Experiencing the Elite 11 through five-star quarterback Walker Howard of St. Thomas More
Walker Howard was in a hurry, he had a flight to catch.
The Elite 11 is the premier high school quarterback competition in the country. Twenty of the best quarterbacks in the nation show off their skills, get coached by the brightest minds in the quarterback industry and work for the chance of being selected to the Elite 11 by the end of the week.
But before Howard could be part of it, he had to get there.
Howard left with his sister and dad from Lafayette at around 11:30 p.m. after St. Thomas More lost in the semifinals of the 7v7 tournament to Teurlings Catholic a little over three hours earlier. He arrived in Baton Rouge and slept for an hour, before hopping in the car again and driving to New Orleans to catch a 4:30 a.m. flight.
When Howard showed up for the Elite 11 complex just shy of noon, he had only been in California for a few hours and was sleep-deprived.
But resting wasn't an option, Howard had to be ready and stay that way. His next three and a half days were about to be nonstop.
Check-in for the Elite 11 was within a four-hour window from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. When Howard arrived he received Nike gear, spoke to the media and took pictures before the first meetings of the week started.
"We got so much gear it was unbelievable," Howard said. "They took a million pictures."
These initial meetings set the expectations for the week and helped the 20 quarterbacks understand what they should get out of the Elite 11 experience.
Dinner was next at 4:30 p.m. before the first and only workout of the day came two hours later. The three-hour session saw Howard compete in a variety of drills, including a "rail shot challenge" in which he finished second place.
Howard didn't go to bed until about 11:15.
Day two kicked off with hot yoga, which Howard described as "a struggle, that was hard." A group bonding session at a nearby beach followed.
"We just kind of hung out at the beach for 10 minutes and then also (had) a big (group) talk about being connected," Howard said. "We all lined up, hooked arms and walked into the ocean. And that was like being connected, walking into the ocean as a team together."
Next came more meetings throughout the day until 4:30. Howard added that a significant aspect of Elite 11 was getting a sneak peek of what the daily grind of a collegiate or professional quarterback is like.
"You're nonstop all day long," Howard said.
A three and a half hour workout session designed to simulate an NFL Pro Day then capped off the day before the quarterbacks went to bed.
Each night before hitting the sack, the group would meet with the coaches to discuss how their day went.
Workouts made up the majority of day three. Howard competed in a trio of them, the first of which was a challenge for him.
"During the first workout, it was a conditioning drill and a target practice," Howard said.
The drill would have the quarterbacks go through five stations for 25 seconds apiece. The exercise "was the kind of drill where they wanted you to see how mentally tough you were like in situations like the fourth quarter."
Howard said drills like this helped him improve as a player each day.
"I felt like I did pretty well each day," Howard said. "But as the days went on, I felt like a progressed in everything."
The main attraction on the final day was the 7v7 competition.
Howard's team featured two fellow Louisiana recruits – Jennings running back Trevor Etienne and University Lab cornerback Austin Ausberry – and was coached by NFL and college quarterbacks tutor Jordan Palmer. Palmer was one of two coaches who worked primarily with Howard throughout the week.
Howard's team won, an accomplishment that he was proud of after his group finished with a 1-2 record during preliminary 7v7 workouts the day before.
"We were struggling on the first day, so I didn't know how we were going to do in the real day the next day (Saturday)," Howard said. "I strive in those moments with a team and being able to lead a team and just having the pressure on me."
When the final day came to a close, Howard was officially named to the Elite 11.
Finally, he could catch up on some sleep.
"I'm still catching up on sleep right now," Howard said.