I decided when I was 8 years old. I made a promise to God and myself I wouldn’t compete in sports on Sunday while I was in control and had the ability to do so. For me, that is while I’m in high school. —Tanner McKee
The annual Elite 11 camp put on by Nike is the premier competition for 24 of the best high school quarterbacks in the country, with notable names such as Matthew Stafford, Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston, Deshaun Watson and Josh Rosen among its alumni.
Over the course of the three-day competition in which players participate in a number of drills and receive classroom instruction from some of football’s best minds, the goal is to go from merely making the camp to being named one of 12 finalists who will compete at The Opening Finals in Oregon, which brings together the best players in the nation from all positions.
This year, one of the 24 invited to the camp in Los Angeles was Tanner McKee from Centennial High School in Corona, California. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound McKee is ranked by the recruiting website Scout.com as the fourth-best quarterback in the country and 29th-best overall prospect for the class of 2018.
As such, he holds scholarship offers from 21 schools around the country, according to Scout, including Alabama, Georgia, Washington, UCLA, Texas and BYU, among others.
McKee is also a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his faith became a news item during the Elite 11 camp last weekend.
Donning his trademark bucket hat, McKee was ranked as the third-best signal caller among all 24 through the first two days (Friday and Saturday), with analysts noting his accuracy, arm control and demeanor, among other positive traits.
But then, citing his faith, McKee chose to take a big risk: He decided to sit out of Sunday’s action.
With the top 12 being determined based on cumulative efforts from the three days, McKee knew he was putting himself in jeopardy of getting cut.
“I understood that,” he told the Deseret News via Twitter direct message, since he is at Especially For Youth this week. “My goal was to do so well the first two days it would be really hard for them not to take me.”
For McKee, the decision to not play on Sunday was one he made years ago.
“I decided when I was 8 years old,” he said. “I made a promise to God and myself I wouldn’t compete in sports on Sunday while I was in control and had the ability to do so. For me, that is while I’m in high school.”
He acknowledged that the choice to not participate last Sunday in such a prestigious event as the Elite 11 camp was “tough, but as I said, the decision was made many years ago.”
As it turned out, McKee did do enough on Friday and Saturday to earn one of the 12 spots to The Opening Finals, which will take place June 28-July 3 at Nike headquarters.
“The Elite 11 guys do an amazing job with this event,” he said. “I am just honored to be part of it.”
McKee knows he’ll have to face the Sunday dilemma once again in Oregon, as the event will still be in session on July 2, but the decision is already made.
“After everything I’ve been through, it wouldn’t make sense for me to break that promise now,” he said.
Moving forward, McKee recognizes that the play-on-Sunday issue will get more complicated as he enters college after his mission, and he acknowledges that Sabbath sports participation might be a necessity if he’s receiving a scholarship from a school that requires team activities on that day, but he wants to do the best he can to honor the commitment he made at baptism.
“If I am on scholarship at college somewhere and the coach says we have practice on Sunday, I practice on Sunday,” he said. “At that point it’s beyond my control. Keeping my promise is important to me.”
As for his recruitment, McKee is the only quarterback among Scout’s Top 25 for the class of 2018 who is not yet committed to a school, and he’s taking the process slowly.
“I still like a lot of schools,” he said. “Will look to narrow things down a bit in a month or so. Decision (probably) won’t come until late fall.”