Second-chance athletic showcase turns $5,000 budget into $12 million in scholarships

On Feb. 7, hundreds of graduating seniors from around the Houston area got the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to go to college for free, and play their sport of choice, too.

The Greater Houston Senior Football Showcase took place at the NRG Stadium’s practice bubble from 8:30 a.m. until noon, and male students from dozens of local campuses—including almost every high school in HISD—had a chance to land an academic scholarship there just by giving a demonstration of their skills on the football field. 

“I want to emphasize that this is primarily an academic event,” said Reagan High School Graduation Coach George C. “Coby” Rhoden, who coordinates the showcase with Milby High School Head Football Coach Phil Camp. “Students have to pre-register to participate, and if they don’t have the grades or a certain SAT or ACT score, they don’t get to come. We wanted to show that if a kid takes care of business in the classroom, he can continue to play football in college.”

The showcase started out in 2009 with 16 colleges and 210 students outside of Milby High School, but has since maxed out at its 500-student capacity, with 52 or 53 colleges present, and another 200 students on a waiting list. Ninety-three of this year’s registrants were from HISD schools.

“This is the only event that uses football to further an education—and it’s free,” added Rhoden. “A lot of recruiting services charge students around $500 to send out transcripts, and most HISD kids don’t have that kind of money. But we will literally give away $10 to 12 million in scholarships, all from small, mostly liberal arts colleges in places like Wisconsin or Nebraska, where you can get a great education, play football, and not have to pay for it.”

The showcase is underwritten entirely by Javier Loya, the CEO of Choice! Energy. The Houston Texans also graciously allow HISD to hold its event at their training field each year, thanks to Chris Vaughn, the former president of the Houston Touchdown Club.

“This is an additional opportunity for kids to be seen by college coaches for scholarships,” said HISD Athletics Director Marmion Dambrino. “When it first started, it was just for HISD students. But the following year, we opened it up to surrounding districts. More often than not, colleges have had their budgets cut, too, so it’s easier for them to come to one location to see the massive number of kids who want to play football at the college level.”

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