When the Team USA youth football squads lace ’em up this ummer against international competition, they will be getting some help from a pair of Nevada Union Junior Miners.
Local footballers Garrett Graves, 12, and Chris Hubble, 15, earned their way onto Team USA at a March 17 tryout in Hayward.
“I don’t think I could have a bigger football honor,” Hubble said. “To represent my country and play other countries is just the biggest honor.”
Hubble, who wrapped his Junior Miner career this year and will play at the freshmen level next season, will be a member of the Team USA 15-and-under squad. Hubble said he will be playing linebacker for Team USA.
Graves, who has been a Junior Miner since he was 6 years old, will play cornerback for the 14-and-under squad. This is the first year a 14-and-under team has been offered.
“I’m obsessed with football,” Graves said. “I like corner because you’re one of the most important positions. You have all the outside containment, and that’s a big responsibility, and you get to tackle and hit.”
At the March tryout in Hayward, Graves said he was a little smaller and younger than most of the other 600 athletes competing for only 15 spots on the team from the region.
“It was a little bit different because there wasn’t anybody really my age,” Graves said. “But once we got going, it just felt like practice.”
At the tryout, Graves and Hubble were evaluated by a multitude of coaches from all levels of football.
“There were a ton of coaches out there,” Graves said. “College coaches, some ex-NFL players, NFL coaches, and it was a privilege to be out there.”
After the two-day camp, where athletes were run through drills and measured in a litany of other football related aspects, Graves and Hubble were given the Team USA nod via email.
“It was awesome,” Graves said. “I was chosen to play for the USA team. We will be going to Canton, Ohio, at the end of June and play other countries, and I get to play with new kids on a new team.”
Graves said he won’t meet his teammates until he gets to Canton in late June.
When in Ohio, Team USA will compete in a jamboree against other teams from Sweden, China, Canada and Australia, as well as visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame, compete in drills, go through film sessions and go through player development sessions.
“I have a lot of excitement for everything,” Hubble said. “I think the best part is getting to go out and show my skills and see how I stack up against others from around the country.”
The fact that Hubble has this opportunity is partly due to countless hours of hard work put in with a football training team called Never Give Up or NGU, Hubble said.
Hubble trains multiple times a week, under the guidance of Duane Daniels, along with several other young football players trying to improve their skill sets.
NGU runs drills that focus on improving footwork, speed, agility and technique, said Daniels.
“NGU is a huge part of me making Team USA,” Hubble said. “They are really excited for me, and all my hard work is paying off.”
For Graves, he said he trains on the weekends and after school, and if it weren’t for his coaches, he may not have had this opportunity.
Graves said Dennis Houlihan, Anthony Lang and Scott Wheeler have all been instrumental in him getting to where he is today.
“I just think its an honor,” he said. “It will be a lot of fun, and I will learn a lot. I want to thank my coaches for helping me and training me.”
Graves also wrestles, plays baseball, skateboards, surfs and snowboards.
The two will get their Team USA journey started June 29 and will return home July 5.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.