SportStars Magazine

Nike’s Football Showcase. And so It Begins

Nike’s The Opening NorCal Regional Unofficially Kick Starts The 2017 Football Season •

Story By MARK TENNIS, Special to SportStars

For the second straight year, De Anza High-Richmond was the site of 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.

Wherever the site and whatever the format, the common factor in all the Nike events is they attract a high percentage of top incoming senior, junior and a few even younger football players from the top programs throughout California and many more Western region state. That was no different when De Anza opened its facilities on May 21. There seemed to be a few more players this year from Canada as well.

Granite Bay OL, Will Craig

In many ways, the NorCal Nike event kicks off 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.

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.

“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.”

Last season, Williams was more known as a wide receiver for a Roosevelt squad that lost only to national powerhouse Centennial-Corona 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 at Hawkins of Los Angeles. He transferred to Golden Valley 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.”

Serra-San Mateo WR/DB, Isaiah Kendrick

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.”

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, 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 he’s received offers so far from all of the other schools in the Pac-12. So for him it’s not quite as if doing that well on Sunday was a big surprise to many.

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