NORCROSS, Ga. — “I actually hated camps as a kid. It’s no fun to stand in lines with 200-300 people.”
Despite Davis Mills status as a consensus five-star quarterback, with many outlets ranking him as the top quarterback recruit of the 2017 class, he took issue with many of the summer football camps that fielded hundreds of participants. The opportunities at such camps were sparse and the one-on-one coaching was almost non-existent.
There was one camp that he did really enjoy. During his seventh grade season, a quarterback coach named Tony Ballard hosted a camp called “Golden Arm.” It was a smaller group of quarterbacks with ample one-on-one teaching opportunities that addressed the fundamentals young quarterbacks needed entering high school.
Ten years later, Tony Ballard has served as Mills’ private quarterback coach for over a decade and the two set out this summer to recreate that atmosphere for young quarterbacks.
“The Davis Mills Quarterback Challenge” invited just 24 quarterbacks from 13 different states to compete both on-the-field and in the classroom. The camp’s counselors included Mills, Ballard, Houston Texans quarterback Jeff Driskel, and several current quarterbacks who are committed to playing FBS football.
For Davis Mills, the quarterback challenge represents an opportunity for him to give back to the next generation of young players.
“First off, I’m really excited to give back to all these kids. I really wanted to set something up that was actually a smaller event for some select guys where we were able to give them a lot back and teach them a lot. Hopefully they’re able to take some really good teaching points from this week and incorporate it into their game. Tony Ballard my quarterback coach from back here in Atlanta put something similar to this on when I was in about sixth or seventh grade, similar age to these kids, and that was one of my favorite camps. I learned a ton and we’re really trying to emulate that this week and make sure they’re learning stuff on and off the field. We want them to learn the classroom part of the game so they can develop and become better quarterbacks.”
Beyond the on-field focus on the fundamentals of the game, passing, and footwork, much of the camp’s emphasis is about the classroom. When players arrived on Friday, they were immediately thrown into multiple classroom sessions and informed they would be tested after practice the next day. Mills says the goal is to challenge the young players to have earlier exposures to the concepts that will largely dictate the rest of their careers.
“(This is) the foundation of what they’re going to learn in all the years of football ahead. In youth football there isn’t a ton of different formations or coverages for them to see.”
Coach Ballard, despite largely focusing on quarterback’s on-field mechanics, echoed that sentiment of pushing quarterbacks mentally.
“The whole objective of this camp is to see what kind of information they can retain mentally and then physically put it to use. They talked about coverages, over-hang defenders, protections, and understanding zones.”
The camp features some of the best quarterback prospects in the class of 2027 and the class of 2028 in what is undoubtably a remarkable opportunity to improve and focus on their game at such a young age.
Despite having to focus on preparing for his first full season as a starting NFL quarterback, Mills believes the teaching has value for his own improvement.
Definitely. I wouldn’t say I’m learning or developing too much out here but it reinforces and enhances your foundational beliefs of the quarterback position. You get to share what you believe is beneficial to the next generation of kids.
Mills will need to be at his absolute best for Houston to shock the world this upcoming season. So far this summer, after an excellent draft and an off-season of praise from the coaching staff, it would appear that Mills and the team are both doing everything they can to put him in that position.
Houston fans will certainly be rooting that Mills dedication to the game carries the team to wins.