Jake Heaps' first football camp was QBR in California on the campus of Cal-Lutheran.
"Yes, it was worth his time," said his father, Steve. "He learned skills he'd never had before. That camp was all about repetition. At first, I wondered when they were going to get to other things, but we quickly learned the value of doing the same thing over and over again and getting it down right."
Later, the Heapses watched their son attend camps around the country. He learned how to watch and break down film. He learned to master drills, increase his footwork and balance, and organizers took note. Even at the Elite Eleven after his junior year, there were quarterbacks there who had no clue how to do some drills because they didn't have the experience.
Another benefit is exposure. Since the NCAA banned Division I coaches from attending the some 15 Nike Camps nationwide, many of those elite camps have established marketing days where they film attendees and send clips to major college recruiters, complete with biographical information that includes a report on academic qualifications.
The Heapses have seen talented players who've not invested in camps get overlooked and ignored by college recruiters. The parents have wondered why less skilled teammates receive college offers. "They do because people know them from attending camps," said Kelly Heaps. "Unless a guy really stands out, he can get lost.
"Barton can take a 'tweener' and get him to the next level," she said. "He knows enough coaches, has enough contacts."
Camps do cost a lot of money and time. When Jake attended his first BYU camp, he was scheduled to attend another at Washington State later that week. A ticket from Salt Lake City to Spokane was $900, so Jake flew to Boise and his father drove from Seattle, picked him up, drove all night, stayed four hours in a motel and made it to Wazzu the next day.
Such sacrifices can pay off, however.
A great example from Heaps' Class of 2010 is BYU teammate Manu Mulitalo, a virtual stranger to many major recruiters while at Granger High School. A 6-foot-3, 305 pound offensive lineman, Mulitalo attended USC's "Rising Stars" football camp after his junior year. He ended up earning camp MVP honors, and suddenly recruiters from across the country knew who he was.
The Heapses say parents should start early and young. Many parents don't want their kids to play tackle football until high school. By then, it is too late. The competition is too great and college recruiters know whom they want to look at when kids are sophomores.
"You have to hone your craft," said Kelly, "Its just like playing the piano or violin. It takes a lot of practice to get good and it is all about competition."
Camping early, like Kaleb Hatch, also educates parents on what their son needs to improve upon. He can also learn who his competition is. You can also learn a lot bout how hard or competitive a son is — some don't work hard and don't thrive in a competitive atmosphere. Learning these factors can help a family make decisions, including if it is ultimately worth it.
If it's a ticket to a major college you're after, it takes a plan. Talent isn't always enough. Camp attendance is a big part of the equation both physically and politically. These same principles apply for basketball, volleyball, baseball, tennis and soccer.
Kaleb Hatch has photos of himself standing alongside Jake Heaps, Max Hall and John Beck.
It's obvious the dream he's shooting for. He's hammering through what he believes will get him there.
It isn't easy, or cheap.
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