— By GREG WEBB
Weatherford resident Blaze Jones may have been the focus of a bit of subterfuge recently, but it was certainly a very pleasant surprise.
The sixth-grader thought he was just enjoying an outing with his friends when they gathered at GamerTagz, a local entertainment and education facility co-founded by Blaze’s dad, Matt Jones.
As it turned out, the occasion was to let the youngster know that he had earned a scholarship for training in the game he loves most – football.
Blaze began his gridiron career in the first grade, becoming part of the long-established Weatherford Optimist Club PeeWee Football League. The Optimist Club sanctions flag football for grades one through four and tackle football for fifth and sixth-grade young athletes. The league provides an effective segue to middle-school football.
With Weatherford Optimist Club President John Patterson on hand to help with the presentation, Blaze’s dad made the revelation of the invitation.
Football University (FBU), who also sponsors and organizes the annual U.S. Army All-American Bowl, provides position-specific training for football players and, in most cases, is by invitation only.
“In January, I was contacted by one of the marketing officials for FBU and notified that Blaze was invited to the DFW camp in April,” said Jones, who has been coaching Optimist Club football for seven years. “He had received a full scholarship to attend the camp. This is a big deal because most FBU position training is limited to 10-15 spots.
“It’s also very prestigious because they work with the top athletes in the country.”
Blaze, a running back and defensive end who also played soccer and baseball before deciding to dedicate his athletic pursuits to football, was understandably quite happy with the turn of events – and dad’s cloak-and-dagger ruse worked brilliantly.
“This really was a surprise,” Blaze said. “I thought we were just coming up here for some gaming. It’s really exciting to get picked to go to the camp, especially with all of the other people who tried out.
“I wanted to get prepared for middle school football and I think this is a really good way to do that.”
Blaze’s dad is a proponent of programs like FBU, which offers an advanced level of technique training to help kids further develop their skills. The offering much like other select programs for baseball, softball, volleyball, as well as many others. FBU offers many athletes the opportunity to take in the training, with the granting of scholarships, who otherwise may not be able to take advantage of the program.
“I didn’t start playing football until I was in the seventh grade,” Jones said. “We didn’t have the camps and advanced training that this program provides.
“In our own local organization, the Optimist Club provides a full-year program, including an FBU camp, that helps our kids improve their skills. We want to give our kids every opportunity to take advantage of this training to help make them better.”