In spring 2010,
David Sills V
made national headlines as a seventh-grader when he made a verbal commitment to play quarterback at USC after head coach Lane Kiffin offered him a scholarship
Sills then went on to start under center on the varsity team at Red Lion Christian Academy (Bear, Del.) in eighth and ninth grades, living up to his billing as one of the top quarterbacks nationally in his class while playing against some of the top teams in the country.
Things got a little strange after that - and it led to recruiting lists dropping his name. He didn't exactly leave, but regardless of the term used, it's apparent that he's back.
In winter 2012, Sills, along with some of his teammates, transferred to a new school, nearby
Eastern Christian Academy (Elkton, Md.)
. The newly established ECA is an accredited blended model high school that utilizes online course work through National Connections Academy as well as traditional in-room teachers to educate its students. It's a high school setting that certainly goes against tradition, at least for now.
"It's a little different," Sills admitted. "But I feel a lot of the schools are leaning toward the online program and I think in the future, whether it's in 15 or 50 years, that's what most schools will be. I just feel like I'm already doing what other people will be doing in the future. So no, I don't really feel like I'm missing out on the ‘true' high school experience."
The Honey Badgers planned to play a full football schedule in the fall of 2012, but a delay in ECA becoming an approved non-member school by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association scared off potential opponents. In addition, teams previously committed to playing ECA quickly dropped the Honey Badgers from their schedules once they realized that the approval had not come through.
"It was devastating to all of us on the team," Sills said. "But Coach [ECA head coach Dwayne Thomas] kept us together working hard and motivated during the offseason. We feel as if we haven't missed a beat at all. I think this team is just as strong, if not better, than last year's because we have more weapons."
When all was said and done, Sills' entire 2012 season consisted of playing in just three games and two scrimmages, and as a result his name disappeared from most "Top" lists of quarterbacks in the Class of 2015.
"I know I've been overlooked in the rankings, blogs and articles," Sills admitted. "But this year is very personal and I'm going to just do as best as I can and hopefully they'll start noticing me again."
Because of the lack of competitive opportunities last year, Sills said his team has taken a slightly different approach to training this offseason.
"This summer has been the hardest summer that my teammates and I have worked since we've been together," the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Sills said. "We did some of the same stuff as usual but did more running and speed work than in the past. We had a track team at ECA and that helped me with my speed work and working on athleticism and flexibility. I've gotten a lot stronger, more athletic and smarter in the last year, and so have the rest of my teammates."
Sills is hoping that the hard work put in throughout the offseason pays off during the 2013 season, which should be very different for the Honey Badgers.
ECA is now officially approved by the MPSSAA as a non-member school and has 11 games on its schedule. The first one went great, a 40-6 thrashing of Champagnat Catholic (Hialeah, Fla.) in which he went 22-for-29 for 307 yards and five touchdowns. It was a spectacular individual effort, but Sills is also focused on the team.
"Since this is ECA's first year of football we want to have a great season and put us on the map and open eyes, and let people see how hard we worked in the offseason and how we click on the field," Sills explained. "A lot of the other people on the team have a lot to prove this year, too. We have several players committed to D-I schools and so we plan to play with emotion and play to the best of our ability to win every game."
In order for ECA to win games, Sills is going to have to be at the top of his game. Coach Dwayne Thomas credits Sills' work ethic as the main reason he believes his junior quarterback will rebound this season as if he never missed a game.
"His work ethic is second to none," Thomas said. "He consistently prepares himself to be the best he can be. From core training to strength training to speed work to watching film, he does all the things that are essential to be a great quarterback."
While Sills is focused on becoming the great quarterback that most expect him to become, he also is aware that USC continues to recruit quarterbacks in his class, recently making offers to Josh Rosen of St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) and Ricky Town of St. Bonaventure (Ventura, Calif.). It's a fact that doesn't bother Sills, but instead, motivates him even more.
"I feel as if I'm ready to compete with anybody in the country," Sills said. "I am confident in my abilities and I know I'll have to compete no matter what and work my butt off to contribute. Whenever my time comes to play, I know I have to work hard no matter who is in there competing against me."
It has been more than three years since Sills verbally committed to play at USC, and when the time finally does come for him to officially sign his letter of intent to play for the Trojans — which is still 18 months away — an entire five-year high school career will have gone by. And while a lot has changed and still could for Sills since making national headlines in seventh grade, he hasn't wavered at all about where he wants to play college football, no matter who is coaching or who his competition might be.
"I am committed to USC."Jon Buzby is the sports columnist for the Newark Post and on the radio broadcast team for the 1290 The Ticket High School Football and Basketball Games of the Week. Follow him @JonBuzby on Twitter.