LA MESA, Calif. — It’s summer, but you wouldn’t know it if you showed up at Helix High School this Saturday morning. The campus in this suburb of San Diego is packed with events on weekends. There are freshman football registrations going on. Parents line up to talk to future coaches. Women’s field hockey has its own hospitality tent. And just after 9 a.m., Helix Junior ROTC members run a timed mile around the track at Jim Arnaiz Field.
On the field, 11 foreigners were re-enacted in their quest to continue playing college football. On the same turf that produced Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and NFL No. 1 draft pick Alex Smith, this group accepted an invitation to be part of a trial of a concept dreamed up by the agent of NFL Don Yee and his partners. It’s one he and his company, HUB Football, believe can change the way college football players on the NCAA transfer portal can move around more freely and with better needed connections.
“It’s a bit like LinkedIn for the world of football,” Yee said. Athleticism.
HUB has attempted to be at the forefront as an intermediary between players looking for their next move and teams looking for specific needs. The company began with professional post-graduation free agent tryouts and helped place players on NFL training rosters as well as CFL, XFL, League rosters. USFL and arena football. Yee, well known in the football world as Tom Brady’s agent, knew that one day seismic change would come to college football.
After working through the issues of no less than 13 free agent camps over the past few years, the HUB team has decided to venture into uncharted territory, but growing territory.
The NCAA Transfer Portal.
Since last August, more than 3,000 scholarship players and nearly 2,200 FCS players have entered the portal, by far the most transfers in a year – and it’s only expected to grow. Life in the portal may seem intriguing, but most often it is unforgiving. Nearly 25% of FBS scholarship players still haven’t found a new home.
Of those more than 5,000 estimated players, former South Florida quarterback Brenden Cyr isn’t a name most college football fans nationwide would recognize. But he’s currently part of that percentage of players who are not only eager for their next shot, but fully aware of the fickle nature of life in the Portal. The perception around entering the portal can still paint some players in a selfish light. Cyr’s situation is anything but.
Cyr left school on July 26, 2021 due to family financial circumstances. He took time off to help his parents fund the professional baseball dream of his younger brother, Blake, who is expected to be selected in the MLB draft in July.
“I had to choose, I did, and now I work here for the best,” Cyr said.
While Brenden was at a high school in suburban San Diego looking to extend his college football days, Blake, a star and committed shortstop at the University of Miami, was also in town for the 2022 MLB Combine at Petco Park. Cyr was one of four Quarterbacks to be part of the initial HUB Portal camp. It felt real to him again. As if he was set to return to football soon – with pads and cleats and a helmet rather than shorts, a t-shirt and a backwards cap.
#CENTER Transfer Portal | Diamond in the rough 💎 Former USF flagger Brenden Cyr (6-5/210) is a dual-threat mobile who throws with precision on the run and can throw it with the best of them. I loved his work ethic, his desire and his leadership, he has all the tools. Worked well with Norm Chow. pic.twitter.com/SSoialD7O0
— Ric Serritella (@RicSerritella) June 19, 2022
“It gives me the chance to put myself in the spotlight,” he said. “For guys like me, there aren’t many places to do that.”
For six months after leaving USF, Brenden worked on a ranch and took people on fishing boat expeditions around his hometown of Orlando. He’s slept on an air mattress for the past six months. In January, he began to get back into shape. He trained at dawn at his uncle’s MMA gym and swam in alligator-infested ponds near his home.
A month later, on February 16, he entered the portal and started looking for options. Cyr is ready to go back to school. He misses the student-athlete life, he said. He misses campus life and classes and especially football. Cyr, like everyone else in the portal, just wants to compete for a role somewhere new.
Cyr, a redshirt freshman who hasn’t seen any playing time in his full year at USF in 2020, said that since being on the portal he’s been to a few regional showcases for players who are on the portal, but nothing has come of it.
“Humbly, I would like to say that I expected more from the other showcases,” he said. “I’m not just going to give up. I already had a little trouble. I just need to get out of here.
The camp allows players currently in the portal or junior college level to participate in an event hosted by HUB coaches that is filmed and photographed and broadcast to programs nationally. Players pay an entrance fee and university programs, interested in attending or viewing the film, must also pay to access the information. Showcases of transfer portals have popped up across the country this year, including some hosted by individuals such as Deon Glover, youth football coach and father of former five-star cornerback Tony Grimes, or camps held at schools like Louisiana-Monroe.
During the first Portal Camp at Helix, HUB coaches such as Norm Chow coached all four quarterbacks in attendance. Chow, 76, long known as one of college football’s leading offensive minds, believes the Portal Camp will primarily benefit Group 5 schools and those at the FCS level that don’t have the budget or resources to. recruitment like some of them. the elite of college football. The players in attendance came from FBS schools like USF and Troy, but consisted mostly of Division III and JC level programs such as Hampton, Pomona, Erskine College, Santa Barbara City College and more.
It’s the schools, Chow believes, that will have the diamonds in the rough for other programs to lay their hands on.
“It’s the Central Michigans and UTEPs that could really use this concept,” he said. “Successful programs are those that are ready to adapt. Everyone is so old fashioned. I think what’s going to happen is (the P5s) are going to have to use things like that.
Yee said the cost-effectiveness of attending a portal camp in San Diego in person or subscribing to a feed of daily workouts and drills could attract trainers to the programs more easily. (HUB did not share pricing for the initial portal camp.) The main draw for players, according to organizers, will be being able to use HUB’s vast network in the world of college football. That’s what you pay for.
“We just target anyone who we think can help a list of students. It’s pretty wide open,” said HUB General Manager Mike Williams. “We don’t want it to feel like a cattle call where we have 200 guys there and we can’t give them the reps they need or the exposure they need.”
Unlike every other major sport in America, soccer has yet to find a sustainable alternative path for players to find their next steps. Organized baseball has the minor league system and various independent leagues. Basketball has avenues like the G League and new ventures like Overtime Elite, a league that allows players to advance to the NBA without going to college.
“We anticipate a high degree of skepticism at first,” Yee said. “Everything in the world of football…things move slowly.”
That hasn’t dampened the optimism Yee and his band have for this experience. When asked to potentially predict what Portal Camp would look like a year from now, he said that ideally the camp could grow to around 40-50 Portal players, allowing college coaches to organize scrimmages. to watch them live or via digital. subscription.
It remains to be seen if the intro portal camp will scale and grow at this rate. But the investments made by some players showed immediate results. Brandon Smith, a 5-foot-11, 215-pound running back from Santa Barbara City College, ran a 4.4 40-yard sprint during morning individual drills. A HUB staffer immediately texted assistant coaches at various levels across the country about Smith.
For under-the-radar players like Smith, the camp allowed him to take center stage unlike other organized events that are inundated with too many players.
“The number of players that were here, that’s a lot more visibility for me,” Smith said. “They’re really going to rate me, whereas at other camps you might not be rated very much or at all. You might have limited reps and people trying to jump past you all the time.
After Portal Camp ended before 11 a.m., Smith paced the Helix High School trail in his sandals taking phone calls. One was his mother. He wanted to tell her how good he was. Shortly after, Smith’s phone rang. According to a HUB staff member, the Power 5 coaches contacted Smith to introduce himself.
(Photo: Scott Padgett/Time Stood Still Photography)