2020 NFF High School Showcases Expand Again

via National Football Foundation

Detroit joins free events in Houston, Southern California, Charlotte, South Florida and Atlanta, providing thousands of academically eligible high school football players an opportunity for millions of dollars in college scholarships.



  • Events are free to both participants and college recruiters.

  • NFF Showcases attracted more than 1,800 high school seniors and 145 colleges and universities from the NCAA Division II, III and NAIA levels last year, landing more than 700 scholarships for participants.

  • Detroit becomes latest location, joining five successful NFF Showcases in Houston, Southern California, North Carolina, South Florida and Atlanta.

  • Participants received an estimated $6 million in scholarships for their freshman year in 2019.

  • Events have collectively reached 9,300 players since the first event in 2009 with one in four landing on college rosters or approximately 2,150 student athletes enrolled in college.

IRVING, Texas - The National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame highlighted the six upcoming NFF High School Showcases in Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, North Carolina, Southern California and South Florida, which look to increase their impact by giving thousands of high school seniors a chance to earn scholarships. All six events will take place between Feb. 8 and March 7 with organizers estimating that participants will collectively receive more than $6 million in academic and participation scholarships for their freshman year.

The NFF High School Showcases, which are absolutely free to both participants and college recruiters, provide academically eligible high school seniors who did not sign an NCAA Division I letter of intent an opportunity to go through a series of drills in front of divisional college coaches from the NCAA Division II, III and the NAIA levels. Last year, the events attracted representatives from 145 colleges covering 30 states, coupling them with more than 1,800 aspiring college players who earned millions of dollars in academic and participation scholarships.

"The leaders in these six cities all deserve huge praise for their efforts to expand opportunities for kids to earn their college degrees with football opening the door," said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. "­Their leadership has helped build a free system, literally providing thousands of talented student-athletes the opportunity to continue their educations. The Showcases provide a great path to college that previously did not exist. It's a huge difference maker, especially for those who did not sign at the Division I level but would love to still play college football."

Participants, who all have to meet minimum academic standards, compete in a series of athletic drills designed to let divisional college coaches assess each player's potential, including a 40-yard dash and several agility and strength tests. The events allow the college recruiters a unique opportunity to evaluate a large number of qualified student-athletes in a short period while minimizing their travel costs.

The NFF Showcases have produced hundreds of success stories, including Jarell Carter who in 2017 became the first known NFF High School Showcase participant to ever make an NFL roster with the Arizona Cardinals after landing a scholarship at the 2013 Houston event to Trinity International University (IL); Caleb Thomas, who set multiple NAIA records as a wide receiver after receiving a scholarship at the 2017 Orange Bowl Showcase to Graceland University (IA); Cedric Whitaker, who garnered a scholarship at the 2011 Houston event to Texas Lutheran and now coaches the secondary with the Carolina Panthers in the NFL; and Mitchell Nickovich, who was a two-time SCIAC All-Academic Team member from the University of Redlands (CA) after being recruited during the 2016 California Showcase.

"The Showcase was a critical starting point for the journey to where I am today," Carter said. "One hundred percent, one day can change a life as long as you're doing everything in your power to make it to the next level, you're going to have a shot. Part of that is investing in yourself and going to something like a Senior Showcase like I did, because if you don't invest in yourself then nobody will."

Launched by a group of Houston coaches in 2009, the concept expanded to Southern California in 2013. Florida and North Carolina added events in 2017, followed by Atlanta in 2019 and Detroit in 2020. Collectively, the organizers anticipate the five events will reach more than 1,800 seniors this year with an estimated one-in-four receiving some kind of financial aid to go to college.

  • FEB. 29 - The Fourth Annual Carolinas Senior Football Showcase will take place Saturday, Feb. 29, at the Olympic High School in Charlotte, North Carolina. The event is being spearheaded by Charles Arbuckle, who played for College Football Hall of Fame Coach Terry Donahue at UCLA. To stage the event in North Carolina, Arbuckle continues to collaborate with the Blazing 7-on-7 Foundation, a local non-profit organization that operates offseason passing leagues and run by Weddington High School defensive line coach Mike Newman and Marcus Kimbrough. Former players and coaches who have volunteered include: Kevin Carter (Florida), London Fletcher (John Carroll [OH] and a 2019 College Football Hall of Fame inductee), Derwin Gray (BYU), Tom Lunginbill (Georgia Tech/Eastern Kentucky), Greg McElroy (Alabama and an NFF National Scholar-Athlete), Michael Dean Perry (Clemson), Eugene Robinson (Colgate).

  • MARCH 7 - The Second Annual Georgia Showcase will conclude the 2020 series on Saturday, March 7, at the Walton High School in Marietta, Georgia. Along with the event in Detroit, the Georgia Showcase represents the second edition staged by the Mel Farr "Superstar" Foundation, which is run by Mel Farr Jr., Mike Farr and Monet Farr Bartell as a tribute to their father Mel Farr Sr., who played at UCLA in the 1960s followed by a career in the NFL with the Detroit Lions.

"Most of these types of events around the country charge a fee to participate, excluding a lot of great kids who can't afford the price of admission," said NFF Chairman Archie Manning. "The NFF Showcases provide all student-athletes, no matter their means, an opportunity to pursue the dream of attending college, and it's a highly cost-effective way for us to make a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of kids. And the impact has been nothing short of phenomenal."

Twelve years ago, Coach Camp and the NFF Touchdown Club of Houston Chapter joined forces with 75 coaches from the Houston Independent School District to stage the first showcase. In 2019, the Houston event had 376 high school seniors enroll with coaches from 42 Division II, III and NAIA universities in attendance.

"We have had people come together across the country to create opportunities for young men to continue their educations through hard work and dedication," Camp said. "The Houston Showcase alone has produced over $100 million in scholarships and grants in aid during the past 11 years, which has enabled young men to go to college, get their educations, graduate, and come back and make huge contributions to their communities."

Inspired by the success of the Houston event, Coach Donahue assembled an impressive array of former coaches and players from multiple colleges and universities in 2013, introducing the first California Showcase. The 2019 event attracted nearly 400 high school seniors who worked out for 56 Division II, III, and NAIA universities and 15 California community colleges. The event placed 117 participants on rosters at schools across the country, with average financial aid of over $29,000 per student per year. Since the California event's inception in 2013, more than 3,300 students have attended the Showcase, with 907 receiving an estimated $28.2 million in financial aid.

"It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for these high school seniors to continue their educations and it is free," Donahue said. "At least one in four of the kids who attend our showcase will get a scholarship to a great school and continue to play the great game of football. There are so many combines and showcases, but this one really has legs to it because it's totally free for the players and the colleges."

Hearing about the success of the Showcases in Houston and Southern California, the Orange Bowl Committee in South Florida and Charles Arbuckle in North Carolina approached the NFF in 2017 about launching events to benefit the high school players in their regions. The third annual event in Charlotte, North Carolina, drew more than 100 student-athletes and 25 colleges and universities.

"I saw Terry Donahue several years ago, and they have been able to get millions in grant and aid scholarships for these young men over the years," said Arbuckle, who played for Donahue at UCLA and then in the NFL. "Every year when I was playing for the Colts in Indianapolis and now here in Charlotte, I would have kids who were not getting recruited ask, 'How can you help me,' and this is the perfect way to do it on a mass level."

The Orange Bowl, which ranks among the top local sports organizations in the country with an impressive reputation for supporting a wide range of community events, has strong ties to the NFF. Bob Epling, an Orange Bowl Committee (OBC) past president who was the first chair of the OBC's Showcase subcommittee, serves on the NFF Board, and Hatchell served as the Orange Bowl executive director from 1987 to 1993. It did not take much to convince the leadership of the merits of the NFF Showcase model.

"South Florida is home to an incredible array of talented student-athletes both on the field and in the classroom, who are looking to use their athletic ability to secure a college education, beyond those who receive Division I scholarships," Rubin said. "The Orange Bowl is proud to be able to assist in this endeavor by pairing these student-athletes with schools from around the country that have limited recruiting budgets, in a single-day combine-type setting. We have achieved tremendous success so far with student-athletes earning nearly $3 million in financial assistance as a direct result of our last three Showcases."

Building on the success of the four established events, Arbuckle invited the Farr brothers, both his teammates at UCLA, to attend the 2018 Charlotte event to explore the possibility of launching a new Showcase in either Detroit to honor their father, who passed away in 2015 and played for the Lions, or in Atlanta where they currently reside. They started in Atlanta last year, adding Detroit this year.

"We went to Charlotte and saw the kids, all the volunteers, and said not only is this something that we can do, but it's much needed and it will do a lot of good," said Mel Farr Jr. "It takes a lot of work to put one of these things together, but fortunately for us we were not reinventing the wheel. We're just using the cookie cutter that other people have put into action, including Coach Camp down in Houston, Coach Donahue in California and Charles in Carolina."

The Farr siblings attracted around 200 prospects with 30 colleges to their inaugural event in Atlanta, and they capitalized on their connections in the Detroit area to foster a relationship with the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association to sponsor the event in Detroit for the first time this year.

"We want to try to help as many kids as possible, and that is what this is all about," said Mel Farr Jr. "It's about trying to give kids opportunities and give them hope, because that is what these kids need. You can't possibly go out there and find every kid. But if we're able to help one additional kid, then we will be successful because that's one less kid that we have to worry about."

Additional notable former players and coaches who have volunteered at past events include: Dallas Griffin (Texas and the 2007 NFF Campbell Trophy winner), Robert Hubble (Rice), N.D. Kalu (Rice), Larry Little (Bethune-Cookman), Cade McNown (UCLA), Jay Schroeder (UCLA) and well-known Texas high school coaches Sonny Detmer and Dick Olin.

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