Over the last eight years, Athletes With Purpose under President/CEO Michael Ledo has worked toward helping remove the stigma that has plagued Indiana high school football players for a long time.
“Our football is just not considered top national football, it's just not,” Ledo said. “We have worked hard to kind of remove that mindset.”
Ledo is of the mind that the belief that football talent will eventually be discovered by top college programs is wrong. The talent has to go where the college coaches are, instead of vice versa.
That is one of the ideas behind AWP's 7-on-7 team, a squad that is 26-2 overall so far this summer and has emerged as one of the predominant 7-on-7 programs in the Midwest in recent years.
The team, sponsored by Parkview Orthopedic Hospital and stocked with local talent, will compete at the IMG7v7 National Championship this weekend in Bradenton, Fla. The squad is looking to improve on a fifth-place finish in 2012 and continue to enhance the college prospects of players while shedding the stereotype of Indiana not being a hotbed for Division I talent.
“We were one of the first organizations in the Midwest in terms of competing in 7-on-7,” Ledo said. “Nationally, we have become one of the most well-respected organizations in the region.”
The format of 7-on-7 is simple. Each team fields seven players with no offensive or defensive linemen. Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers take on linebackers and defensive backs, making it a game based on speed and athleticism.
It is a format well-suited for players who fit those two skill sets, and is a great platform to be noticed by college programs. Competing in summer events around the country, as AWP is able to due to its sponsorship by Parkview Ortho, means that more players from this area are garnering attention.
Carroll safety/linebacker Drue Tranquill has received 10 Division I offers, with Purdue pulling the trigger on Wednesday with the senior-to-be.
South Side's Donovan Clark also has close to 10 D-I offers, including one from Indiana.
Concordia Lutheran quarterback David Morrison is already committed to Ball State prior to his senior campaign with the Cadets.
“Colleges want to see how players compete against kids from Florida and California, much like AAU events allow coaches to see elite players against each other,” Ledo said. “You really open eyes when you can play well against some other good talent.”
Ledo doesn't hesitate when citing an example.
“People can argue about this all day … while Jaylon Smith was a good football player at Bishop Luers, he did not blow up (as a recruit) until he went to camps nationally,” Ledo said. “If he did not travel and instead sat around Fort Wayne, I guarantee you he wouldn't have been a top 10 linebacker (in the country), let alone the top one or two like he was ranked.”
The staff surrounding Ledo at AWP also helps significantly. Offensive coordinator Antoine Taylor trained with former signalcaller and top QB coach Steve DeBerg. Wide receivers coach Dre Muhammed starred at Harding and went on to play for Indiana in college and had a stint with the Oakland Raiders.
The goal for AWP is to continue to grow and to help athletes do the same.
“Our slogan is, 'We are a place where good athletes become great,'” Ledo said. “You don't have to be with us to be all-conference, but we are that additional help that gets you exposure at the next level. We are a platform you can build from.
We have good kids and they produce as players and people.”
AWP 7-on-7 team
David Morrison - Concordia
Michael Fiacable – Bishop Dwenger
Quinn Cook – Bishop Luers
Jordan Hogue - New Haven
Austin Mack - Luers
Shaq Vann – South Bend Adams
Ryan Watercutter – Bishop Dwenger
Keion Powers - Wayne
Andreas Gomez - Snider
Blake Faus - Elkhart Central
Zack Ryan - Wayne
Antoine Ivory – South Bend Washington
Jaylin Bennett - Woodlan
Marcus Moon - North Side
Tiberious McGhee - Snider
Donovan Clark - South Side
Drue Tranquill - Carroll
Andre Hamilton - Northrop
Justin Tranquill - Carroll
Kye Black - Wayne
Deion Powers - Wayne
CJ Morris - Concordia
Shaton Harris - South Side