Fantastic Voyage

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Cooper Bateman woke up at 5:30 a.m. Saturday in Salt Lake City and caught a flight to Dallas to attend the day's Elite 11 camp.

Joshua Dobbs and his parents piled into their Escalade in Georgia at 8 p.m. Friday and drove all the way through the night just to make it.

And Chris Laviano?
Trent Dilfer personally called the junior from New York last month and urged him make the trip down with his father, a longtime Cowboys fan.

All three came for the chance to earn the first of 24 spots in July's national Elite 11 camp, but their California dreams weren't the only motivation.

They knew Cowboys Stadium would play host to some of the nation's best young quarterbacks. And they weren't wrong.

None of the three out-of-staters went home with the Los Angeles invite -- that went to Dallas Skyline's DeVante Kincaid -- but they did make an impression. Bateman and Dobbs were both among the six finalists for the day's MVP award, and Laviano earned a Golden Gun honor for his accuracy.

"I think this trip paid off," Bateman said. "I think this is the best competition I'll see, and I'm definitely glad I made an appearance."

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound junior from Salt Lake City Cottonwood was disappointed he didn't earn the camp's top honor, but he considers the day an invaluable learning experience.

"So much was going on, so much you have to know, so much pressure," he said. "To be one of those six names called was unreal to me."

Bateman earned that recognition despite battling nerves a bit, especially early on. He gripped the ball tighter when he got nervous, a flaw that Dilfer pointed out when they chatted after the camp. He's glad he'll leave Dallas a better, more experienced passer than when he arrived.

Of the 31 out-of-state campers on Saturday, few entered the day with as much hype as Bateman. He has Brent Pease to thank for that.

Pease left Boise State to become Florida's new offensive coordinator this spring. That didn't change his interest in Bateman one bit.

The scholarship offer Pease made in late January took his recruitment to another level. Now Bateman holds offers from, among others, Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Arkansas.

"It was a chain reaction after that. I don't know if that's due to Florida, but it probably is," Bateman said. "That was huge. I never thought in a million years the SEC would even have my name on their boards, let alone extend an offer. It really is an honor."

Dobbs and Laviano would do anything for that kind of attention from colleges. That's why they traveled 800 and 1,500 miles, respectively, for a shot at proving themselves.

A 6-foot-3, 190-pound passer from Alpharetta, Ga., Dobbs feared his baseball schedule would prevent him from attending the Atlanta Elite 11 camp on April 20.

So while he slept peacefully in the back, Dobbs' parents drove through night and arrived in Dallas around 9 a.m. They're no strangers to this -- the Escalade has taken them as north as New York and as west as Las Vegas for tournaments and vacations.

"It's got a lot of miles on it," Dobbs said. "The drive wasn't that bad for me, but I know it was bad for my parents."

He made up for it by making mom and dad proud on the field. Dobbs frequently earned praise from Dilfer and was one of his favorite performers throughout the day.

Dobbs wasn't surprised, then, when he landed a spot in the top six and an opportunity to run through Dilfer's final drill of the day, a "pressure cooker" course that demanded throws all over the field and a whole lot of scrambling.

"I always know my abilities, know my confidence," he said. "I always love to see myself make outstanding plays that I know I'm able to make."

What will the performance mean for his recruitment? Dobbs holds offers from Boston College and Princeton and hopes his showing leads to offers from four schools he's been talking to lately: Stanford, Cal, Notre Dame and North Carolina.

Laviano knows Dobbs' plight.

The only offer for the junior from Holy Trinity High in Hicksville, N.Y., has come from Rutgers. Dilfer discovered him during while watching more than 40 hours of film prior to the first Elite 11 camp. He doesn't think the drought of interest from colleges will last long.

"I like him, and I like his competitive nature," Dilfer said. "His film shows a ballplayer and a guy who's instinctive. He's not a robot. He can make plays on rhythm, off rhythm. Today I think, like a lot of them, he fell victim to trying too hard."

Laviano was frustrated by his showing on Saturday, but the 6-foot-2, 205-pound quarterback was good enough that coaches had him working alongside the camp's elite passers by the end of the day.

"I think I'm just as good as those top six kids," he said. "I just didn't show it. It's my fault. You have your good days and your bad days like everybody else."

He's not done competing. Laviano plans to attend the New York City Elite 11 in April. Dobbs still hopes to make it to the one in Atlanta, and Bateman will take one last shot at making the final 24 at June's camp in Las Vegas.

Until they get the big invite, they'll keep battling. Whether they get one in the end or not, the trio won't leave Texas with any regrets about traveling so far and coming so close.

"This is amazing. To be in here is breathtaking," Laviano said. "I'm lucky and fortunate to be here. No complaints."