Looking Back At Nike's 'The Opening': Where Stars Of The Future And Present Collide

"What is "The Opening?", you're probably asking. It's a Nike-sponsored event that features 150 of the best high school football players in the United States competing in a series of conditioning tests, as well as 7-on-7 drills. Like the NFL combine, basically, but with more competition, and lots of awesome gear from Nike. Plus, NFL stars like Ndamukong Suh.

Here's his intro video for the kids.

This brought me to Portland this past weekend, where I was a guest of Nike. We'll have a few different features in the next few days, but a few initial impressions are after the jump.

-- Sometimes, you don't realize how much you miss something until seeing it up close. And by "you", I mean me. More than anything else, watching the week's training unfold just made me ready for the NFL Lockout to end, college football to get started, and for fall to arrive, like, yesterday.

-- For instance, it's hard not to love watching Ndamukong Suh take a young lineman aside to give him a handful of coaching tips. We'll have more on Suh's growing appeal later on, but with this specific instance, the novelty's sort of self-explanatory.

It's not every day that a 17 year-old kid gets coached up by an NFL superstar, but Suh seems genuinely excited at the chance to pass on a few secrets. It's a testament to Suh, but also to the camp and to the game, itself. NFL players love the chance to teach younger guys their tricks, and the younger guys love the chance to learn. One of those little moments that reminds you how cool sports can be sometimes. This is how torches get passed.

-- You might think an event like this is relatively meaningless, but for sites like Burnt Orange Nation, it's an invaluable glimpse into the future of their football program.

-- Nike couldn't have been better hosts. To the media, yes, but especially to the players. Each high school star got hooked up with the newest gear from Nike Football, and got the chance to hang out in a state-of-the-art players' lounge with catered food, PlayStations, and even a full-time barber. In other words, for 17 year-old kids, this amounts to the best summer camp of all time.

-- The NFL Players who came out to offer coaching services included Ndamukong Suh, Ravens running back Ray Rice, Cardinals rookie Patrick Peterson, Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, and Hall-of-Fame wideout Jerry Rice. Not a bad group.

-- If you're into college football recruiting, you can read more player notes at CBS Sports, for whom Bryan Fischer was scouting all week long. Here's one note from Texas recruit Jonathan Gray:

"It's been great. Playing against the top recruits, competing against each other, having fun in the lounge, it's great. ... If you've got the top 150 kids in the country, you expect nothing but the best. That's what you get (from Nike). They're treating us like superstars out here. We're just enjoying our time."

Again, pretty much the best summer camp of all time. Look for more from The Opening later today, and a full recap of the weekend tomorrow morning. Until then, you can read more at Nike, where they have full rosters from the camp, and details on each day's events.

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