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From High School to College, the Challenges Athletes Face

How hard is it for Idaho Youth to play collegiate sports?
Some athletes go above and beyond in hopes to continuing their athletic career
Posted at 9:17 AM, Apr 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-26 11:17:07-04

MERIDIAN, IDAHO — As a high school athlete, making it to the next level is tough by itself. Doing it anywhere other than a major metropolis is even harder. We talked with local trainers and athletes on what it takes for young Idahoans to make that next jump.

Here at Competitive Edge Athletic Performance Center in Meridian, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Matt Wattles has seen several of his athletes make the jump from high school athletics to college.

"Most people don't understand what it takes to play at the college level. For instance, the division one lineman is six-foot-four, 280 lbs. They're benching 320 lbs, squatting 450, and running like 4.7 lateral agility...so they're pretty good," said Competitive Edge Athletic Performance Center Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Matt Wattles.

Pretty good might be an understatement as those kind of athletes are rare...the number of athletes who actually make the jump might surprise you.

"About 6% just under 7% of high school students will go on to play college athletics. When we're talking about division one, it's under 2%," said Wattles.

And to make things harder for our local athletes, geography, climate, and population are also a factor.

"The three states that have the most recruits are Florida, Texas, and California. They have about 45% of the elite level recruits coming out of those three states," said Wattles.

But that doesn't mean it's impossible. Take Jake Shaddox for example.

"Yeah so I knew I wanted to play at the next level from the time I was smart enough to know what a football was, so yeah," said former Boise State Running Back Jake Shaddox.

Jake's football journey started in Nampa at Skyview high, took him to California for a few stops before landing at BSU as a walk-on running back. He knew at a young age what it was going to take to have the best chance at a college career.

"As humbly as I could say it, I was more athletic than a vast majority of kids but at the same time, I also really knew what I wanted to do, so I was going to do what it took to get there," said Shaddox.

As an athlete from Idaho who made it to the D-1 level, he says kids who want to get there need to never stop working for it, no matter what level they want to get to.

"What are you gonna do to separate yourself from the rest of your team? That's not just athletically, that's also academically so colleges are obviously going to look for those super talented kids, and especially at the division one level they're gonna look for the freak show athletes but division one is not the only division in college sports," said Shaddox.

While many young athletes don't know the dedication it takes to play in college, some already have it all planned out. Take Middleton High Junior Gard Memmelarr. At 6'5 and nearly 300 pounds, he's got the physical part down, but it's the mindset that will be taking him far.

"Most kids in the offseason, they don't really have an offseason, I guess they have an offseason, but they don't really work out as much, and I'm in here three times a week. I lift every day in the morning and then on top of that footwork and stuff like that," said Middleton High Junior Offensive Tackle Gard Memmelarr.

And it's that mentality that helped Gard already verbally commit to play football at the University of Washington right after high school. But no matter who you are or how physically gifted you may be, everyone agrees that putting in the extra work is the only way to get to the next level."

"You gotta separate yourself, you gotta be able to, you gotta be willing to sacrifice and outwork the rest of your peers," said Shaddox.

"Just work and just keep grinding. Just work all the time, speed is a big thing," said Shaddox.

"Grit, hard work. I had a basketball player last year that is in California now and at 10 o'clock at night, he'd go to the warehouse and he'd start shooting three-point shots, and he'd shoot over five-hundred three-point shots per night. Most kids won't do that," said Wattles.

And local football players who are wanting to know where they stand athletically can attend the Ultimate Football Combine tomorrow at Competitive Edge Athletic Performance Center in Meridian! That will be held Saturday from 9am to 1pm.

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