Within the past week, two 8th graders have been offered college football scholarships by universities in California.
On Tuesday, quarterback Lindell Stone, who just finished 8th grade at Dawson Middle School in Texas, received a scholarship offer from the University of California, Los Angeles, according to ESPN.com.
“I’m very grateful right now,” Stone said to ESPN.com on Wednesday. “We’re really not focused on recruiting right now. We’re more focused on getting on the field at high school and helping a team win a championship, but this is big. It’s finally showing how hard I’ve worked.”
Stone told ESPN that UCLA’s reputation as an academically prestigious institution is “what [he’s] looking for in a college,” but he hasn’t yet spoken with a UCLA coach since receiving the scholarship offer.
He isn’t the only middle school football player to hear from a college this week, though. On Sunday, class of 2017 wide receiver Nathan Tilford landed a scholarship offer from the University of Southern California while participating in a skills camp at the school, according to ESPN.com. Tilford, like Stone, just wrapped up 8th grade.
While offering an athletic scholarship to someone four years away from college may sound outlandish, USC and UCLA certainly aren’t the first to blaze this trail. In the summer of 2012, 14-year-old quarterback Tate Martell, who was preparing to enter the 8th grade, verbally committed to the University of Washington after receiving a scholarship offer there. Louisiana State University, meanwhile, extended a scholarship offer last summer to 14-year-old linebacker Dylan Moses, another player only entering the 8th grade at the time.
Moses found himself back in recruiting news earlier this year when the University of Alabama also offered him a football scholarship. Keep in mind, Alabama’s football team has won three of the past four national championships.
These early scholarship offers have raised concerns from coaches in the past, as student-athletes aren’t allowed to officially commit to a college until the fall of their senior year in high school (via a binding National Letter of Intent). If a coach leaves a school, or the National Collegiate Athletic Association punishes a team for a violation by prohibiting it from postseason play, a verbally committed athlete could easily change his mind between starting 9th grade and his senior year in high school.
Back in 2011, the NCAA legislative council voted down a proposal that would have barred college coaches from offering scholarships to recruits in all sports before July 1 of their senior year in high school. Shane Lyons, then-chairman of the legislative council, told the Associated Press that concerns about the proposal’s enforceability caused its demise.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.