TJ Collins, an 8th grade student at Grapevine Faith, was selected to play in a USA All American game this summer. USA All American is a training group that selects the best-of-the-best football players from around the nation. The All American athletes competed at a week of camp and then played in a showcase game, which many college coaches attend to watch for notable future players. That showcase game took place on Sunday, July 14, at the Dallas Cowboys practice facility in Frisco.
Prior to playing in the USA All American game, TJ had been invited to other notable camps, like Under Armour and Football University, where he started to gain recognition as an athlete. Last April, he and hundreds of other middle school football players were asked to participate in a regional tryout in Houston. On May 3, TJ was notified that he had been chosen to play defensive back at the Texas US National Team Middle School Bowl Game at The Star. This put TJ on the same path as many famous US National Team alumni, including Todd Gurley, Dwayne Haskins, N’keal Harry, Jameis Winston, Tyrann Mathieu.
Opportunities like that were key to TJ’s preparation for the All American Game, but he also spent a lot of time in other training. He practiced speed work with the Excalibur track club, worked on his defensive back skills and footwork with Clay Mack Skills, built up strength and agility at Lion Power, and did body recovery and cryotherapy with Mukhti Wellness. The preparation needed to succeed in this sport is no small task, and TJ showed his commitment to himself as an athlete and his teammates in all that he did.
TJ started the week of All American camp as a free safety, but his coach decided to have him cover the opposing top wide receiver later in the scrimmage. Even though his position changed, he played sound defense, at one point intercepting a pass and returning it for a touchdown. His team, Team Freedom, won the game 49-33. Individually, TJ was given a leadership award to honor his hard work at camp and in the classroom, and he was chosen by his teammates and coaches to lead the team out of the tunnel as the American flag carrier for the national anthem. According to TJ, that moment was his favorite part of the week. This was an incredible opportunity for one of our athletes, and we are proud to see him succeed.
Football has been a part of TJ’s life since he was just 5 years old; he was playing on his first tackle team by the time he was in 2nd grade. Ever since he was young he dreamed of playing college football, and participation in camps like these is an early step toward making that happen. Playing against other top talent in the country at the All American game gave him the chance to self-assess his development and understanding of the game compared to his peers. It also allowed him to showcase his skill set in front of many important decision makers in competitive football across the nation. Going forward, USA Football has gained approval to include American Football in the Olympics, meaning middle school athletes like TJ could be future Olympians!
We are so proud of TJ and the way he leads with the love of Christ on and off the field.