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May 4, 2013
Rivals Camp Chicago: The buzz
Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
PARK RIDGE, ILL. -- The list of linebackers made famous on Soldier Field is a lengthy one -- and it begins in the early days of the NFL.
After strong performances at the Rivals Camp Series
Crete (Ill.) Crete Monee middle linebacker Nyles Morgan and Clifton Garrett, a SAM prospect out of Joliet (Ill.) Plainfield South, earned invitations to the circuit-ending Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge to be held on the field of the Chicago Bears June 7-9.
It is an early glimpse of what the future of each may be.
"So many greats have played on that field," Garrett said. "It'd be an honor to step foot on that field as well."
Garrett is the No. 53 player in the Rivals100, and at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds he came into the event with all the measurables.
Although Garrett participated only in the morning session before tweaking an ankle injury, Rivals.com regional analyst Josh Helmholdt said that his game is matched by the intangibles college coaches want from a linebacker.
"He is a natural leader and a smart, charismatic kid," Helmholdt said. "And he loves to hit people. There have been plenty of running backs who have gotten up with snot bubbles after he delivered a blow."
Garrett said he models his game not after Urlacher or Singletary but San Francisco 49er players Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman.
"My family is all die-hard Bears fans, but I have liked the Niners for five years," he said. "Willis and Bowman are two guys that I look up to."
Dividing loyalties on Sundays will not split the pride they all will share as Garrett competes against the best in the nation.
"I know my friends and family will love to see it," he said. "It will be really cool and a good feeling for me, too."
Morgan entered the regional event as the No. 70 player in the Rivals100 and measured in at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds.
Helmholdt said Morgan is a natural fit on the inside of a defense.
"He is a kid who has an outstanding nose for the football," Helmholdt said. "He reads, scrapes and flows as well as any linebacker in this class. As a middle linebacker he can also play in space, and that is pretty rare."
Morgan grew up a Bears fan, but his first time in the stadium will be as a participant.
"I have never been to Soldier Field," he said. "It is pretty cool for this to be a first time for me. It should be pretty exciting.
"It will be amazing to play against the best of the best; what gets better than that?"
Helmholdt said he was not surprised the final regional camp of the season produced two players qualified for the national event.
"Culturally, Illinois prides itself on playing the position," he said. "It is the mentality of this state: hard-nosed, physical football players."
Another Nagle in the backfield
Former Louisville Cardinal and NFL quarterback Browning Nagle patrolled the sidelines of the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour unable to coach up close.
It was tough to stand and watch, but as hard as it was for him it was a move that he said should have happened years ago.
His son, B.J. Nagle, was participating in the drills and looking to gain exposure in his recruiting process.
"I wish I had done this sooner," the elder Nagle said from outside the gated field. "I was blind to the level of work (Rivals) puts on, and it is good for (B.J.) to go through the drills."
The family moved from Tennessee to Kentucky in January, and the 6-foot-2, 225-pound prospect transferred to Louisville (Ky.) St. Xavier from Memphis (Tenn.) Briarcrest.
The new pass-happy offense will allow him to showcase his skills.
"Right now, I am loving it," B.J. Nagle said. "We are getting to the time to get things together with everyone and the head coach. It is all coming together nicely."
Following in his father's footsteps wasn't the plan, but the younger Nagle likes what is happening at the local school.
"My dad played for Louisville, and being a legacy would be really cool," B.J. said. "Coach Sean Watson had done a great job with Teddy Bridgewater; seeing him come out of high school and where he is now and seeing his progression as a player has been incredible."
What was eye-opening to his famous father was how accelerated the process has become.
Browning said he blames himself for his son's slow going.
"First, I tell him I am sorry," he said. "I didn't know all this stuff started as a sophomore. I took him to events I was coaching at when he was a rising sophomore and a rising junior and he did well, but I didn't know he should actually be out there competing on his own.
"If I had known that, I would have stepped away earlier. I was doing all of that stuff to help guys just like him a few years ago. I think he is as good as anyone. That is not dad talk; that is from a guy who evaluates players."
B.J. said his father's experience has been a blessing and he feels the college process will take care of itself.
"He's done a great job of trying to eliminate the whole coming and following in his footsteps," B.J. said. "He does a great job of being a dad first. He has always been there for me; he has been my own coach, which is great.
"He does a lot of good things and tries to keep it about me and stay away from it as much as possible. He is always there and always ready to throw if I want."
Smith has aspirations
The 6-foot-3, 265-pound defensive tackle foresaw the pledge before he received the offer.
"I had created myself on campus legend in the video game, and I went to Michigan State," he said. "So when they offered me a scholarship and I committed it was just amazing."
For the No. 28-ranked defensive tackle in the county, the goal does not end at just getting to East Lansing but rather a stop in New York City.
"I always told myself since I was 7 or 8 years old that I was going to be the first defensive lineman to win the Heisman Trophy," he said.
"I never want to root against anybody but I also know that I want to be the first, so whatever happens happens," Smith said.
"I know deep down in my heart that I am going to win the Heisman Trophy."