Thursday evening (USC football coach Lane) Kiffin received a verbal commitment from 13-year old wunderkind quarterback David Sills of Bear, Del.
Okay, take a breath. What the hell is going on?
The ‘commitment’, which means absolutely nothing and can be rescinded by either party at any time, is the handiwork of Sills personal quarterback coach Steve Clarkson. Clarkson, who calls himself a “dreammaker“, is a relentless self-promotion machine who often appears on SoCal and national media outlets touting his private, personal quarterback coaching skills.
Clarkson runs a private quarterback academy of sorts, tutoring kids for parents of any age who pay top dollar for his services. In 2002, USA TODAY reported that Clarkson had 60 students at the time and made $100 per hour in his venture.
Clarkson has actually been pushing Sills to major college coaches for over a year now, and Kiffin finally bit on a public commit to the kid. But as an early commitment to the Kentucky basketball program learned recently, that gesture means absolutely nothing in the end.
There’s a distinct possibility, not lost on Kiffin and Clarkson, that Sills’ so-called “commitment” to USC will have a much larger impact on building the business of Clarkson’s quarterback academy than the fortunes of the Trojans on the field.
In fact, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that Kiffin was actually doing a favor for Clarkson by giving his business huge publicity with the offer to Sills. Perhaps Kiffin is thinking that by plugging Clarkson now, he will ensure that the QB coach funnels his best talent to USC in the future.
Shelburne has this from Clarkson in the wake of Sills’ “commitment” to USC:
Clarkson said Kiffin asked him his opinion of the recruit and Clarkson said, “You might call me crazy, but you’ve known me a long time, right? And when I said if there was going to be a LeBron James of football it’d be Jimmy Clausen that turned out to be a pretty good prediction.
“And when I said Matt Barkley had the potential to be as good as Jimmy, he ended up winning Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior and starting at USC as a freshman, right?
“Well, I’ve got a kid now who is better than all of them and he’s in Delaware. You gotta take a look at him.”
Jimmy Clausen the LeBron James of football?
More from Shelburne on Clarkson:
Not according to his personal coach Steve Clarkson, who has mentored some of the game’s best quarterbacks including current USC starter Matt Barkley.
“He’s already six feet as a 13-year old,” Clarkson said. “And he’s breaking down NFL footage.“
If you go through media reports on Clarkson the past eight years, the claim of him “mentoring” some of “great quarterbacks in the game” is in almost every piece. But if you investigate the players who Clarkson worked with more than just a month or two before the NFL draft, his most accomplished pupil to date is Matt Leinart. Followed by Clausen.
Clarkson has an “alumni” page on his SteveClarksonDreammaker.com website that actually includes Joe Montana - with an accompanying bio of the NFL great. What isn’t mentioned is that Clarkson never coached Montana, instead instructing his son Nick. Nick isn’t cited on the alumni page but does have a photo gallery on the site.
To be fair, Clarkson has landed scholarships for plenty of kids who otherwise wouldn’t have been afforded a chance to be listed on a major college football roster. Provided of course those kids had parents who could pay his fees. And I’m not discounting his coaching skills, for all I know he does a great job polishing up prospective QBs.
Clarkson also has coached legitimate college and pro quarterbacks and I have no reason to believe that he doesn’t have the best interests of his students at heart.
But the Sills thing leaves a bad taste, along with the website. And then there’s the grade-changing controversy in Los Angeles that LA WEEKLY reported involved Clarkson’s son Anton in 2002.
I salute Clarkson for creating a successful business out of thin air. Not saying he hasn’t done a lot of good, but his method of promotion might be doing his reputation a disservice.