Day 3 of the 2021 Elite Finals coincided with the return of the Opening, gathering the country’s top high school skill players alongside the quarterbacks for a seven-on-seven tournament.
Plus appearances by some of the NFL’s biggest stars and off the field a major realization among the finalists.
The Opening’s Back
Following a hiatus in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Opening made its return to Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach in partnership with the Jordan brand.
And because of that partnership, the following sponsored athletes swung by:
- Stefon Diggs
- Jarvis Landry
- Chase Claypool
- Jamal Adams
- Bobby Wagner
- Devin White
- Joe Haden
Diggs, Landry, Claypool, and Adams served as on-field coaches overseeing individual position work and one-on-ones:
Yesterday’s schedule for quarterbacks began with the mega-target challenge.
Elite 11 Head Coach Trent Dilfer created it for last year’s finals at Lipscomb Academy in Nashville to replace the seven-on-seven tournament, which became impossible to execute because of the pandemic.
The mega-target challenge tests each competitor’s endurance, conditioning, and mental toughness.
All 20 finalists rotated through stations, aiming to hit a target under a created scenario. Similar to the NBA All-Star Game’s three-point contest, the quarterbacks kept throwing until the 25-second mark before moving onto the next station.
A bullseye earned additional points beyond hitting the target.
A member of the coaching staff, George Whitfield, who’s worked with Andrew Luck and Cam Newton, told me this challenge feels similar to a private workout normally conducted between veteran free agents, draft prospects, and an NFL quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator.
Whitfield explained that during those sessions, an athlete’s really at the mercy of the coach. It’s not a pro day, which features a scripted workout with a limited number of throws all tailored to the player’s liking.
After two stations, the fatigue kicked in. Tight spirals through the air began to wobble.
“It’s fighting uphill,” Whitfield said. “Can you keep answering the bell?”
Clemson commit Cade Klubnik recorded the highest score, proving he has the engine the Elite 11 coaching staff believes players must have to be successful.
Dak Prescott & Parent Letters
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott spoke with the finalists in the afternoon virtually.
The conversation ranged from mental health, leadership, and life off the field among other topics.
More on that later.
Following Prescott’s appearance, Elite 11 Host Yogi Roth distributed letters to finalists around the room from their parents.
The staff asked parents to write a letter expressing what they love about their son.
As time went on and the quarterbacks read their letters, there was this palpable heaviness that descended upon the room.
I caught Quinn Ewers wiping a single tear from his eye and Ty Simpson burying his head into his hands.
Many others pulled the hoods of their sweatshirts up and looked straight down.
Roth went around the room wanting to know what affected everyone.
Cade Klubnik shared he received letters from his siblings, which shocked him because he thought they weren’t close.
Tayven Jackson attempted to speak; words wouldn’t come out. He acknowledged Roth with a nod.
“When it’s intimate, do you have the capacity to connect with and express what’s in your head?” Roth asked the room.
He really wanted all the quarterbacks to know it’s cool to say “I love you,” and that football doesn’t define the individual.
Thoughts from Day 3
One coach told me he doesn’t know a group in the history of the Elite 11 more talented from top to bottom than this year’s finalists.
The same individual also shared how Quinn Ewers made the best throw on a post route yesterday he’s ever seen.
“If I could bet on someone to win me a game, toss [Ewers] a ball and let’s roll,” this coach said.