Table Rock eighth-grader Sacred Baylor has been awarded a huge task — to represent USA Football’s 2019 U.S. National Team at the Middle School Bowl Game Series, the highest stage for a middle school student.
Baylor, a rising freshman at Freedom High School, was one of two wide receivers chosen at the Charlotte Regional (held at South Pointe High School in Rock Hill, S.C., last month) to represent the national team at Walsh University and the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
“I was shocked and surprised at first when we got the news that I was selected to the national team. I’m really, really happy and honored,” Baylor said. “To play at the Hall of Fame Stadium is awesome.”
The event is slated for June 25-29 in Canton, Ohio, where Baylor will compete in a scrimmage and a live-contact game while also being educated in USA Football’s comprehensive player health and safety program, Heads Up Football.
“Sacred was nervous at the initial tryout, but settled down and showcased why he’s a really good player who will represent Morganton and Burke County,” said Stephanie Furches, Baylor’s mother. “This will be a lifetime experience.”
USA Football’s U.S. National Team program is the only one in the nation that can feature current NCAA coaches in its nationwide events. Baylor said being able to chat with the college coaches made the process easier.
“At first, I thought it added a little more pressure (with the college coaches on the sidelines), but being able to chat and talk to the coaches helped to learn more,” Baylor said. “The coaches also informed the players of what is expected (like grades and attendance) to get to the college level and beyond.”
Baylor had to go through four sessions totaling more than 10 hours of workouts at the Charlotte Regional. The class of 2023 student-athlete participated in 1-on-1, 7-on-7 and group drills to get the nod for the national team.
“The first day highlighted skilled based drills with footwork, running routes and a little 1-on-1 while day two was more of a competition day with serious 1-on-1s, 7-on-7s and then group drills with live action,” Baylor said.
“The 1-on-1s against defensive backs were more competitive as each player was trying to prove themselves. I made some big-time plays going up and catching the balls using my hands.”
The final obstacle for Baylor is raising funds to help pay for the five-day, four-night trip next month to Canton. His family has set up a GoFundMe account asking the community to help in any way possible.
The link to the fundraising account is gofundme.com/helping-a-talented-boys-dream-come-true.
Tommy Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.