven development model that accelerates understanding and execution of a quarterback’s primary movements (mechanics for throwing motion and footwork) along with developing the ability to self-correct, not self-destruct, under pressure.
“NFA is very excited to be coming to Anchorage to serve Alaska quarterbacks,” Coach Boice said. “We have noticed a steady increase of athletes flying in and participating in our West Coast camps and trainings. It is obvious these young men and their families are committed to becoming the best they can be.”
Wedin knows all about the Alaskan commitment to football. His son, Sam, is a standout quarterback at West H.S., and under rising young Head Coach Tim Davis, the Eagles have won two state championships in the Large School Division over the last four seasons, including 2013.
But in past years, Alaskan families with skilled young quarterbacks were faced with the expensive challenge of traveling down to the lower 48 for quality training.
“A lot of these families can’t afford that, so this a chance to get a nationally recognized, top echelon quarterback camp, and their kid can go to this camp for a lot less,” Wedin said. “They are absolutely thrilled. NFA coming here, this puts us on the map. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it, but a lot of people up here resent the fact of how we’re kind of treated when it comes to football. And hockey is king in Alaska, even though there are so many good football players.”
Conor Feckley, a former West star and Alaska’s all-time high school passing leader with over 7,000 yards, signed with Colorado Mesa University High School and is still playing college football. Zach Lujan, an Anchorage South High School product, starred at Chabot College in California last season and has moved up to South Dakota State.
Both QBs attended NFA camps while overcoming the inherent challenges of playing prep football in Alaska. “The Alaska QBs are very coachable and they work very hard,” Coach Boice said. “They are a pleasure to work with and always improve so much when we work with them. Bringing a camp to them only makes sense. I cannot wait to get up there and train these kids, and I foresee many more Alaska quarterbacks getting the opportunity to compete at the next level with the utilization of the NFA system that is now local for them.”
John Wedin can attest to the improvement factor. His son Sam is a perfect example.
“When he was 9, 10 years old, I wanted to send Sam to a camp,” John said. “It would be 10 below in middle of January and the street was covered with two inches of ice and he wanted to throw. That’s how he’s wired. Because of all his hard work and love of the sport, I wanted to send him to a QB camp. I looked at the Manning camp, various camps, but when I saw NFA and talked to a couple of people I really respect, it seemed hand’s down the perfect camp for Sam. He’s always had a good arm.”
Feckley, who broke Alaska’s all-time passing record in 2012 after attending an NFA camp in Northern California, benefited tremendously from the experience. Before that, Feckley’s natural talent enabled him to sling the ball 55, 58 yards, but his mechanics and accuracy were inconsistent. NFA took all of his raw, natural talent, refined it and helped Feckley develop into the outstanding quarterback he is today.
For over 20 years, the state has had an excellent football camp – founded by Randy Klingenmeyer, an Alaskan institution. The All-Alaska Football Camp will continue to thrive and help get players from around the Last Frontier college scholarships, and NFA can only reinforce the growing football frenzy up north.
“I really think AFC and NFA can cooperate and work together,” John Wedin said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to help and feed each other. With NFA, they are checking out Alaska and a lot of people want to see them. It’s a small beginning but I think the potential for NFA to be a real big deal up here is tremendous.”
Chabot College Offensive Coordinator Nick Goulet with NFA trained Chabot star quarterback Nick Goulet (photo by Harold Abend)
NFA Northern California Off-Season Development Camp April 25-27 at Chabot College in Hayward for sixth year
The reality is not all NFA trained quarterbacks, and the preponderance of talented high school players at all positions, receive a scholarship offer from a Division I college.
In fact, depending on the area of the country, well under 3-pecent of quarterbacks receive any kind of a Division I-level offer.
There are a variety of reasons why some players that appear to have the tools don’t get offered.
For those players that want to continue to play and work their way into a four-year school, they can choose the junior college level program, and nowhere is the Juco scene hotter than in California.
“Basically, everyone that ends up playing at a JC goes there for a different reason,” said Chabot College (Hayward) Offensive Coordinator Nick Goulet.
“For some its grades, others were passed over because they were too small, and for some it was their level of high school competition,” remarked the Livermore (Livermore, Calif.) graduate who’s been the Chabot offensive coordinator since 2007 under head coach Danny Calcagno.
Goulet, who also teaches health and physical education at nearby San Leandro High continued – “At the junior college level we give a player an opportunity to earn a scholarship by overcoming obstacles, get grades right, and drive themselves so they show they can play at a higher level. There are so many football programs there’s a spot for almost everyone.”
Success at Chabot
Even so, just going to a JC doesn’t guarantee a shot for a scholarship to a four-year school.
If a student-athlete had the tools but lacked the grades they still have to continue to improve both to move on to the next level.
It also helps to have good coaching. Although it took a few years, Chabot, with Calcagno at the helm and Goulet drawing up plays from a spread option offense, has won three-straight Golden Gate Conference Central Division championships for the first time in school history.
“We’ve had more talented teams but this team got better each week,” Goulet remarked. “It’s a testament to having a great group of kids.”
Prior to the NFA Northern California Off-Season Development Camp April 25-27 at Chabot, NFA Nation made a trek to an afternoon practice in Hayward to watch Goulet put the Gladiator offense through its paces.
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Go again. You should always be here,” Goulet tells the quarterback as he points to where he wants him.
“Good, better, better. Stay square,” he tells the tailback about turning the corner.”
The way Goulet interacts with the players is visibly different than the approach to coaching boys. He has to talk to and treat them as men even as he barks out directions while putting them through the drills.
“It’s different than high school where you get them as freshmen,” Goulet told NFA Nation. “You’ve got to treat them as men. That’s what it’s all about.”
“Sometime it’s really difficult with quarterbacks. You get four different quarterbacks from four different systems. You have to break them down and build them back up and teach the way you want them to play.”
So Coach Goulet what has been the key to the recent success at Chabot?
“First off, we’re in a hotbed of JC football here in Northern California and the Bay Area, but some of the reasons our program is better than others is we develop our guys, help them get stronger in the weight room and we stress grades. The grades are a bigger piece of the puzzle than anything else.”
Players move on
The resulting fruits of the recipe used by the coaching staff at Chabot is sending eight players on to a Division I school next fall and around 12-15 will move on somewhere at the next level.
According to Goulet, over the past three years, close to 50 young men have moved on to complete their careers and education at a four-year school.
The eight D1 players this year are:
OL – Will Fukofuka (Midwestern State), WR T.J. Hightower (Florida Tech), DB – Eddie Horn (Northern Arizona), LB – Josh Jacinin (South Dakota Mines), QB – Zach Lujan (South Dakota State), WR – Stefon Martin (Incarnate Word), LB – Mia Pola (Northern Michigan), DB – Michael Thomas (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo).
Poster child Lujan becomes a man
For NFA and for Chabot as well, a huge success is quarterback Lujan.
When he arrived at Chabot from South Anchorage (Alaska) last year Lujan was a perfect example of all the reasons why he was not offered D1, despite the fact he had been working with NFA Director of Player Development Will Hewlett, and attending NFA camps for a while.
Zach was 6-foot, 175-pounds and he was from Alaska, where South Anchorage is pretty good but there was a question of the level of competition.
“Zach really needed a year of junior college to grow and mature,” Hewlett said. “He’s very intelligent with Ivy League like academics. After his junior year in high school we tried to use his film and grades to get him an opportunity at a high level, but it ended up out of high school he was projected as D2, so he had an opportunity to go to Juco where he really raised his level.”
He also grew two inches and after the Chabot weight training and fitness regimen headed by coach Eric Fanane he’s going on to South Dakota State after leading the Gladiators to that third-straight title, at 6-2, 195, an obvious sign as Hewlett remarks “the experience allowed him to mature physically and mentally. He stepped in and took the bull by the horns.”
“While I was working with Will he suggested I consider Juco, and I was attending the NFA Off-Season Development Camp at Chabot, and I did like it at Chabot, but it didn’t key in,” Lujan told NFA Nation.
“My dad talked to coach Goulet, and then later when Chabot came up again I put two-and-two together.”
“Zach contacted us to find out what we do,” Goulet said.
After he found out, and knowing how the spread offense at Chabot would fit his style Zach made the move.
His capacity to escape in the pocket and play making abilities was a big part of the Gladiators title streak continuing.
NFA and Hewlett/Lujan connection
“I started looking for quarterback camps in 2012 and in my research NFA kept coming up,” Lujan said. “There was a camp in Seattle and that was the closest to Alaska so I went and Will was running the camp. I could see he was a great coach and we caught on instantly.”
With his coming to Chabot, which is about a half-hour drive from The Range training facility in Livermore where Hewlett is headquartered, has meant Lujan has been able to continue working with Hewlett the entire time he’s been in Northern California.
The weekend after the practice NFA attended Lujan went home to Anchorage and the interview for this story came via cell phone from Alaska. Shortly after it concluded the phone rank again and it was Zach with one final word.
“I wanted to be sure and get in the story that I’m still training with Will and I just want to let him know how grateful I am for everything he’s done for me.”
Hewlett/Goulet and the NFA Off-Season Development Camp connection
“I met Will through the clinic circuit and became interested in what they teach,” Goulet remarked. “I like how they teach and it makes sense to me. It sends a clear message to the players, makes expectations clear, and eliminates the gray area. I like black and white.”
“I met Nick at a Glazier Clinic and he was inquiring about the R4 and C4 systems we use,” Hewlett said. “As I was talking to him about the systems I said to him ‘you’re local, would you like to host our camp?”
This year over 100 players will gather for the 3-day developmental camp at Chabot starting Friday, April 25 and concluding on Sunday.
“After NFA started holding the camps at Chabot I became football buddies with Will,” Goulet said.
“We’d meet and talk about how we coach quarterbacks, the techniques we use and how they could implement them into their system at Chabot,” said Hewlett.
Goulet still treks out to The Range on occasion to shoot the breeze with Hewlett, watch film and diagram plays on the big board.
“Nick has done about as good a job as anyone I’ve seen at implementing some of our techniques,” Hewlett remarked. “He’s a gifted and bright, young offensive coordinator, a rising star in the Juco ranks. He’s a football coach that’s going to coach at a higher level. Nick is going places.”
Not only can the Juco road lead to golden opportunities for players, but possibly for coaches as well.
Coach Jeremy Bosken a great catch for NFA
NFA has built a national reputation for developing young quarterbacks to play at the collegiate and NFL levels. NFA also provides high-level training for football players at other positions, including wide receiver.
Launched in 2010 with the help of D.J. McCarthy, currently the wide receivers coach at Bethune-Cookman and formerly receivers coach at LSU and a collegiate player at Washington, WRA camps continue to thrive. Give Jeremy Bosken a big assist in that regard.
A former collegiate wide receiver at Carson-Newman, Bosken thrives on teaching young football players how to excel at the key skill position. “I love it,” Bosken said. “I love the off-season workouts, I love helping kids get recruited. I love the whole process, watching kids develop and trying to make their dreams come true. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”
In addition to his work with NFA-WRA, Bosken is the Head Coach at David Crockett High School in Jonesboro, Tenn. He took over in 2013 and was faced with the daunting challenge of turning around a program that made the playoffs just once in the school’s 42-year history.
Before moving to David Crockett, Bosken was the Offensive Coordinator at York Comprehensive High School in South Carolina, and he helped the Cougars finish with a 10-3 record in 2012 while ranking second in the state in total offense.
“Coming here (David Crockett), everybody I talked to told me it was probably the dumbest decision I could make,” Bosken said. “But my wife and I, we prayed about it. I know from the outside looking in, it wasn’t the best situation. But we felt like it was really what God had planned for us. This is where he wanted us to be and it’s been some of the best times I’ve had coaching so far.”
Turning it around
In 2012, David Crockett was 2-8 and finished with 1,700 total years of offense. Last season, Bosken steered the Pioneers to a 5-6 record and their first playoff appearance in 13 years. They also piled up over 4,000 total yards of offense.
“It was a great way to get started, to get everything rolling,” Bosken said. “The kids are buying in great. It’s been a great experience so far. I was at York and we were ranked nationally and contending for state championships. Coming here, this is my wife’s hometown. We have three kids of our own and we’re also foster parents. So we have five kids in the house. For the grandparents to be able to come and hang out with the kids, come to all the games, it’s been great. And to come back and help rebuild things here and give them hope, what a great experience.”
Bosken has been working with NFA since 2008. He said the experience has helped him as a head coach.
“We’re using a lot of the R4 System with the offense here,” Bosken said. “And I’ve implemented a lot of the things I’ve learned from Darin (Slack) and Dub (Maddox) and Will (Hewlett) and JC (Boice) through the years. It’s not about you. I’m really trying to ride on the hearts of the people you serve. I thought this was the best opportunity to do that.”
After his playing days were over, Bosken spent six years in the Marines and rose to the rank of Sergeant. His military background has enhanced his football experience in coaching.
“I think it’s really been helpful,” he said. “I think it’s related to a lot of things, like team building and instilling that discipline in pressure situations. It all kind of goes hand in hand.”