As a native Texan, it humbles me to admit this painful fact; the future of football's greatest talent belongs to Florida.
Point-blank and period.
How do I know this? I took a sneak peek at the place where nearly all great football careers begin: Pop Warner.
Yes, I attended the 2012 Pop Warner National Championships this past weekend at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and let me tell you, these Florida kids were extraordinarily good. Actually, they were historically good.
All eight age-division finals saw a Florida team competing for a national championship, a first in the history of the Pop Warner Super Bowl games according to Disney media representatives.
It's not uncommon to see Florida teams winning Pop Warner championships. From 2007-2011, four different Florida teams won the Division I Midget National Championship.
But to nearly dominate every age division among Pop Warner nationals is unheard of.
Over half of those Florida teams won titles, five to be exact. The West Volusia Wolves, one of two Central Florida teams represented in the championships, won a title in the team's — and region's — first tournament appearance with a 34-0 rout over a very good West Haven Seahawks team from Connecticut. The Seahawks outscored its previous two opponents 54-8.
"Team Florida," as some fans and coaches started calling this phenomenon, finished the tournament with a whopping 23-3 record over the District of Columbia and 16 other states represented, including perennial power states Texas, California and Ohio.
Now, I can't forecast exactly what this is saying about the future of football in the state of Florida. But I know it's saying something.
"If they're not in football, they're in speed camps, they're constantly doing athletics until they get better for this right here," said Mike Stokes, Pop Warner Football Director for the East Coast Conference. "A lot of them will play spring football, flag or tackle, as a training ground for the Pop Warner season.
If this were baseball, I'd say these kids are headed for Tommy John surgery. But this is football in the South.
"We just look at [like] football is played in the South. Florida football is different than any-other-state football. You know you have football in California, football in Texas, but no one does it like we do it in Florida," said West Volusia coach Cameron Robinson. "There's nothing like Florida speed and Florida football."
Every college football coach in the state of Florida should be paying attention.
Forget year to year, judging by the increasing number of eighth-graders being offered scholarships these days (that means you, Washington, LSU and USC) and the increasing access to information and options for parents and athletes, the competitive nature of recruiting escalates month to month.
If this generation of student-athletes continue on this trajectory of athletic achievement, these Florida kids will have multiple college suitors vying for their attention over the next five to seven years. Now is the time for state schools to brand themselves with summer skills camps and academic training before out-of-state programs start working to pluck Florida kids.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that college coaches swarm the sidelines of Pop Warner games or offer every talented 13-year-old a scholarship. I'm suggesting that now is the time for more colleges to develop meaningful relationships with the community to really brand their programs.
There's no telling how long Florida NFL teams will stink. But college football in the state of Florida will remain highly competitive if recruiters monitor and nurture the wealth of talent in their backyards now.
What we witnessed at the Pop Warner championships was no ordinary occurrence and it deserves no ordinary response.
"The [Florida Pop Warner teams] that usually make it here are pretty dominant, but this is the first time I've seen it in every team in every division," Stokes said. "They'll go a long way."