NFL YET football re-energized in 11-man movement under new coach Ryan Palmer
Ryan Palmer traveled 38 miles each school day from his home in Mesa to work in Superior.
Now it takes 37 miles to get to NFL YET College Prep Academy as the South Phoenix School’s new head football coach.
Not much has changed in his journey to a championship. It’s just the places that are different.
Instead of looking for talent at Superior High School, he’s looking for students who want to play in the charter school, which received a million dollar grant 26 years ago to create the Youth Education City. Arizona NFL, born because of the upcoming Super Bowl. in the valley for the first time.
Many students come from families facing economic hardship, but are up for the academic challenge of preparing them for college, with the school’s mission to produce critical thinkers and positive influencers.
It’s a reboot year not just for Palmer but for the NFL YET, having canceled his football season last year due to COVID-19.
The team were due to move from 8-a-side football to the 11-a-side game in 2020, which also spoiled the school’s 25th anniversary celebration. The team will make the transition this season.
On Tuesday, the second day of official football training, Palmer had 22 players.
That’s good enough to kick off this 11-man game in South Phoenix, he thinks.
“It’s very similar for the most part,” Palmer said. “It’s eleven-a-side football so I’m excited about it. I think we have a great group of kids here ready to work hard. We will get better every day.”
In 2007, the Senior football program was phased out because there were not enough children playing. The following year, Palmer took over the football program.
Ten years later, he played the Panthers for the 1A 8-man State Championship in 2017. In 2018, he led the Panthers to the title. And the following year, he brought them back to the final.
Now, after leading Superior to the 1A semifinals last year, he will try to grow the NFL YET program and the students he works with.
“We are very happy to be in 11-a-side football (in 2A),” said Armando Ruiz, CEO of NFL YET. “We went out and hired who we think is the best coach in the small schools division.”
It’s like a big school for Palmer. NFL YET, which has students in grades 7 through 12, has about 300 students. Palmer left a school with about 177 students from junior to senior high school.
“It’s a challenge that I wanted to take on,” said Palmer. “I just knew there was a lot of potential here. A chance to do something similar to what I did at Superior and that is to rebuild a program and make it something the whole community can be proud of.
“We have a lot of good people here. A lot of good people are working together. We’re at the beginning. But the potential is very high.”
Quarterback Isaac Ayala is happy to be back on the pitch after canceling last season. He played back his first year and quarterback his second year.
“For me it was devastating because I felt like I was in my freshman year,” Ayala said of last season’s loss. “I was in great shape. I was ready. I also had a great year.”
Palmer made sure there was some familiarity. Former NFL YET quarterback and coach Armando Ruiz Jr., who played for his father, is an assistant coach.
“The best thing he does is put it in their language,” Armando Jr. said. “He puts it on a level where they can just get it and do things with it. don’t have to think too much. It’s using their athleticism to our advantage. “
Quarterback / wide receiver Tre Cushenberry, a three-sport athlete whose athleticism will find him all over the field, said he saw signs of progress by day two of training.
“I see people on the court who have never played before but are very talented,” said Cushenberry. “He managed to get them out.
“I’m just hoping for the best this season. We’re going to go out, work hard and see how many wins we can get.”
The jubilee year will not be completely lost.
“We were disappointed that we couldn’t have celebrated it because of COVID-19,” said Armando Sr .. “However, we will be celebrating it this year.”
There is already a buzz on campus.
Palmer said some of the players in practice on Tuesday were still wearing their school uniforms, recruiting from outside his class.
“I kind of got them excited about it,” Palmer said. “This is what it is about, giving these kids the opportunity to be a part of something special.”
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