Like many of you, I still cherish my senior year in high school as one of the best times in my life.
Football Games. Homecoming. The Prom. Making new friends and cementing relationships with old friends.
You'd think a hotshot quarterback weeks away from leading a powerhouse team onto the field would be counting down the days for school to open and games to begin. But not Southlake Carroll, Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers, a 5-star recruit. Ewers is so eager to move on he decided last week to forego his senior year in high school. Not half a year as many have done; his whole senior year.
Instead of chasing a championship with his high school teammates, Ewers will enroll at Ohio State, where he's likely to spend most of the year sitting the bench as an incoming freshman.
So, what's this about?
Money, of course. Always about money.
Everyone should be aware by now of the seismic shift in college athletics where top athletes have begun for the first time to benefit financially off their name, image, and likeness. But there's a growing rumble just below the surface that high school athletes should be able to benefit off their name, image, and likeness as well.
Ewers and his family believe that, but the governing body for high school athletics in Texas specifically prohibits NIL activities prior to college enrollment. Ewers cited that decision as his primary reason for leaving his high school teammates behind and joining his new teammates at Ohio State.
"It's unfortunate I've found myself in this situation," Ewers posted on his Twitter page last week. "My preference would have been to complete my senior season at Southlake Carroll along with the teammates and friends I've taken the field alongside for the past three years."
Southlake is a prosperous area in Texas, so I'm assuming the Ewers aren't desperate for money. The thinking, I guess, is that a hotshot quarterback shouldn't have to get a job and work part-time like generations of high school athletes before him.
Oh, no. We can't have that.
Well, I don't like it. A veteran high school coach I talked to last week doesn't like it either. Not one bit.
"It really bothers me," said Fort Smith Northside coach Mike Falleur, who's spent 38 years as a coach, including 30 years as a head coach in high school. "I hate to see stuff coming down into high school from the college ranks and the pros. We're dealing with a separate set of issues with young guys who are just now figuring it out. I'm sure (Ewers) is a great player but he's going to miss out on something he'll never be able to do again in life. I'm against it and I hope it doesn't become a trend."
I've covered college and professional sports for over 30 years as a sports writer in Arkansas. Covering a night game at LSU, for instance, is exciting. But I also enjoy approaching a high school coach or player for a quick interview without restrictions writers on the college and professional levels are forced to endure.
I enjoy the amateurism at the high school level, where athletes play for themselves, their teammates, their school, community, and family. But California has already adopted NIL guidelines for high school athletes and other states may follow as well.
"Obviously, we're living in a world where everything is different than when I started," said Falleur, who spent several years in Georgia before returning to Arkansas as a high school coach. "I don't think high school kids should be making money off (an NIL). But it's a different era, so who know?"
Imagine being a high school coach and your starting quarterback decides to leave just weeks before the first game. But Southlake Carroll coach Riley Dodge expressed support, at least publicly, for Ewers' decision to bypass his senior season with the Dragons.
"Dragon nation is very proud of what Quinn has accomplished, and we wish him the best at Ohio State," Dodge wrote in part on his Twitter page. "He is an incredible young man. At this time, we respectfully ask that everyone allows our program to continue to concentrate on the 2021 football season and our Dragon athletes."
I checked an Ohio State fan page to see if there were any concerns about a young man hundreds of miles away from home being overwhelmed at a college campus where the enrollment is over 65,000. I checked if there were any concerns about a newcomer with plenty of money at his disposal being taken advantage of by fake friends and hangers-on.
There were none.
The talk instead was about how quickly an 18-year-old who should still be in high school takes over as starting quarterback for the team. That is the world we live in today.