More than 100 high school football players braved temperatures in the 50s and a driving rain Sunday to attend the annual VTO Sports Elite football camp at Garinger High School.
The goal, said 14-year-old freshman Garinger High quarterback Chris Bailey, was simple.
“I feel like it’s giving me better competition and a chance to get exposed to college scouts,” Bailey said. “I want to come to more of these. I think everybody should if they want to make it the college level.”
Players came from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. They went through agility drills and 7-on-7 and 1-on-1 competitions. Some already have college football offers, but many of the elite recruits expected didn’t show up, perhaps due to the conditions.
Conway’s Gunner Britton, a 6-foot-7, 291-pound junior, won the overall top camper award, named for former VTO coach and Oakland Raider Mo Collins, who passed away suddenly three years ago.
Britton was also named the top offensive lineman at the camp. He won a slot in next week’s invitation-only Rivals’ elite camp at Hough High School.
Two Mecklenburg County athletes won top positional awards – Charlotte Catholic’s Milan Howard (running back) and Mallard Creek’s Jadyn Washington (quarterback). South Iredell’s Trey Page was named top receiver.
For camp organizer Vince Jacobs, he was happy to get the players exposure to college scouts.
“We want the kids to compete,” Jacobs said. “We always believe the cream rises to the top.”
Jacobs, who lives in Charlotte, said he and two friends, Terrence Lawshe and Otis Lloyd, began VTO Sports 11 years ago at a Thanksgiving dinner table. All three men had sons playing high school football and were having trouble finding avenues to get them recruited.
“Back in those days,” Jacobs said, “there were no camps coming to Charlotte. Nike didn’t come. Rivals didn’t come. Independence (High) football was (doing well) and we said ‘Let’s organize a camp and see if we can get somebody to come to Charlotte.’”
Jacobs said the first camp was at Vance. His group partnered with national scouting service Rivals.com, which got data from all invited campers. That data was added to Rivals’ site, which Jacobs said is combed regularly by college coaches. The VTO/Rivals partnership took off and VTO now holds 10 camps annually in 10 states.
Standing in the rain Sunday, Garinger’s Bailey said he was happy to get the chance to participate at the Charlotte stop.
“This will help me get ready for the varsity level quicker,” he said, “so I can be prepared. It’s harder than what I expected, and it shows how dedicated (the players are) to the sport (to come out in the weather). It’s kind of wet so you’re slipping everywhere, so it’s real hard. You’ve got to dig deeper.”
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Camp award winners
Overall winner, best offensive lineman: Gunner Britton, Conway
Best receiver: Trey Page, South Iredell
Best defensive back: Zion Madden, Southwest Guilford
Best quarterback: Jadyn Washington, Mallard Creek
Best linebacker: Evan Hoff, Northern Guilford
Best running back: Milan Howard, Charlotte Catholic
Best defensive lineman: Floyd Barco, Southeast Raleigh