The way Reggie Jones sees it, the development of high school football players and college recruits goes well beyond the weight room and 40-yard dash these days.
It continues on the spring and summer fields in wide-open passing drills without pads and heavy contact.
Blue-chip talent – and young athletes aspiring to join the coveted recruiting ranks – converged at sun-splashed French Field on Sunday for the 7v7 Northwest Showcase, one of the biggest tournaments of its kind in the region.
Jones, the former Kent-Meridian High star and NFL cornerback, and his Rise Football Academy primarily organized the all-day event – a pass-catch-and-run tournament that attracted 20 select and high school teams, stretching from California to Canada, from the Puget Sound area to Oregon, and cities and towns in between.
The National 7v7 Football Association and IMG Academy were partners in the regional showcase.
The top two finishers – Tacoma Bomb Squad and Rise Football Black – advanced to the national championship in Bradenton, Fla., June 24-26.
The stage at K-M was an opportunity for teens to gain exposure in front of scouts, family and friends. For the players, it was a chance to pull off spectacular plays and improve physically as they prepare for their final seasons of prep football. Division I talent, including those verbally committed to Division I programs, sprinkled rosters.
“It’s the top players in our region all coming together for a day of competition,” said Jones, tournament manager, who works today as a national touring motivational speaker representing his life coaching and consulting company. “The name of the game is exposure. … We were able to put a platform like this together with the top kids going out and competing.
“Being from Kent-Meridian, my alma mater, I felt it was only right to bring it back home.”
The process of training and recruiting young talent today is much different than it was for Jones, who attracted college offers. He played at Idaho and Portland State before beginning a journeyman pro career as a free agent with the New Orleans Saints in 2009.
“Right now 7-on-7 is a huge part of football, so we wanted to make sure to bring it here,” Jones said. “This has become an amazing tool to get exposure. The 40-yard dash used to be the big thing. If you ran a fast 40, you were going to get looked at. Now it’s 7 on 7.
“You’re not going to get a scholarship from 7-on-7, but you’re able to get in front of (scouts and media). … You can now come out and watch them play,” Jones said. “The name of the game is exposure.”
One top recruit throwing darts around the field on an 85-degree day was towering Bothell quarterback Jacob Sirmon, an early commit to the University of Washington. At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Sirmon promises to keep on growing with two more years of high school play in front of him.
Sirmon, who also received offers from Washington State and Nebraska, comes from good family stock. His father, David, played for Montana in the mid-1990s, winning a national title with the Grizzlies in 1995. His uncle, Peter, was a star quarterback at Walla Walla before shining as an Oregon and NFL linebacker.
The tournament was to the young quarterback’s liking.
“It’s a great opportunity to compete against great talent and an opportunity to up my game,” Sirmon said.
The tournament brought out local teams.
Kentwood reached the elimination round before falling to a select team from Oregon.
“Some of the best football players in the state are here,” said Jeff Seiber, a volunteer coach for the Conquerors. “We’re trying to provide them with as much experience as we can.”
Kentwood junior-to-be quarterback Justin Seiber throws against the Oregon Select defense during the elimination round of the 7v7 Northwest Showcase presented by Rise Football at French Field on Sunday. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter