For most high school football players, early January is a time to hit the gym and work off any bad weight gained during the holiday season.
York Suburban linebacker/fullback Keyvon Wright, however, will spend early January next year in Hawaii playing in a high school all-star game. Wright, who will be a senior next season, was selected to play in the Hawaii Tiki Bowl in early January of 2020.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Wright said. “Honestly, I was so excited when I starting researching it and looking into it.”
Joel Hill, national recruiting director for the Tiki Bowl, said the selection process is different than some other events. He said NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) and junior college coaches recommend players to the Tiki Bowl’s selection committee and they send out invitations to the best players.
“I had no idea,” Wright said. “I just got a text on my phone that said I was invited, and I couldn’t believe it.”
About the Tiki Bowl: Hill said the Tiki Bowl, which includes two days of practice, sightseeing in Hawaii and the game itself, is entering its 12th year. This year's event runs from from Jan. 1-6, 2020.
This year, Hill expects the bowl to have four teams of 25-30 players from across the United States. Most of the players, Hill said, are those being recruited by NAIA, junior college or non-NCAA Division I colleges.
College coaches from different regions are brought in to coach the teams. The event, Hill said, isn’t a recruiting event, though he said there have been situations when a kid performs well at the Tiki Bowl and soon receives an offer.
“It’s very exciting to be given the opportunity to showcase my skills in front of some college coaches,” Wright said.
The experience is expensive, however. It costs about $3,000, which covers airfare, hotel, sight-seeing, game jerseys and other amenities.
“The whole purpose of this is to give them a chance to experience a beautiful place like Hawaii and play the sport they love,” Hill said. “It’s a great opportunity for kids to have a great ending to a really good high school career.”
About Wright: As a junior last season, Wright was one of the team leaders at inside linebacker and fullback
As a linebacker, which Wright said he prefers to play if he pursues playing in college, Suburban head coach Andy Loucks said he’s “versatile.”
“He does a good job of plugging against the run,” Loucks said. “He mostly plays inside linebacker but he also can play outside. He’s physical at the point of attack.”
Wright has been on varsity since his freshman season and Loucks said that’s why he’s advanced with his knowledge of the game.
“He was forced to play early because of our numbers,” Loucks said. “It was a constant learning process for him. He learned the game because of that. Since he played so early, he was able to learn the schemes and how things fit together. Now the mental part is one of his biggest strengths.”
Wright, who is currently 6-foot, 225 pounds, said he’s developed physically, too.
“Since coming in freshman year, I’ve put on more weight and muscle mass so I can keep up with those guys,” he said.
On offense, Wright played some tight end his first two seasons before transitioning to fullback last year.
“He can catch the ball well out of the backfield, and he runs it well, too,” Loucks said.
Loucks said Wright’s physicality and ability to adjust makes him an interesting prospect for college coaches.
“He would fit in as a Mike in a 4-3 look, and then if they run an odd man look, he could play one of the inside positions,” Loucks said. “They could also transition him down to a tackle or an end position. When he gets into a college weight program and gets after it in there, he’s going to excel.”
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.