ATLANTA, Ga. — It’s camping season for high school football athletes.
Despite being a full five months away from the kickoff of the 2015 high school football season, the time for football athletes to start thinking skill improvement and skill showcase is now.
Few camps are bigger than this weekend’s “The Opening,” which held its popular Nike Combine at Northview High School in Atlanta Saturday, and will conduct a version of The Opening Regional Sunday at Buford High School from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Thousands of the top high school athletes in the state, region and nation — including about a dozen from the four-county Southern Crescent demographic — are converging on the Atlanta area this weekend in hopes of impressing scouts and confirming their beliefs that they belong in the conversation of the nation’s elite college prospects.
And for players like Lovejoy defensive end Chris Henderson — who will take part in Sunday’s action in Buford , it also provides him, and others from this area, to shine for the often overlooked South Metro area.
“We all say we just go out there and try to bring it back to the south side,” Henderson said. “We’re competing against others and each other, but we still say we want to bring it back to the south side, really.”
Henderson, who holds a recent offer from Louisville, will be a senior for the Wildcats in 2015. He stood out for Lovejoy in coach Edgar Carson’s first season by tallying 66 tackles and nine sacks during Lovejoy’s 7-4 2014 campaign.
He will join North Clayton safety Kindle Vildor Sunday at Buford. Top performers during The Opening Regionals and various Nike Combines have a shot to be one of the 162 high school players invited to the The Opening’s national event in Eugene, Ore where the 2014-15 national runner-up Oregon Ducks call home.
Vildor said he’s excited to finally have a chance to start putting his name out among the best of the best in the nation.
“I didn’t really realize how big of an impact the camps and stuff have until the new coaches came here last year told me all about it and told me to go out there and get my name out,” said Vildor, referring to second-year coach James Soza.
“I’m really excited just to be able to go and compete against players in the top areas and in the south region, and just get my chance to get invited to Oregon,” Vildor added.
The rising senior played both offense and defense for the Eagles, and recorded 40 stops and four interceptions as a cornerback, along with a pair of touchdown catches offensively.
Fayette County’s Sandy Creek High sported a handful of its up-and-comers during Saturday’s Nike Combine. Rising junior tailback Marvin Hubbard is one of them.
Hubbard had a solid sophomore season for the 11-1 Patriots in 2014, and he turned heads during Saturday’s drills by posting a 40-yard dash time of 4.42 seconds — his personal best. Hubbard’s Sparq score at the combine was 103 which was more than two times the average score of athletes in his class.
“I just wanted to put my name and my game out there and show everyone that I’m a top athlete,” Hubbard said. “I always knew that from my work ethic I’d be a top athlete. Now today was a chance to show everyone that I am a top athlete. It did boost my confidence. Now I feel like I can go out and do it at an actually higher level.”
Meanwhile, noted high school talent observer Radi Nabulsi took to Twitter to give his impressions of another pair of Southern Crescent athletes who attended Saturday’s Nike Combine:
On Lovejoy’s Zion Custis:
Every time I looked up, 2018 RB Zion Custis was catching a pass. He will be one to watch. pic.twitter.com/H3RZd4DLOd
— Radi Nabulsi (@RadiNabulsi) March 21, 2015
And then this on the arguably the top prospect in the Southern Crescent from Stockbridge:
Rivals also took note of the rising stock of Stockbridge’s DE:
— Rivals Camp Series (@RivalsCamp) March 21, 2015