Thursday, December 31, 2009
Updated: January 1, 5:38 PM ET
Skills Challenge all fun and games
By Gerry Hamilton
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Burger King All-America High School Skills Challenge has become one of the most popular annual events of the Under Armour All-America week. It's a time for the players to relax, have some fun, cheer on and trash talk friends and teammates. On Thursday afternoon, the fans, coaches and players on hand were treated to a showcase featuring quarterbacks, linebackers, running backs, receivers, corners, tight ends and defensive linemen.
The quarterbacks got the Skills Challenge under way competing in the Burger King Pass Attack Competition. All six quarterbacks in this year's Under Armour All-America game took part, beginning with Alabama commit Phillip Sims (Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Frommel).
Sims was hot from the start, hitting the moving target on the numbers from the 10- and 20-yard range, and capped off his impressive performance with a long toss of 62 yards for a total of 186 points.
Chase Rettig (Sierra Madre, Calif./San Clemente) and Devin Gardner (Inkster, Mich./Inkster) followed Sims without challenging his lead score before Oklahoma commit Blake Bell (Wichita, Kan./Bishop Carroll) made a run, falling just short with 184 points.
Only a pair of California quarterbacks was left to challenge Sims. USC commit Jesse Scroggins (Lakewood, Calif./Lakewood) made it interesting with a strong showing of hitting the targets and also wowed the crowd with a 68-yard toss to score 176 points, which was good for third place. Nick Montana (Concord, Calif./Oaks Christian) was the final competitor, but he never made a run and Sims won the event.
"I had a great time," Sims said. "We had a great competition. Some of the guys gave me a big-time scare, but I came out with the win,"
During and after Sims' round of the competition, teammates jokingly told the 6-foot-1, 230-pound Sims he did good job for a fullback, but the strong-armed signal-caller got the last laugh.
"I'm a big quarterback. I've been getting flak all week about being a big quarterback," Sims said. "They call me fullback and tight end, but it's all in good fun because I won."
In the U.S. Marines Obstacle Course, Tennessee linebacker commit Mike Taylor (Atlanta/Westlake) won with an impressive time of 26.99 seconds, besting future Miami running back Storm Johnson.
Corey Nelson (Dallas/Skyline) and Jordan Hicks (West Chester, Ohio/Lakota West) finished third and fourth, respectively.
Taylor used a combination of quickness, power, change of direction and straight-line speed on an obstacle course that was trying even for the nation's best.
"I've been preparing for this week for a while now," Taylor said. "As soon as our season ended and I found out I was in the game, I started working out pushing bags, working of footwork drills and hitting the weights to come prepared. It was a nice little workout for me. There is a lot of linebacker and running back stuff that goes into it and I'm just happy and feel blessed to be here.
Johnson received applause from his teammates and the fans for a front-flip finish over the top of a tackling dummy.
The Under Armour Hands Competition followed, with each participant standing on a spot on the field surrounded by four JUGS machines that were firing the ball in fastball fashion at every turn, before finishing with a short run-and-catch obstacle course.
The competition came down to the final pair of contestants with Corey Brown (Springfield, Pa./Cardinal O'Hara) narrowly beating future Alabama corner DeMarcus Milliner (Millbrook, Ala./Stanhope Elmore) by .05 seconds.
"It was fun. I didn't expect to win that one," Brown said. "On the first one, I dropped almost every one but the last one. I actually thought I lost until I heard my name."
Brown, the fourth and final player to qualify in Wednesday's prelims, bested Kadron Boone (Ocala, Fla/Trinity Catholic) and Brandon Coleman (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara), along with Milliner, to take the trophy.
The final competition was the lineman challenge. The foursome of defensive ends Alfy Hill (Shallotte, N.C./West Brunswick), Adrian Hubbard (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) and William Gholston (Detroit/Southeastern), and future LSU tight end Travis Dickson (Ocean Springs, Miss./Ocean Spring) patiently waited for more than an hour, with Gholston engaging in fun-loving discussions about his intent to win.
The 6-7, 250-pound end more than delivered, winning by nearly three seconds over Hubbard and Hill.
"You know how long I've been wanting to do this?" Gholston said. "I've been waiting for this for a while. This is one of the reasons I came to the Under Armour game is to show everyone I'm better. I'm also one of only two players here from Michigan and I had to prove to people like I said I would. I had to win one for the Big Ten today."
For Gholston's efforts, he received a trophy plus the football he carried over the goal line to win the event.
Burger King Pass Attack
1. Phillip Sims -- 189 points
2. Blake Bell
3. Jesse Scroggins
U.S. Marines Obstacle Course (LB/RB)
1. Michael Taylor -- 26.988
2. Jordan Hicks
3. Storm Johnson
4. Corey Nelson
UA Hands Competition (WR/CB)
1. Corey Brown -- 34.086
2. Kadron Boone
3. Brandon Coleman
4. DeMarcus Milliner
Burger King Lineman Challenge (DL/OL)
1. William Gholston -- 22.636
2. Travis Dickson
3. Adrian Hubbard
4. Alfy Hill
Gerry Hamilton has covered recruiting in Texas and the Southwest for more than a decade. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.