Chris Greisen’s 14-year career as a professional quarterback took him to a lot of places.
It didn’t take the Sturgeon Bay native very long to figure out Wisconsin was facing an unlevel playing field compared to others.
“I witnessed down in Texas the spring football (for high schools) and how big that is,” Greisen said. “They had 18 padded practices over a four-week period where they could get after it and teach. They have gym classes where it’s just the football players and they’re running football drills. It’s definitely different down there. They can play it all year round. That’s part of the reason I wanted to bring the 7-on-7 tournament to Green Bay.”
Greisen is hosting his third annual Midwest Elite 7-on-7 football tournament at Green Bay Notre Dame on Saturday. It will feature 11 teams, including Ashwaubenon, Bay Port, De Pere and Green Bay Preble.
“My whole purpose and mission for creating this tournament was to give kids an opportunity to obtain the skills that will help them achieve their dreams of playing college football or professional football,” Greisen said. “It’s not a big piece, but it’s a little piece in helping them prepare.”
The growth of 7-on-7 leagues and tournaments in the area in recent years played a part in sharpening the skills for one of the best quarterback classes the area has ever had last season.
Ashwaubenon’s James Morgan (Bowling Green), Bay Port’s Alec Ingold (Wisconsin) and Green Bay Notre Dame’s Charlie Rotherham (Northern Illinois) will all be competing in NCAA Division I football camps next month. Ingold, who had scholarship offers as a quarterback, will be transitioning to linebacker with the Badgers, while Rotherham is a preferred walk-on quarterback with NIU.
It was an uncommon collection of talent for the Green Bay metro area, which before Morgan had not produced a DI scholarship quarterback since the 1980s.
“I think there is a real bias against Wisconsin’s skill kids in general, not just at the quarterback position,” Ashwaubenon football coach Mark Jonas said. “Very few kids go on as a running back or a wide receiver or a quarterback from Wisconsin even though we have some pretty good athletes here. I think they’ve shown that in all sorts of sports. I think our kids get the short end of the stick.”
“We had a number of (college) coaches come in from out of the state and all they wanted to look at were the offensive linemen. They flat out told us, ‘We’re here to recruit linemen. That’s it.’ They didn’t want to look at anyone else.”
The Green Bay metro area regularly produces DI offensive linemen. There were three area linemen (Bay Port’s Cole Van Lanen, Luxemburg-Casco’s Spencer Kanz, Shawano’s Zeke Gueths) that made DI verbal commitments last month. Ashwaubenon’s Airon Servais also has several DI scholarship offers.
The success of players like Morgan and Ingold could help shift the attention for college coaches to look at other positions as well for talent in the future.
“I’ve seen more DI schools come through De Pere this past offseason than my previous three years combined,” De Pere football coach Chad Michalkiewicz said.
“Every college is looking for an edge. They all have their standard pipelines that they go to. But they’re competing with each other and need to find the new, next big thing. Right now, Northeastern Wisconsin really isn’t a hotbed for Division I. But if someone comes through that builds that exposure, like a Morgan and Ingold, now people are willing to spend that time and money to get up here and take a look.”
Greisen feels part of the reason why DI college coaches tend to favor recruiting skill-position players from southern states is because they have more access to view them in person during the offseason. Besides Texas, many states have expanded or unlimited spring and summer contact between coaches and players.
The WIAA permits high school football coaches to hold five contact days during the summer.
“The (Wisconsin Football Coaches Association) has made it very clear we want to maintain kids playing multiple sports, which is good,” Jonas said. “I don’t think every state believes that.”
The 7-on-7 leagues and tournaments that have popped up in the area in recent years don’t count as contact days since they don’t involve high school coaches giving on-field instruction. They do offer a more flexible option for players to enhance their football skills while balancing play in other sports.
“When I first got this position I wasn’t really for it only because of the unorganized nature of it and inability to coach,” said Michalkiewicz, who is entering his fifth year as head coach at De Pere. “But as I’ve gone through the years, and you try to build your program, you just want your kids thinking football, especially when the season is right around the corner. Anytime kids are doing something progressive with football that’s a good thing.”
Chris Greisen’s Midwest Elite 7-on-7 football tournament
Where: Green Bay Notre Dame High School.
Time: Pool play begins at 9 a.m. There will be a youth game at noon before tournament play begins at 12:45 p.m.
Concessions: There will be full concessions throughout the event with a portion of the proceeds going to help area at-risk youth.