Dylan Moses the Football Savant

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dylan mosesDylan Moses has a profile page on both Scout.com and Rivals.com. He has already fielded football scholarship offers from both Alabama and LSU to play football. Between them the Crimson Tide and the Tigers have appeared in five of the past six national championship games. So, they’re not bad.

To have the SEC institutions in Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge vying for you to attend their school –for free– to play football is akin to being accepted at both Harvard and Yale based on your high school grades. Which is something that Dylan Moses does not have. High school grades, that is. Not yet.

Dylan Moses, who stands six-foot-one and weighs 215 pounds, is a 14 year-old eighth grader who lives in Baton Rouge, La. (and attends middle school not far from Death Valley, LSU’s famed football stadium). When Moses, who plays running back and linebacker, carries the football, linebackers and especially defensive backs become toreadors. They make, at best, half-hearted attempts to tackle him. And who can blame them? After all, they’ve got their entire lives ahead of them. Who wants to jump in front of a runaway train?

And, just as I cannot fault a junior high defensive back for pulling an “Ole!” on a running back who is larger (and stronger… and faster) than his dad as he steamrolls toward him, I really cannot blame Alabama coach Nick Saban or LSU coach Les Miles for extending a college football scholarship offer to a kid whose high school academic transcript does not yet exist. Why not? Two reasons:

  1. Saban and Miles do not get paid to concern themselves with a potential recruit’s academic progress. Their sole objective is to locate and persuade the top available gridiron talent to attend their schools.
  2. There’s no downside to this for either coach. Moses, who is a member of the Class of 2017, is nearly four years away from being able to contractually bind himself to any school. A lot can—and will—happen between now and then. Just ask Ruben Foster (the linebacker who verbally committed to Alabama, then switched his commitment to Auburn last summer, then ultimately committed to the Tide). This is a vanity ploy at a certain level, but why not engage in it. The Tide, who offered Moses this week, and the Tigers, who actually offered him last summer, will always be able to remind Moses –and his parents—that they fell in love with him first.

There’s some good humor here, too. Moses and his father, Edward, were on campus in Tuscaloosa during Alabama’s Junior Day, when high school juniors are welcome. And it was on that day, last weekend, when Saban extended the scholarship offer. So, Junior Day may also mean Junior High Day.

“When (Coach Saban) said he was offering Dylan a football scholarship, we asked a lot of questions just to make sure we knew exactly what he meant,” said Edward Moses.

If you are of a certain age –beyond 40 – your mind may wander at this point to the sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes”: “Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?”

Honestly, Mr. Moses, I hope that Coach Saban explained to you and your son that his football scholarship offer holds less water than a car rental reservation. Sure, Saban may be sincere in wanting young Dylan to play for his Tide beginning in the late summer of 2017 –when he will be 66 years old – but currently that offer is not binding. Not to Alabama. Nor to Dylan. It is a wonderful gesture and nothing more. A pre-engagement ring.

Know this, though: these dual offers are not a stunt. Recruiting and scouting has become so sophisticated (Thank you, internet. And Twitter! ) that a precocious talent such as Moses is rarely able to be kept a secret any longer. We are to the point where the top high school football player in the country is identifiable before he even starts high school. Trust me: In the next ten years there will be a high school national championship game and ESPN will televise it. High school football is the next college football, and this Dylan Moses anecdote only amplifies that fact.

There will always be people who stare up at a rainbow and see the sky falling. Who wonder where our priorities have gone that two grown men would offer a football scholarship to an eighth grader. As if offering free educations to young men in exchange for them to play football, at any age, makes more sense.

“This,” as Hyman Roth tells Michael Corleone in The Godfather, Part II, “is the business we’ve chosen.”

This is the business of universities involving themselves in minor-league, high-revenue spectator sports. How it originated –organically, as it turns out, more than a century ago and purely as an extracurricular activity with no more desire toward revenue than the formation of the chess team – is no longer relevant.

What is relevant is that, outside of New England, most every substantial university in the United States is recognized first of all by the status of its football or basketball team (e.g., Ball State University, which is located in Indiana, has a higher undergrad enrollment than Notre Dame, which is also located there; which school has a higher national profile?).

And so why wouldn’t Saban and Miles offer a scholarship four years out to a 14 year-old who, in football terms, is a genius?

I leave you with this final thought. Have you seen the movie “Zero Dark Thirty?” If you have, you may recall a brief lunchtime conversation, one that is never further elaborated upon or explained later in the film, between the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (played by James Gandolfini) and the CIA agent heroine, Mya (Jessica Chastain). During the chat the CIA director reminds Mya that the agency recruited her out of high school.

Out of high school. The CIA agent who was primarily responsible for locating the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden, work that directly led to his extermination by U.S. Navy Seals, was recruited by them before she ever stepped foot in college (it is never clarified as to whether she attended college). If the CIA can cherry-pick talent before Rush weekend, then why can’t Nick Saban or Les Miles do the same before one’s freshman mixer?


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