Rivals.com and Scout.com provide Sports Nation with an invaluable service: They keep us up-to-date, as we should be, on the top high school prospects being recruited for student-athlete status at our institutions of higher learning.
But what about middle school jocks?
Isn't there some place where pre-teen standouts can get noticed?
Yes there is!
Just the other day, while grazing the Internet over a glass of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio 2006, I discovered the following information on the home page of JuniorRank.com:
"At 6-4 and over 230 pounds, Kyle Bosch of St. Charles, Illinois is no ordinary 8th grade tight end. With good hands, good grades and a 'nasty' disposition on the field, this JuniorRank.com Preseason Regional 'Top 20' candidate is definitely 'One to Watch.'"
There was even a photo of Kyle lifting weights.
I marked him in my notebook as a top-5 prospect for the 2017 NFL draft.
(Of course, Hoopscooponline.com has been scoping out stellar basketball-playing SIXTH GRADERS for years. It's tireless work that must be done.)
The news gets even better:
This Saturday, JuniorRank.com is holding one of its "junior football combines" in Chicago; next month there will be one in San Diego. For just a $49 registration fee, you get nine hours of football instruction and evaluation from an elite group of combine coaches.
Lunch is included!
The combine is open to all athletes between the ages of 11 and 16. That's right -- even if you are A SIXTH GRADER, this is your day to get into the game big-time.
Athletes attending must bring shorts and sneakers, but JuniorRank.com will provide "performance shirts."
(I used to wear a performance shirt. Alas, it didn't make me perform better.)
JuniorRank.com, according to its Web site, "is searching for the nation's top 7th and 8th graders" to send to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl weekend in January -- that's the annual high school all-star game on NBC.
You might get on TV!
And the JuniorRank.com combine is extending a "Quarterback Special Offer": For "$200 all-inclusive," you get the Saturday combine and a Sunday instructional day from former quarterbacks Steve DeBerg, Jack Trudeau and Jeff Christensen.
(I assume Scott Mitchell had a scheduling conflict.)
Note: Out-of-town guests can enjoy a JuniorRank.com rate of $99 a night -- including breakfast! -- at the Hilton Garden Inn in Hoffman Estates, Ill.
(This is not to be confused with the Chicago Hilton, site of the climactic final scene between Dr. Richard Kimble and Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive. Now, everybody in that movie was wearing a performance shirt, no?)
Combine participants will be instructed, measured and tested in the following areas: 20/40-yard dash, 5-10-5 agility shuttle, vertical jump, kneeling power ball toss and bench press.
This is actually ahead-of-the-curve thinking -- there should be scouting combines for other adolescent pursuits outside of athletics.
Let's take all the aspiring 8-year-old flight attendants and measure them for: beverage-cart agility, seat-belt-announcement clarity, vertical-jump-during-turbulence test, frozen-smile-to-unruly-passenger drill and pouring coffee at 27,000 feet.
Let's take all the aspiring 8-year-old grocery clerks and measure them for: express-lane lateral quickness, cash-register dexterity, deferring-to-unreasonable-shift-manager drill, union leanings and double-bagging.
Let's take all the aspiring 8-year-old sportswriters and measure them for: locker-room etiquette, making deadline, tweeting drill, anonymous sourcing, Breathalyzer and expense-report manipulation.
Heck, if my major journalistic skills had been recognized and developed in third grade, I could've been working for USA Today by now.
Q. If it never stops raining, will we never have a U.S. Open champion again? (Michael Lee; Columbus, Ohio)
A. Don't be ridiculous -- they would just play golf indoors. I think Biosphere 2 has a championship course.
Q. UEFA banned Chelsea striker Didier Drogba for four matches because of his vulgar rant at a referee. Any idea what he said? (Andrew Kent; Indianapolis)
A. I believe he was just quoting Artie Lange.
Q. Have you ever had a contract restructured? (Gary Cohen; Baltimore)
A. If you count getting fired, yeah.
Q. Is it true that Ryan Leaf was arrested when he was intercepted at the Canadian border? (Brian O'Hare; Upland, Calif.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
Q. Did the official scorer ever rule that there was defensive indifference for any of your marriages? (Mike Steger; Palisades, N.Y.)
A. Pay this wiseacre, too.
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