It was 10 a.m. two weeks ago on a Saturday and 11-year-old David Sills was not sitting in front of the TV watching cartoons. Instead, Sills practiced on the Red Lion Christian Academy football field, working on drills with a personal trainer from California.
Sills, a native of Bear, Del., has worked with Steve Clarkson, a quarterback’s coach from Pasadena, Calif. Clarkson runs the most expensive quarterback academy in the United States. Air 7 Quarterback University charges $1,400 for a four-day training session with Clarkson.
He trained NFL and college stars like the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger, Arizona Cardinals’ Matt Leinart, Virginia Tech freshman Tyrod Taylor and Notre Dame freshman Jimmy Clausen.
David Sills IV, Sills’ father, said his son attended Delaware’s football camp when he was eight years old and went to the Philadelphia Eagles camp at West Chester University the following year. At the Eagles’ camp, Sills won the award for the best quarterback in the 9/10-year-old division.
Shortly following the camp, Sills’ father said he saw an article in USA Today about Clarkson, so Sills IV called the coach.
I called him and he was never calling me back, he said.
Clarkson, whose youngest trainee before Sills was 13, said he was initially hesitant about training Sills, not because of his age, but because of the volume of calls he receives from parents wanting training for their children.
I really didn’t take it seriously, Clarkson said. “Parents don’t understand the commitment involved. I assumed it was like the others.”
Finally, after receiving persistent calls for days, Clarkson returned Sills IV’s calls. Since Clarkson had such a busy schedule, Sills IV would have to commit to a one-week session in Pasadena.
Clarkson said at first Sills looked like any other quarterback his age, but by day three, things began to click. Sills was tired and fought through the fatigue, which impressed Clarkson.
Three weeks after the Pasadena tryout, Clarkson flew to Delaware to watch the young quarterback in his own environment.
I was pretty astonished, Clarkson said of Sills’ ability to retain the information learned three weeks earlier. “David is ahead of the curve because of his knowledge at his age.”
Sills, a 5-foot-4-inch, 100-pound fifth grader, currently attends Red Lion Christian Academy and plays on his father’s Pop Warner team in the New Castle County Football League. Through six games, Sills has nine touchdown passes in a league where teams predominately run the ball.
Choosing a high school for Sills to attend is currently on his father’s agenda for the young quarterback.
We have to find a high school that’s conducive for a quarterback, Sills IV said.
Sills travels around the country to countless football camps, including seven this year. For an 11-year-old, this might sound like a lot, but Sills’ father said it is fun for the entire family.
Is it too much too early? For some kids it is, he said. “[David’s] a kid – acts like a kid, plays like a kid. He’s doing something he loves. It’s a lot of fun for the whole family. It’s not a job. I told him, ‘As long as you love it, we’ll do it.’ “
On the field, Sills is all business. His surfer-length blond hair waves in the wind every time he lets the ball loose. After being commended by Clarkson for making a good pass, Sills turns around and flashes a smile, which is half-hidden by braces which cover his upper and lower teeth, as he turns towards his father who proudly watches his son.
Sills IV played quarterback at Newark High School and switched between quarterback and defensive back throughout his college career at Virginia Military Institute.
He knows more now than I knew in college, Sills IV said about his son’s football knowledge.
Not only can Sills throw with accuracy and precision, but the power of his throws can sting the hands of teammates and even his dad.
Sills IV does not think too far down the road in regards to his son’s potential. At the moment, Sills IV is focused on his Pop Warner team rather than how successful his son will be in high school, college or beyond.
You really don’t know what it’ll turn out to be, he said. “Right now, I want to win the championship for 11 and 12 [year olds].”
Sills said his favorite football players are Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees because of their leadership ability on their respective teams.
Sills said he likes traveling around the country for football camps and decided California has been his favorite place to visit.
There’s a lot more kids out there, he said. “They just treat me like a kid. A kid playing football.”