The Duel: Competition is name of game

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New Direction for Fifth Annual Invitation-Only National Quarterback Competition July 11-12 at Massillon Washington High in Massillon, Ohio

Each year over 1,500 young quarterbacks attend the various Pre-Season Preparation and NFA Regional and Off-Season Development camps throughout the nation.

Every quarterback that attends a camp is eligible for selection, however only a small percentage receives the coveted nomination that leads to an invitation to The Duel of the Dozens

Now in its fifth year The Duel is quickly becoming the premier national competition for rising star quarterbacks.

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A new direction

For 2014, on July 11-12 at Massillon Washington High (Massillon, Ohio), not only will The Duel invite around 10-percent of the young men that attended its NFA camps, but for the first time will welcome selections from three other regional development companies, QBF QB Farm, Kaleo QB Academy and Quarterback Factory.

“The other companies we’ve invited to join us see the same values as NFA sees,” remarks NFA Director of Operations JC Boice. “Our visions are aligned, building better quarterbacks and better young men.”

“We appreciate these companies seizing the opportunity to partner with NFA to provide a real showcase event for their athletes alongside NFA athletes,” Boice continued.

One of the companies is QBF QB Farm out of the Chicago area and run by longtime well-respected quarterback guru Steve Gregory.

“Although we’re competitors it’s very smart to align with like-minded coaches that have the same vision about the horizon,” Gregory told NFA Nation. “Of course we have subtle differences but it’s about working together and pooling resources.”

“It’s a huge advantage to the students, whether mine or others, to compete against the best quarterbacks in the country,” continued Gregory. “My guys will benefit from that competition as well as the learning experience of being around the different coaches and their styles.

Another company that’s as excited to be partnered with NFA as we are to be partnered with them is Quarterback Factory based in Maryland.

The Duel is simply the best national quarterback competition we at www.qbfactory.com have found for our clients,” said Quarterback Factory Founder and Owner Chris Baucia. “It takes what we have worked on all year and puts it into action in an even more competitive environment. We like to say ‘be about it , don’t talk about it,’ and The Duel lets our kids live up to that theme. NFA does a fantastic job in the organization of each phase of the event to help each player grow and compete. My clients simply love the event and the experience.”

The addition of the other companies means less NFA quarterbacks have been invited this year. It also means the rising senior age group has been eliminated, but next year there will be a new grade 11 and 12 competition.

How The Duel works and scoring

The Duel is a two-day event that features both an intense development session and on-field competition with scoring derived from the NFA Skill Score System.

That scoring system is an accumulation of a comprehensive battery of assessments that measures all aspects of a quarterback’s ability, including rapid cognition decision making, speed, strength, stamina, and position specific performance. Scoring will be kept for all age groups and the top player in each age group will be named the National Champion.

“The difference between The Duel and Elite 11 camps is our system is not so subjective,” remarked Will Hewlett, the NFA Director of Player Development. “The Duel is a scoring event. You complete certain passes and compete in time and score in drills and some other paces we put the kids through.”

“Either you hit the target or you don’t. There’s no gray area,” continued Hewlett. “At The Duel we don’t measure potential we measure current skill level.”

The reward

Last year out of the multitude of kids that attended one of the previously mentioned NFA camps, only around 150 were nominated and selected for the seven age groups combined, grades 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5, with boys under grade 5 grouped with the 5th-graders.

“The Duel invite is not only a quarterback’s reward for demonstrating true potential in a camp setting, but it’s also a chance to experience the motivating encouragement of the NFANation family together,” said NFA President and Founder Darin Slack. Another part of the reward is the quarterback gets to showcase his skills in front of hundreds of people, while seeing how his talent stacks up against dozens of other young men his own age from across the country.”

“We believe quarterback recruiting and college level opportunities arise from being able to excel in the midst of the high pressure of expectations,” Slack remarked and then continued.”

“The Duel rewards the prepared quarterback by acting as a mirror held up to each young man to help them understand where they are in that process. “Their true competitiveness can only be known on game day, but The Duel is the summer’s last chance for a QB to send a message to all present of their readiness to play championship football in the fall.”

Bonds that are made and lessons that are learned

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Some of the kids bond with the coaches and other kids, some with just the coaches, and some with just the other kids.

“Being from Northern California I work mostly with Coach Hewlett, but one of the things I really like about The Duel is the other great coaches I can learn from and perform for like Coach Slack, Coach Boice and Coach (Dub) Maddox,” said up and coming freshman Chandler Davis.

Three-time age group second place finisher Mikie Kovich from Virginia is another perfect example.

“One of the best things about The Duel is getting to work with all the great coaches Kovich told NFA Nation. “I like everything they talk about and ask us to do.”

“One of the things I like about Coach Hewlett is he told me to relax and not get too tense,” continued Kovich, who placed second as a seventh, eighth and ninth-grader. “Everything Will has shown me has really helped me. He’s awesome but what’s even more awesome is coming each year and meeting other great coaches like Coach Slack, Coach Maddox and Coach Boice.”

“Over the past three years of being selected I’ve made a lot of good friends at The Duel. It’s great to get to see them when I get there, and the coaches? – they’re the best,” said Massachusetts freshman Conner Degenhardt.

“I have a lot of good friends that go there and its great to see them but of all the relationships I’ve developed it’s the NFA coaches that have been the most important. The NFA coaching has taken my game to a whole new level.” continued Degenhardt, who recently traveled to Philadelphia to work with Hewlett.

The best part of The Duel? It’s about competition

All four NFA boys interviewed for the story specifically talked about competition and being competitive as one of their favorite things about The Duel. It’s no wonder each did well last year.

“The OpC4 is more about getting better and improving,” said Nick Patterson, a sophomore from Augusta, Georgia. “The Duel is a competition showcase.”

“For me the best thing about The Dual is the competition with kids from all around the nation,” continued Patterson, a fourth place finisher last summer. “You don’t get that kind of chance anywhere else to go against the best NFA quarterbacks except at The Duel.”

“Yes sir. I’m very proud I won because I worked real hard, but the competition was the most fun,” said Gino English of Orlando, Florida, the first-place winner in the seventh-grade group. “I love the competitive environment. Going out there and competing against the guys.”

“I just love to compete. At The Duel you’re competing against the best,” remarked Degenhardt.”

“When you’re competing against the best athletes in the country it feels good to show that if you work hard enough it shows,” Kovich remarked. “The best thing about The Duel is hard work pays off.”

The Gauntlet

If you make the finals, meaning you are one of four boys from each age group, you get to go through The Gauntlet.

“The Gauntlet is a timed and scored event comprised of a series of throws and obstacles that puts the quarterback in a pressure environment against his peers with all eyes on him and him alone,” said NFA Director of Product Development Dub Maddox.

“Another one of my favorite things is when you make the final four and do The Gauntlet,” Patterson told NFA Nation. “Being able to perform in front of a lot of people and perform well when everyone is watching you is a challenge I like.”

This year’s competition? In it to win it

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Degenhardt didn’t make the finals last year but as an incoming sophomore he has different ideas.

“I’ve gone the past three years and I’m going again. Last year I came close to the finals but this year I’m in it to win it. I definitely want to take home the championship. I feel it’s my time.”

Although there is no competition between the companies sending quarterbacks to The Duel, signal-callers from those companies want to win just as bad as the NFA boys – and it means the competition is going to be even stiffer than the past four years.

One of Gregory’s top boys, sophomore Steven Frank from Oswego, Illinois is a perfect example.

“My goal is to be one of the best by showing what I can do,” Frank remarked. “To do that I have to start by being focused from the moment I get there on being accurate with my throws.”

And for Kovich, who has three-straight second-place finishes, being top dog would seem like a slam dunk goal.

“Without a doubt to win this year is definitely my goal. I need to speed my game up and pick up the tempo, bring everything I have, and overall just play like I’m under the lights.”

This year the lights at The Duel will be shining not only on NFA quarterbacks but QBs from QBF QB Farm, Kaleo QB Academy and Quarterback Factory.

This year’s version of The Duel is no doubt going to be the most competitive ever.

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