McALLEN — Two major national high school sports recruiting websites will be represented at a first-of-its-kind high school recruiting combine in the Rio Grande Valley.
The combine will be hosted at the Cavazos Sports Institute, a 20,000 square-foot sports performance training facility opened in 2015, at 2900 Buddy Owens Blvd in McAllen on June 27 by a pair of Valley natives: CJ Cavazos, a recruiting liaison and expert based in San Antonio, and Jaime Cavazos, a strength and conditioning specialist and founder of CSI.
“Jaime and I have always talked about doing something and Jaime is always there and does a bunch of good work for kids in the Valley,” CJ Cavazos said. “I have a separate entity and I kind of help kids in recruiting. Different parents throughout the Valley have hired me to help their sons and daughters get athletic scholarships, so we kind of combined our networks and said, ‘Why don’t we try to do something to help everybody right now?’”
The recruiting combine will be the first non-school, independently hosted event of its kind in the Rio Grande Valley that will include scouts from Rivals.com and 247Sports.com, two predominant networks of national college football and basketball recruiting sites owned by Yahoo! Sports and CBS Sports, respectively.
“I think it’s great that something like this is finally coming down to the Valley,” Edinburg Vela senior quarterback AJ Sotelo said. “I’m pretty sure every athlete down here feels not necessarily overlooked, but I feel like the Valley should be given a chance because the athletes down here can compete with anybody up there. I just think it’s a great thing that 247Sports and Rivals are coming down and putting on that type of combine to really give us Valley athletes the exposure.”
“These are the guys who actually rank guys with stars and so forth and will help with the recruiting process,” Jaime Cavazos said. “So many parents and athletes feel that we don’t get recruited down here. Not to say there’s no excuse, but here’s your opportunity if you want a chance to get exposed here it is. We’re bringing it to you so you don’t have to go anywhere else.”
The combine, which began to gather momentum after Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott lifted the state-wide ban on gyms and health clubs, will be geared predominantly toward high school football recruits, but will also provide testing and measurables for baseball, basketball, track and soccer athletes among others.
Athletes at the McAllen combine will be measured and evaluated in the vertical jump, broad jump, medicine ball throw and a laser-timed 40-yard dash.
It will be the first time any recruiting camp or combine hosted in the Valley will offer laser-measured 40-yard dash times, as well as 20-yard and 10-yard split times.
“Laser times open doors to get kids noticed to play college sports, period,” said CJ Cavazos, whose son, Lejond, is a freshman cornerback at Ohio State. “I have spoken to many head football coaches at DI and DII programs in Texas, and every one of them that I spoke to said, ‘I want all your data. I want to know the height, weight and speed of every kid that shows up.’ Through my recruiting service, the best athlete that comes from the Valley that doesn’t have a scholarship, I’m going to help them for free and not charge their family anything because I want to make this an annual deal and my value to help get kids scholarships is priceless.”
“All of those testing mechanisms give a college coach a great feel to know how explosive a student athlete is. To be able to look at their transcript and tell them this guy really is 5-foot-10 and he’s really 172 pounds, this is his 40-yard dash and this is his film. It does match up. That’s what sports and college sports have come to.”
The scouts from Rivals and 247Sports will in turn create recruiting profiles and upload measurables on their respective websites for all athletes who attend.
Rivals and 247Sports are often regarded as two of the most highly reputable and accurate online recruiting databases nationally for high school football.
“247 is a really, really reliable recruiting site. I’m sure some guys at that combine are going to make a lot of noise, so it’s definitely going to help a lot,” Sotelo said.
The event will give many Valley athletes a first-of-its-kind opportunity locally, especially for athletes who don’t play on travel teams or don’t have the means to travel far for combines in bigger cities.
“The camp down here is going to make it easier for us to come to camp locally. Many of our guys here don’t have the means to travel to camps/combines out of town, so this camp coming locally will definitely be a lot of kids’ one shot to expose themselves and in return (it) will lead to more college signings,” said Micah Lopez, a two-time defensive all-district selection who tallied 260 total tackles as a PSJA North Raider and will be playing linebacker at Mission High in the fall for his senior season.
“One hundred percent, I play on a lot of travel teams for baseball and they definitely do help a lot, and nowadays with social media that helps a lot too. I saw a coach tweet the other day that things have changed so much that all you need now is a phone, a social media app and all you have to do is post what you’re doing,” Sotelo said. “But I think it’s great that they’re coming down because some of the kids can’t necessarily afford the exposure or get out of the Valley. This is really going to help them a lot.”
The inaugural high school football recruiting combine also comes at a fortuitous time for local athletes as many college programs and independent organizers have had to cancel camps and combines in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“With the pandemic being the way that it is with COVID-19, no kids will be able to perform at any college football camps this summer. Every college coach in the country needs data to recruit kids,” CJ Cavazos said. “Our combine will be able to give data that will help kids get an opportunity to at least be seen by DI, DI-AA, DII or DIII coaches. Coaches can watch film, but in order for them to confirm what they watch they need laser times and verified heights and verified weights because that’s how kids get offered scholarships. We are doing that by having the combine.”
“It’s going to be one of the biggest things out there because it’s local and the NCAA has shut down many camps and opportunities this summer due to COVID-19,” Lopez said. “It’s going to be an amazing opportunity for a lot of the locals here to come out and really get good exposure for themselves.”
Athletes will be divided into different sessions of 40-60 people scheduled throughout the day and subdivided further into groups of 10 for each specific exercise to enforce proper social distancing guidelines.
Athletes interested in participating can register online at csitrain.com, and all combine attendees will be required to bring their own gloves and are encouraged to bring track spikes. Participants will also be required to use hand sanitizer upon entering and exiting the facility.
Due to social distancing guidelines, no spectators of any kind will be permitted inside the CSI facility during the combine and athletes may bring their own face mask or covering if desired.