ARLINGTON, Texas -- An hour before the start of the Dallas Elite 11 Regional Quarterback Camp, DeVante Kincade of Dallas Skyline was overheard whispering the same words over and over to himself.
"It's go time," he said.
Throughout his high school career, Kincade has listened to critics downplay his quarterbacking skills. For two hours on Saturday, he was the best quarterback at Cowboys Stadium, and he earned the golden ticket to advance to the Elite 11 finals in Redondo Beach, Calif., in July.
A 6-foot, 180-pound junior, Kincade will be one of 24 quarterbacks competing for a top-11 spot this summer. He was named the MVP of the regional camp over five other finalists, which included Texas commit Tyrone Swoopes of Whitewright, Texas, and heavily recruited Austin Allen of Fayetteville, Ark., Cooper Bateman of Salt Lake City Cottonwood, Kenny Hill of Southlake (Texas) Carroll and Joshua Dobbs Alpharetta, Ga.
"It feels great, and I just thank God," Kincade said. "All the hard work has paid off."
Kincade has heard all of the chatter from critics, ranging from his lack of size to his ability to be a pro-style quarterback at the college level. Despite all the negativity, Kincade threw for 3,270 yards and 37 touchdowns during his junior year and completed nearly 71 percent of his passes (186 of 263). He also ran for 857 yards and 17 touchdowns, leading Skyline to the Texas Class 5A, Division I state semifinals.
Saturday was the perfect opportunity for Kincade to address his critics, and he did so with solid performances in multiple drills. One drill in particular made Elite 11 coach Trent Dilfer stop play to praise Kincade.
"I know there are quarterbacks out there who are just as athletic as me," Kincade said. "When they sleep, I'm going to be out working.
"My quarterbacks coach and I will go to the baseball field, and sometimes, we'll throw at the baseball nets and set up targets. The targets are kind of small, but that's what I want. As long as I throw to them and hit them, it's all good."
Kincade currently has six offers on the table, including Notre Dame, Kansas State and Illinois, and Oregon, LSU and Cal are showing major interest in him. Kincade now will focus on faring well at the Elite 11 finals. He said an event like the regional camp made him want to ramp up his work ethic.
As for the critics?
"Let them say what they want," he said. "When they tell me I can't do this or that because I'm not a 6-6 quarterback, I'm going to show them that I can still make it. What they don't understand is everything they say motivates me."
Romo addresses campers before start
Before the start of the camp, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo addressed the 70-plus quarterbacks in attendance. Romo then stayed for the majority for the camp, offering guidance and assisting with drills.
"I just love football," Romo said. "For me, I'm always around the complex throwing, so it's always neat to teach some of the stuff you've learned. I would have loved it back at this age if I was there."
Romo complimented Elite 11 for the tutelage it offered to young quarterbacks. He spoke to the campers about the importance of practicing to perfect their craft. Romo, who worked his way from playing at Eastern Illinois to being an all-pro quarterback, said the key to his success was being disciplined enough to go on his own and be as repetitive as possible working on his skills.
"Here, they're getting great tutelage," Romo said. "Camps like these are hard to come by, because you're getting a lot of great coaches who understand the game at a very high level. To get that at a young age is not easy."
High-profile WRs getting in extra work
At camps such as the Elite 11, the receivers and tight ends are just as important as the quarterbacks. Some of the nation's top quarterbacks had a chance to throw to two well-known receivers in Ra'Shaad Samples of Skyline and Quincy Adeboyejo of Cedar Hill, Texas.
Adeboyejo recently committed to Texas A&M and is expected to be one of the top receivers in Texas for the 2012 season. Samples currently is entertaining 33 offers, including Texas, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan, Arkansas and UCLA.
Both players are expected to participate in the Nike Football Training Camp at the Cowboys practice facility in Irving, Texas, on Sunday. Samples said helping out at Elite 11 was another way to get a workout in with some of the best quarterbacks in the country.
"I just wanted to come out here and get warm my hands up for [Sunday]," Samples said. "I wanted to participate; I didn't want to be a guy who just sits out.
"I knew there would be a bunch of good quarterbacks out. I think it was a great opportunity to catch a bunch of balls and get that extra work in. This was better than any JUGS machine. A JUGS machine is consistent. These balls were coming from everywhere."
Freshman takes in camp experience
While the Elite 11 featured many quarterbacks from the 2013 class, 2015 quarterback Chason Virgil of Mesquite (Texas) West Mesquite had his opportunity to compete with the older players.
A 6-foot, 165-pound freshman, Virgil held his own against some of the nation's best.
"Just to be out and competing against those guys was great," Virgil said. "I was a little nervous at first, but a couple of the guys around me helped settle me down. Getting to talk to the other guys helped. At first, I was nervous, but this is the big stage, and I got it out of me real quick."
Virgil, who has received early looks from Clemson and Texas Tech, is expected to be one of the top 2015 signal-callers in Texas when his time comes. He and Kyler Murray of Lewisville, Texas, were the only freshmen listed on the camp roster.
-- Former Elite 11 participant and current TCU quarterback Tyler Matthews was in attendance watching the action Saturday. Matthews made it to the Elite 11 finals last year.
-- Cody Thomas of Colleyville (Texas) Heritage was a late entry at the camp, but he also turned out to be one of the most impressive players. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound junior has looks from several schools, including LSU and Oklahoma State.
-- Receiver Jordan Smallwood of Jenks, Okla., was one of the names the Cowboys Stadium crowd often discussed. By helping out the quarterbacks, Smallwood showed his ability to be an effective route runner, and he made several athletic catches. He is expected to participate in Sunday's Nike Camp.
-- Of the 70-plus quarterbacks in attendance, nearly half of the competitors live outside of Texas. The campers on the roster who traveled the longest distances were West Coast signal-callers Garrett Anderson of Berean Christian (Walnut Creek, Calif.), Nick Stevens of Vista (Calif.) Murrieta and Conner Manning of Lake Forest (Calif.) El Toro and East Coast signal-caller Chris Laviano of Hicksville (N.Y.) Holy Trinity.