Pressure? What Pressure?
David Sills is your typical 14-year-old—except for the football scholarship to USC. But anything could happen in four years. Exactly what is up to David.
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Or in the film room—in the basement of his parents’ home in Bear—where he watches New Orleans Saints games while channeling Drew Brees, calling out defenses (“combo 24 coverage”), identifying “Mike,” “Will” and “Sam” (middle, weak and strong-side linebackers, respectively), then picking out the open receiver?
Watch David Sills perform for a day or two and you almost forget that he’s 14, and you think maybe Lane Kiffin isn’t crazy after all.
In February, Kiffin, head football coach at the University of Southern California, offered Sills, then 13, a scholarship. David accepted almost immediately, thus becoming the youngest player ever to commit to play football at a major university.
There ensued a collective tongue-clucking from bloggers and sports commentators across the country, many invoking the name of Todd Marinovich. Marinovich was the “Robo-quarterback” of the late ’80s and early ’90s whose development was micromanaged by his father, Marv, a former pro football player and fitness expert.
Raised on a diet that banned junk food, Marinovich began doing pull-ups and sit-ups by age 3. By age 4, he ran eight-minute miles. He played two years at USC, then entered the 1991 NFL draft. He was picked ahead of Brett Favre. The once-shy teenager then became an epic partier.
He lasted only two years with the Oakland Raiders. His life soon spiraled downward due to personal problems and drugs, and his became a cautionary tale of unfulfilled potential and burnout caused by too much pressure at too young an age.
Pressure? What pressure? A lanky, tow-headed eighth-grader at Red Lion Christian Academy in Bear, David Sills seems happy, friendly, mildly mischievous. He likes movies, bowling and meals at Friendly’s. He spends summers at his family’s Rehoboth Beach home, golfing and skim boarding. Sisters Emma, 17, and Abby, 15, help keep him in line, and, says his dad, David N. Sills IV, “He eats more Big Macs than I would like to admit. David is definitely not a machine driven by his parents.”
Denise Sills has weathered the criticism sparked by her son’s verbal commitment, criticism often aimed at her and her husband’s parenting skills. She says no one has ever said anything to her face, and she has stopped reading the blogs.
“You have to know my son,” she says. “He’s going with the flow. I would not allow all this if I thought it was getting out of hand.”
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