Springfield, FL---Imagine you're a high school football player and the NFL calls and says "hey, how about an all expense paid trip to Ohio so you can come up and play some ball at an NFL facility!"
Well for a dozen local student athletes, that's exactly the opportunity they're getting starting Thursday. Rutherford senior to be Austin Johnson is one of those students.
"I've never flown before, so I'm really scared about that, but I"m excited at the same time."
Austin Johnson's fear of flying aside, he and 11 others, 9 Rutherford teammates and a player each from Bay and Bozeman are heading to Cleveland Thursday for the NFL's High School Player Development 7 on 7 tournament, to be played at the Cleveland Browns training facility.
Rutherford head coach Alvin Dempsey is the coaching leading this bunch, he and assistant coach Jason Griffin will take the kids north and guide them through the weekend tournament.
"And the great thing about it" says Dempsey "is the NFL provides everything, they provide our flight there, hotel, they accommodate all of our meals. And the NFL, that's one of the reasons we pumped the camp, to get the guys out.
Coach is talking about the NFL Player Development Camp held at Rutherford a couple of weeks ago, where players got football training, but also life skills development, with seminars from educators, the National Guard, law enforcement and the like.
"The main thing" says coach Dempsey "is character, the NFL really pushes character, and this was a character development camp."
And from those at the camp, the NFL charged Dempsey with choosing a dozen players for the 7 on 7 tournament in Ohio.
He chose to notify them through their parents, over the phone. That he says jokingly, the safe thing to do.
"I did them one by one, because I didn't know the first time, how all of them would handle it. Right then, I didn't know if all of them would have jumped on me and made one big pyramid, or whatever the case may be.
"I was almost speechless" adds Johnson "at first, but then I was so excited at the same time. I feel like it's gonna be a great opportunity for us and everybody out here."
"He called my dad"says Bozeman junior to be David Elmore "and said your son got picked. And I was just like whoa, well I knew I could compete but I didn't really have a clue that I was gonna get picked for something that big. It's pretty cool getting everything paid for and being able to go so far away. And I've never been on a plane so it's pretty cool."
Coach Dempsey loves the idea of the kids learning both some X''s and O's, as well as life lessons. And then there's the friendships that might result.
"They're gonna learn some friends for life. Guys that they don't play with them, they'll be out there with those guys. They're gonna meet other guys from around the world. Who knows, one of them may end up being a college roommate one day.
So at least two first time fliers! They head north Thursday, the tourney set for Friday and Saturday, they return home Sunday.