In this space, I try to recognize people who do things a little differently, and parlay their efforts into success. Today, I want to talk about Michael Quartey, who runs the National Bowl and FCS Bowl, both all-star games in Miami.
First, a few thoughts about Michael’s games. They aren’t storied games like the Senior Bowl or Shrine Game, and each have only a few years worth of history. In addition, they aren’t all-star games in the traditional sense in that expenses aren’t covered, and players must pay a fee to participate. For these two reasons, I’ve always kind of dismissed Mike’s games, as I dismiss all similar games. They just don’t get the kind of scouting coverage that the January games get because, well, they’re more a showcase for less-heralded players.
Still, I’ve come to recognize and respect the work Michael puts into his contests. His story is one of true persistence. The National Bowl and FCS Bowls were not his first charge at football enterprise. He’s also been an agent, and run a series of combines as part of his company, East Preps LLC, and even tried to focus solely on developing offensive linemen, then pairing them with good representation (another idea that has merit, though it’s difficult to pull off). He’s paid the price professionally and personally to achieve. In fact, as I recall, Michael’s wife was due to give birth the week of last December’s games, and somehow, Michael juggled both of these major commitments successfully.
At any rate, it was against this backdrop that I received an email from Michael this morning. It said several of participants in the December 2014 games, 14, in fact, had attended NFL camps this summer. Most of them attended on a tryout basis, and few are still on rosters, but still, that’s pretty impressive. The 100-plus players who attended the games were first identified as legitimate players by Mike and his team, then invited and convinced to cover their own travel, plus pay a small fee (around $600), to participate in the games and the combine that accompanies them. There wasn’t a large bloc of NFL scouts at the games, but still, there were a handful (11 teams represented) plus five CFL teams’ scouts in attendance. That’s not bad, especially when you consider the games had no TV deal, no major media coverage, no string of former players shining on the NFL stage, and not a lot of history.
On the other hand, the games do have Michael. So far, that’s been enough. I’m approached probably every year by someone who wants to start an all-star game. They see it as an easy, reasonably priced route to the glory, fame and buzz of working with the NFL. However, after we talk about the costs and other obstacles, they usually tuck their tails between their legs and figure out another way to spend their time.
I’m not trying to say Michael has the league by the tail, or that tomorrow’s NFL stars are blowing up his email address trying to find a way into the game. What I am saying, however, is that Michael has found a way to gain the excitement, respect, reward and camaraderie associated with helping young men achieve their pro football dreams. That’s way ahead of where a lot of people are, and for that, I congratulate him.
There’s a way to working in this game for everybody. It may not be as a scout, agent, or any of the traditional routes. If you’re aim is to work in this game, keep on trying and seek out alternative routes. It’s working for Michael and it will work for you.