THIS SUMMER - in the midst of our ongoing Olympic obsession - most of America might've missed the news that quarterback Tate Martell, a 14-year-old entering the eighth grade in San Diego, committed verbally to play football at the University of Washington starting in 2017.
(Of course, some of you may recall USC's Lane Kiffin getting a verbal commitment a couple of years ago from seventh-grade quarterback David Sills, 13, of Bear, Del.; if that kid's smart, he got something in writing about Kiffin staying at USC and USC staying off probation.)
Naturally, some folks are up in arms about this robbing-the-cradle-to-find-the-next-John-Hadl scenario; I am not. It's no different than prodigies in, say, tennis or gymnastics following a dedicated, athletic course of action well before their teen years, to optimize their potential.
In fact, the Tate Martell signing is part of a growing trend in America, to grab the best and the brightest early in the work-and-life cycle.
Some notable recent examples:
"He's our wakeup call into the 20th century," said Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe.
"Jimmy's always been fascinated by envelopes," his mother, Amanda, said. "We even used to pull him out of school to let him stand in line at the post office all day."
Reached during recess, Jimmy said his immediate goals were a return to the pony express ("I love ponies") and convincing Santa Claus ("he's a friend") to switch the bulk of his overnight-shipping business from UPS to the USPS.
"Joey rides a bike through some tough communities," NASA administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr. explained, "and the Curiosity rover has shown us that the terrain of a good deal of eastern Mars closely resembles the pothole-marked streets of Trenton."
"The kid's a whiz with Angry Birds and Temple Run," beamed IBM chairman Samuel J. Palmisano. "Hell, we saw him create an entire new operating system for our Linux on Power Performance Simulator while attending a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese's two weekends ago.