1,500 top national recruits coming to Naples for Top Gun Showcase starting Friday
Last year, Steve Quinn was anxious heading into the Football University Top Gun Showcase at Paradise Coast Sports Complex in Naples.
But not really with excitement.
Small parts of the country were coming out of the coronavirus pandemic, or at least to the point where they were hosting events, including summer football showcase camps like Quinn's.
So Quinn, the managing partner of Football University, had to do a different kind of homework in addition to getting who could come to the Top Gun.
"Night and day," Quinn said Wednesday comparing last year to this year, with the Top Gun Showcase on tap from Friday through Sunday. "Just the preparations. We didn't have camps last year. We had one in San Antonio, and then Fort Lauderdale the next weekend (in March) and that Thursday was when everything got shut down."
Football University, which runs the Showcase and multiple camps across the country, had a camp at the beginning of June 2020 in Texas, and then another in Atlanta a couple of weeks later, leading into Top Gun, which had only 900 players, compared to 1,500 this year.
Only parents and family members were allowed to attend Top Gun last year. This year, the camp is open to the public for free, and there will be food trucks and live music, and the Complex's Cove sports bar also is open. Last year, the complex's stadium wasn't complete; it's been more than ready for this year.
Last year, Quinn was concerned about spacing dots on the practice fields six feet apart, having enough hand sanitizer, and making sure CDC guidelines were followed such as wearing masks.
"It certainly is a different world today than we were in 12 months ago," he said.
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The particular football world also is different, with ongoing NCAA recruiting restrictions due to the pandemic being lifted earlier this summer. College coaches wasted no time having on-campus camps to look at recruits.
"I feel sorry for the 2021 class -- they really got affected," Quinn said. "Once we got into the 2022 (academic class) things started to open up a little bit.
"The dead periods, once those were lifted, the coaches got out in droves. The college camps were probably the most well attended this past June."
At Top Gun, players from middle and high schools in 44 states and 3 Canadian provinces will get training from FBU’s staff of 85 NFL and NCAA-experienced coaches. The best FBU athletes from 40 regional events, held across the country during the spring, are competing for invitations to elite national events, like the All-American Bowl on NBC, the National Combine, and the FBU Freshman All-American Bowl.
There are 78 student-athletes from Collier County, over 5% of the total athletes in attendance. Some of them are Naples High's Kendrick Raphael and Ebenezer Bouzi, Barron Collier's Dylan McNamara, incoming Barron Collier freshman Niko Boyce, and seventh-grade running back Jamar Jerome.
"I think it’s a great opportunity," McNamara said. "I get the chance to compete against kids from across the country, see some friends who I’ve met a camp before get the chance to play with them again.
"FBU has given me the opportunity to build relationships and bonds that have grown into strong friendships. The chance to represent the community and get a chance to throw close to home."
The Showcase added another treat for many of its participants.
On Thursday, XPE Training and FBU will partner for a Young Guns Experience for 2026-28 studnet-athletes from 5 to 7 p.m. The clinic sold out with 200 kids in 72 hours, and will feature NFL players Gardner Minshew, Kareem Jackson, Mark Ingram, Carl Lawson, Jamal Lewis and Mason Schreck, plus Naples High grad and new Eagles receiver Michael Walker.
"We're super excited," Quinn said. "I would say out of the 200-plus kids that we'll have here, half or 3/4 of them will be Collier County kids."
Quinn's partner, Erik Richards, the national recruiting director for the All-American Bowl, also worked on the clinic and the showcase.
"People flocked to it," Quinn said.
As for the Showcase itself, there's a long list of players with Division I offers or commitments, including former Evangelical Christian receiver Winston Watkins, who already has been named to the Freshman All-American Bowl, which will be in Naples during the youth football championships later this year.
"We probably will have the best group of eighth-grade and ninth-grade talent that we ever have had before," Quinn said.
Quinn said Patriots running back Sony Michel will participate in Friday's opening ceremonies.
Quinn credited Collier County commissioners and the tourism bureau for its support, and to have a host venue like the Paradise Coast Sports Complex.
"It's a dream come true," Quinn said.
Greg Hardwig is a sports reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @NDN_Ghardwig, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism with this special subscription offer at https://cm.naplesnews.com/specialoffer/
Tops at Top Gun Showcase
Name, Position, Graduation Year, State; Offers/Committed
Winston Watkins, WR, 2025, FL; Florida State, Texas A&M, Georgia Tech & Central Michigan
Vincent Anthony Jr., DL, 2022 NC; Duke, NC State, Army, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss
Elijah Brown, QB, 2024, FL; Arizona, Pitt, Utah
Nic Carraway, LB/DL, 2022, TX; Purdue Commit
Jayden Coleman, DB, 2024, AL; Indiana, Pitt, Penn State, Morgan State, Miss. St.
Raymond Cottrell, WR, 2023, FL; 15+ D-I Offers | Florida, Notre Dame, Alabama & More
Anthony Garrett, QB, 2022, MI; Lawrence Tech
Frederick Gaskin III, DB, 2024, FL; Georgia Tech, FAU, Miami
Carson Haggard, QB, 2022, FL; Tulane, William & Mary, FIU, Southern Miss
Dante Lovett, DB, 2023, MD; Boston College, Cincinnati
Dylan Mann, DL, 2023, GA; Maryland
Trevell Mullen, DB, 2022, FL; Indiana Commit
Austin Novosad, QB, 2023, TX; Baylor, Rice, SMU, Texas State, Texas Tech
Daniel O'Neil, QB, 2024, IN; Toledo
Cole Olsztyn, LB, 2023, MI; Liberty, Louisville, Marshall, Toledo, UT Martin
Zaire Riley, DB, 2022, FL; Florida A&M, Middle Tenn. State
Logan Tanner, WR, 2022, TX; Utah, Ark. State, Baylor, Coastal Carolina, Colorado State
Demario Tolan, LB, 2022, FL; 20+ D-I Offers | LSU, Clemson, Georgia, FSU & More
Justin Williams, RB, 2022, GA; 15+ D-I Offers | WVU, Wisconsin, Ole Miss & More
Popeye Williams, DL, 2022, IN; Louisville Commit
Christian Wood, LB, 2024, GA; Arkansas, FSU, Georgia Tech, Memphis