Can a kid be too young to start planning for future stardom as an NFL quarterback? Peewee players now have their sights set on the pros and their parents are paying hundreds of dollars an hour to a former college quarterback to help produce the next Peyton Manning. Morley Safer talks to Steve Clarkson, the "Quarterback Guru," who says the new norm to get to the NFL as a quarterback starts with a tutor like him training kids as young as 8. Safer's story will be broadcast on 60 Minutes Sunday, Dec. 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. PT.
Clarkson is working with a 9-year-old who, if he's good enough by the age of 12, could be offered a scholarship to a Division 1 college team -- the standard route to the NFL. Asked by Safer if kids that age or even younger are being considered, Clarkson replies, "Without question, it has happened and...that is the new line, so to speak. The new normal."
Clarkson has been teaching kids the quarterback position for over 25 years and over 100 of his protégés have made it to Division 1 or the NFL, among them Pittsburgh Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger, and the Minnesota Vikings' Josh Freeman.
Most often, it is the parents who find Clarkson. Craig McLaughlin takes his 12-year-old son Aaron from their home in Atlanta to Los Angeles once a month for quarterback lessons from Clarkson. He says his son showed talent at his position and so he wanted his son to be evaluated by someone as experienced as Clarkson. It's a major financial commitment for the McLaughlins. "I don't know what the future has to hold," he tells Safer, "but the one thing that he's going to know...when he set his mind to something, we believe in him and he's going to have that sense of confidence."
Brady White, 17, is one of Clarkson's best prospects. The Los Angeles teen has a chance to fulfill a dream, for him and his parents. "How many people get to...start at quarterback in high school and then go on to college and play in front of millions of fans, in front of TV," asks his father, Deron. "Doing what they love," adds White's mother, Andrea. "That's a dream come true," says Deron. Asked about the danger of playing quarterback, Deron responds, "Driving down the street is a dangerous event in California...he's enjoying football. Look, we've worked on footwork to get away from the big guys chasing him."
Besides the dangers of the sport, some critics says that adolescents are just too young to be targeted for scholarships and NFL futures. CBS Sports Network Analyst and former NFL linebacker Bart Scott is one such critic. He didn't want his son to play football, but when the child was determined, he volunteered to coach to have a hands-on role in proper instruction. But he wonders what the impact of big college football's pursuit of talent from so young an age. "Universities and people...are in that business...to make a profit...Everybody wants to be ahead of the curve," says Scott.And so do the parents and their children, says Clarkson. Asked if kids were too young, he says that's just the way the game is played now. "Because of the way training is nowadays...if you're playing the quarterback position, you pretty much have to dedicate yourself, you know, 10, 11, 12 months out of the year, because your competition is doing that," he tells Safer.