AJ Tarpley: The Gopher State Great By Matt Yanofsky Most football players envision ultimate success from the elementary stages of learning the game. First team all-state selections, being the big man on campus at an elite D-1 school, stardom in the NFL, unequivocal financial success, and capturing the eyes of adoring fans are amongst the goals and aspirations of youngsters that grace the gridiron. Unfortunately, few can even refer to just one as an accomplishment. Stiff competition and an abundance of players competing for few spots ultimately derail dreams, typically sooner than later. Some, however, are lucky enough to be heading on the path to big time success. When Wayzata HS’ A.J. Tarpley first competed at the National Underclassmen Combine in Minnesota as a sophomore, coaches quickly realized his major potential. “AJ was sensational during 1 on 1’s did a great job with coverage”, said NUC President and CEO David Schuman. “His physical presence was evident, as he dominated the running backs and displayed solid athleticism.” At that very same Minnesota combine, Tarpley took home the Linebacker MVP award. This earned him an invite to the Ultimate 100 Camp. The 6’1 215 lb linebacker was en route to making his dreams a reality. “It was a great experience”, said Tarpley. “The combine was run well I competed against other great players and got to see where I was at compared to the competition and how hard I had to work to be the best.” Fast forward to 2009, where A.J. was above and beyond “A.O.K.” during his senior year, compiling 85 tackles, 4 sacks, forcing two fumbles and taking both of his interceptions back for TD’s, guiding Wayzata to an admirable 9-2 record. While their season came to a close with a disappointing 7-3 defeat in the state quarterfinals at the hands of Eden Prarie, Tarpley had the last laugh shortly thereafter. On December 4, Tarpley was notified that his brilliant senior year earned him the Gatorade Player of the Year award, joining the likes of many other top-level recruits nationwide. With just one player in each of the 50 states taking home this exclusive award, Tarpley was ecstatic upon receiving the news. “It was really an honor considering who won it in the past” said the proud Tarpley. “We didn’t accomplish our team goals (for 2009), but to be thought of so highly as a player is a great honor and achievement.” This fall, A.J. hits the University of Stanford, where he received a full scholarship to play linebacker. With head coach Jim Harbaugh leading this year’s Cardinal team to their best season in eight years, Tarpley is eager to grace the field for one of the best programs, both athletically and academically. “I fractured by tibia in my final game, so I am going to do a ton of weight training and conditioning in the off season to fully prepare myself for the next level.” “My goal (for freshman year) is to do whatever I can to help the team and do the best I can.” “Stanford is also going to guide me career wise since they are such a great academic school, so I know in that sense, I can go wherever I want (if playing in the NFL doesn’t come to reality).” A true student athlete indeed.
"Coach Schuman: I just wanted to send you this thank you note. My son, Blake Lueders, participated in your NUC combine as a sophomore in May 2008 in Indianapolis, winning the MVP trophy. I am pleased to report that currently, as of February of his junior year, he has received ten (10) D-1 football scholarship offers (Stanford, Northwestern, Indiana, Iowa, Purdue, North Carolina, Illinois, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Boston College) with many other school expressing interest. Your combine, and your website posting Blake’s combine results, were very helpful because they provided independent, verifiable statistics for the college coaches to consider. Thank you and best continued success. Sincerely," Dan Lueders (dad)
From Interview with Kyron Samuels "MY: How do you feel the NUC benefited you? KS: It helped me tremendously. I got great coaching from the lineman coach he gave me a lot of pointers that I used during spring ball. Also it gave me a chance to face some out of state guys and that was the first time I’ve ever done that." Kyron Samuels
"David, On behalf of my family, I would like to thank you and your NUC team for providing our son with such a great football experience during the combine events last year. It is our belief that because of this positive experience and the opportunity to compete against some of the best talent in the region, he was able to achieve so much success at such a young age during this past varsity football season. Although Foster was named the 8th/9th grade MVP at the Pittsburgh event last year, it was his involvement at the Ultimate 100 camp in New Jersey that really made a lasting impression on him. He left NJ with a clear understanding of the talent which exists along the east coast and gained an appreciation for how hard he must work to achieve his goal of playing college football some day. Already a hard-working kid, he really stepped up and improved his work ethic in the gym and on the field. NUC also reinforced the importance of achieving success in the classroom, which he has really taken to heart. As a result of hearing that consistent message during both combine events, he is now hitting the books and is a consistent honor roll student. Foster was a freshman RB and CB at Grove City High School in western PA for a team that went 11 – 1 in Division AAA football. The team made it to the 3rd round of the state playoffs with a team made up of primarily sophomores and juniors. I’ve already booked the hotel for the state playoff finals next year. He rushed for 450 yards (9+ yds/carry) and scored 7 rushing TD’s playing varsity football on a very good football team. These stats led all big school football (Division AAA/AAAA) in the state of PA for freshman and put him in the top 35 - 50 in the country across all divisions, big and small. He also had 2 interceptions on the season, handled kick return duties, as well as long snapping. Obviously, our family is proud of Grove City’s team success and Foster’s individual accomplishments, but I’m not sure he would have had the confidence to play with “the big boys” if it had not been for NUC. He now believes he can play with anybody, anytime, anywhere. One of Foster’s teammates has already made a highlight video for him from this past season, which I believe he has posted on YouTube and his NUC profile, and he is really looking forward to participating in this year’s Pittsburgh combine event in the spring. Look forward to seeing you there! Again, thanks for providing such a positive experience for young football players. With some additional hard work, I think my son’s dream of playing college ball like his “dad did back in the day” just might come true. Keep up the good work!!! Best regards," Bill & Michelle (Foster, Trey & McKenna)
"Gentlemen, Just a quick “Thank You” for having such a great Organization like NUC ( National Underclassman Combine) for Student Athletes to compete and grow through your Combines/Camps, to Many of the undiscovered players across the Country. This great game of football teachers so many young men more than the X and O’s , but life lessons in the world ,and usually gives Mom’s and Dad’s a chance to bond with their young athletes . We have greatly enjoyed the process (recruiting) much more, utilizing the NUC events , and now are looking forward to successful college experience with Football and Academics at UNC in the Fall.. Sincerely," Tony Di Maggio
"Dear Mr. Schuman, This is the first year that we have been involved with the NUC. We have taken our 10th grade son to 4 of the NUC combines and the same man was in charge of all four of the combines. I do not know his name but the combines we attended were in Duncanville, TX in March, OKC, Tulsa, OK on Mother's Day and Wichita, Kansas on June 1st. I would like to let you know that the gentleman that ran these camps for you is wonderful with the boys! He is very well organized and clearly enjoys what he does and the other men that assist him at the camps get along great and enjoy their time out there with the boys which makes it a pleasant experience for all! 3 out of the 4 camps were very organized and ran very smoothly. We have had a very pleasant experience with the NUC because of the man that you have leading the combines we attended. Thank you," Ronda Tews 417-496-5186
"Coach Schuman, I am Coach Wayne Wilkes of Walker High School (brought Blake WIlkes, Quadrekas Key, and Austin Mansell to the Top Prospect camp) I wanted to express my appreciation to you for what your camps have helped do for QB Blake Wilkes (2014) of Walker High in Alabama. He has been going through your camps since 7th grade. He was in the shadow of his big brother who had signed at Troy as a QB, and also heard a lot from family members because I had played QB for Coach Dykes at Texas Tech. He was NOT very confident in himself until he hit his first combine for you. He had a good performance and a fire was lit. He is now one of the best leaders we have. He is confident without being arrogant, which is a rare thing these days. He has also had incredible numbers that I credit to the work he put in to prepare for your camps. He posted a 35.5 vertical at the Gulf Shores combine, broad jumped 9'6", posted shuttle times this year between 4.21 and 4.37, and had a laser 40 at one campus of 4.8, and a hand time at Western KY at 4.76, to go along with his 6' 2 1/2 194lb. He even increased his bench to 260 lbs a few weeks ago. He was so hungry to do well this summer, hitting 14 on campus camps from the states of Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, Mississippi, Michigan, Tennessee, and Alabama. It made me proud as a 19 year high school football coach to see a kid so driven, without me having to push him at all. He was extremely excited about the chance to go against A.J. at Top Prospect, and they pushed each other pretty good on the same team in 7 on 7 action. It was a big boost for him to throw TD's on all but one possession throughout the day, when time ran out on his last drive and he threw his first incomplete pass (non extra point) of the day on his last play. I truly believe that what you are doing through these camps has had a huge impact on his drive to be one of the top qb's in the south and in the country. When he told me what his goals were in November, I thought he was setting things that were unreachable. But he busted it and pushed that vert up 2.5 inches, 5 inches on the broad, dropped .3 off the 40, became one of the most accurate passers at any of the camps, and found himself in the "A" group with seniors at all 14 on campus camps this summer. He is excited about this coming season, but is already talking about wanting to get back to Oklahoma and be the MVP next season. Thanks for putting on these events. They give kids an opportunity to show what they can do, and ways to drive themselves to get better. I know you probably get thousands of emails per day, but I sincerely appreciate what you do. I hope that when I hang up the whistle in a few years I can find a way to get involved with you and help in any way possible. God bless," Coach Wayne Wilkes Walker High School
The Charleston events that occurred could not have been better. The competition was great. The coaches were accessible, helpful, and positive. The facilities were easy to get to and, since they were in Charleston, provided many other activities for our family over the break. Perhaps, most impressive, was the organizational skills your staff exhibited in pulling so many athletes from all over the globe together for so many fun events. Thanks again.Angelo Perrucci, Wilson Area HS