Future USC QB David Sills (left) and former Trojan Todd Marinovich (right) while at Mater Dei H.S.
Andrew Luck is the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Matt Barkley could be the top pick in the 2013 draft and current high school freshman David Sills is on the fast track to the same honor in the 2018 edition of the event.
No, that’s not a typo. We can safely install the quarterback originally of Bear, DE, as a possibility to be the first player selected in the draft six years from now. After all, Sills committed to Lane Kiffin and USC when he was in seventh grade in February of 2010.
Sills, then 13, made national news when he decided to make a verbal commitment to the Trojans. According to ESPN.com two years ago, Kiffin got a hold of Sills’ highlight tape and immediately had interest in the young signal-caller.
And he got that tape from a reliable source, Steve Clarkson, who serves as Sills’ personal coach. ESPN.com said that Sills had been working with Clarkson since he was 10-years old after Sills’ father started teaching him to play at the age of seven.
Clarkson is a good guy to invest in. He has been a quarterbacks coach to Barkley and current Carolina Panthers QB Jimmy Clausen. According to the ESPN story, Clarkson used his past experiences with the aforementioned quarterbacks to convince Kiffin to look at Sills at such a young age.
“You might call me crazy, but you’ve known me a long time, right?” Clarkson said to Kiffin, according to ESPN.com. “And when I said if there was going to be a LeBron James of football it’d be Jimmy Clausen that turned out to be a pretty good prediction.
“And when I said Matt Barkley had the potential to be as good as Jimmy, he ended up winning Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior and starting at USC as a freshman, right?
“Well, I’ve got a kid now who is better than all of them and he’s in Delaware. You gotta take a look at him.”
Kiffin did, and Stills ended up committing to play in Los Angeles. However, the now-15-year old who is already 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, still had a way to go before he landed on the high school gridiron when he made that commitment. Surely, there would be time for him to fizzle.
It hasn’t happened yet.
Sills, who Clarkson reportedly said has been breaking down tape like an NFL veteran for years, put forth a great freshman season for Delaware’s Red Lion Christian Academy, which played a national schedule in Sills’ debut campaign. The school faced opponents from Ohio, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida – but none from Delaware.
Against those foes, Sills had 2,340 yards passing, 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while completing 66% of his passes – incredible numbers for a freshman starter. It came after Sills put up 1,355 yards and nine touchdowns as an eighth-grader, a level at which the throw-and-catch isn’t normally perfected.
Watching Sills’ game highlights, you would never think he was three years younger than most of the players on the field, as he looks as physically matured and experienced as anyone he faces:
Sills’ father, David Sills IV, told The New Yorker in December that Clarkson wanted the family to move to California when the coach first started working with the kid to make him more visible for recruitment.
But the elder Sills wanted to stay in tiny Delaware but still provide his son with the competition one would face in powerhouse football states like California and Texas.
“I said, ‘Why can’t we build something like that here?’ I thought we could stay here in Delaware,” the elder Sills said, according to The New Yorker. “We’d just have to play different competition.”
That mentality has raised some eyebrows. The New Yorker reported that the elder Sills provided a financial boost to his son’s middle school team to allow for some games against California schools. We can only assume that his money also has aided in the high school squad playing the rest of its national slate.
The problem is Red Lion is reportedly millions of dollars in debt. As such, Delaware’s News-Journal reported that there has been a big shift in the school, which has decided to return to a normal football schedule. The newspaper said that its leaders don’t see a national football power as prudent for the school.
According to the News-Journal, the downsizing has included eliminating FOCAS Foundation (Financially Obedient Christians Assisting Students), which is a financial-aid program that helps many Red Lion football players, the newspaper said. And there also has been the ouster of F.L.A.S.H. (Faithful Leaders Always Serving Him), a training program for players that takes place inside an on-campus facility.
The newspaper said that the elder Sills’ helped in founding the former, while his construction company built the latter. From the News-Journal: “Athletes from Red Lion and other schools have participated in the training program, which has led some to accuse Red Lion coaches and boosters of using the program to recruit outside athletes.”
Thanks to the downsizing, the younger Sills has transferred to Eastern Christian Academy in Elkton, MD, right across the Delaware border.
All of it has led to any easy comparison to ex-USC QB Todd Marinovich. Marinovich famously endured intense training from a young age, pushed by his father, Marv, who reportedly had Todd transfer high schools in California because of the poor blocking for him and mediocre team record. The younger Marinovich eventually failed to live up to the hype as “Robo QB” in the NFL and struggled with drug addiction.
Sills even looks like a young Marinovich with the long floppy hair of a California surfer who already says, “I want to be in the category with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Johnny Unitas, all them when I grow up.”
There are no signs the younger Sills is struggling with the same pitfalls but, at just 15-years old, he is quickly becoming the most-prized teenage quarterback phenom since Marinovich over two decades ago. If the hype continues like this, Sills may someday be deemed the LeBron James of high school quarterbacks as suggested by Clarkson and eventually the No. 1 pick of the NFL draft.
2018 will be here before you know it.