Canzano: Early offer comes with valuable advice
Ducks offer scholarship to eighth grader, Josiah Molden.
Alex and his wife Christin have eight children. They recently welcomed their first grandchild. It was big news in the family.
You may remember Alex as an NFL defensive back or a star in college at the University of Oregon. You may even know that one of their middle sons, Elijah, attended Washington and now suits up for the Tennessee Titans. But I doubt you know that Christin works as a substitute teacher at a local elementary school.
She’s a rock-star educator according to my 6-year-old, who had Ms. Molden in class this week.
The Moldens run a tight ship. We’ve observed their children for years and even had one of the family’s teenaged daughters babysit our kids. The Molden children are independent, confident, focused, kind and godly. I’ve told Alex and Christin they ought to write a parenting book. I’d buy the first copy.
I have no doubt that the coaching staff at Oregon heard a lot of the same stuff because coach Dan Lanning didn’t wait for Josiah Molden, a middle-schooler, to spend a day in high school before he offered him a scholarship.
“Eighth grade? This is foreign to me,” Alex said to me. “Eighth grade was the first year I even played tackle football.”
Josiah was understandably thrilled with the offer from Oregon. He’s put in a lot of work and rooted for the Ducks for years. The football coaches at West Linn High can’t wait for him to suit up, either. Still, what impressed me most with the whole development was the reaction of his parents to all the football talk in the last week.
His mother, Christin, was stoked for her son. But she seemed just as thrilled last week with welcoming that new grandchild who may never play a single down of football.
His father, Alex, told me: “We tell the kids, ‘Understand, this is NOT who you are, it’s what you do.’ I’ve been on that other side. I put so much focus, time and energy on it. It did become who I was. When I stepped away from (football), I was lost. I don’t want my kids or anybody to feel like that.”
In the wake of UO’s gesture, there was some understandable discussion in the Pac-12 footprint about whether it’s appropriate for a college to make an offer to an eighth grader. But Oregon isn’t alone with the strategy.
It’s not unusual for college programs to offer scholarships to young players. It’s an effective way to demonstrate early interest. I covered Purdue basketball as a beat reporter when Gene Keady was coach in the 1990s. Keady caused a stir in the Big Ten when he offered scholarships to a pair of Indiana middle schoolers. He got the jump because he was trying to beat Indiana University and Bob Knight to the in-state talent. Neither kid ended up playing at Purdue.
Brandon Huffman is a national recruiting editor for 247Sports. I asked him about Josiah Molden’s offer from Oregon this week. He said, “It was funny to watch how certain fan bases reacted to the offer even as their own schools do the same thing. The game has changed. If there’s a no-brainer, you have to offer him.”
Oregon’s coaches were delicate with the process. They initially contacted head football coach Jon Eagle at West Linn High. Eagle called Alex Molden. Josiah wasn’t aware of what was happening. He was instructed to call a phone number at 5 p.m. last Wednesday night. Oregon’s staff picked up and extended the scholarship offer.
“He was surprised,” Alex said.
Josiah has both a father (first-round pick) and brother (third round) who were drafted by NFL teams. He has work ethic, focus and talent. Huffman told me that he thinks Josiah is the best “going-to-be high schooler” from the state of Oregon since Talanoa Hufanga, who went to USC. Be sure, there will be a line of offers from other schools. Lanning wanted to be the first, no doubt, to avoid losing another Molden kid to UW.
The Huskies may not want to look like a copycat, but I’m guessing Kalen DeBoer won’t be far behind with an offer himself. (Older brother, Elijah, incidentally, was offered his first football scholarship at the end of his ninth-grade year.)
“There’s not a lot of guys you can see as an eighth grader and say he’s going to be special,” Huffman told me of Josiah, “but he’s the one.”
It’s going to be fun to see how far Josiah takes his football talent. But I’m left thinking today about the advantage of solid parenting.
Alex Molden tells his kids: “Know who you are. Know what your passions are. Move forward. Don’t let this thing define who you are.”
There are a lot of grown-ups walking around who identify themselves with their occupation. It’s not difficult to lose your way. The work-life balance is mixed up in all of this. I have to continually remind myself that this column and my radio show aren’t really my identity. Those things aren’t who I am. They’re what I do.
A lesson for the kids?
But it’s not a bad thought for the rest of us.
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As a youth football coach I have two prospects that are being approached by a couple of colleges. One is mine and the other kids big brother is a lineman at George Washington who will be going to the NFL 2nd round next year.
We already have enough issue with parents thinking their 8th grader is the next to go to the NFL.
We should block colleges from offering or even talking to these kids until their Jr year of HS. It’s way to much pressure for these kids, especially if they have season or career ending injuries I.e. my oldest.
It really does turn their parents into monsters, as coaches have to deal with these parents. Especially when they think their kid is the best when they are not even close.
Please let the kids play a fun game and have fun doing it.
Kids are sometimes smarter than we think - my son played one year of tackle football - 5th grade. At the end of the season I asked how he liked it, and he responded: "I look at you, I look at mom, and I'll never be 6'4", 240 lbs will I?" I responded, probably not. He responded back: I think I'll stick with soccer!