Ohio State’s summer camps for high school football players attract a wide variety of young athletes to Columbus, from local kids who just want to live their dreams of playing football at Ohio State for a day to prospects from all over the country who are looking to impress the Buckeyes’ coaches.
No one traveled from farther away to get to Thursday’s one-day camp at Ohio State, however, than the group of 30 college football hopefuls in attendance as part of Premier Prospects International’s DreamChasers Tour.
In its third annual DreamChasers Tour, PPI has brought together some of the best young football players from all over Europe for an opportunity to travel the country and work out at camps at some of the United States’ top college football programs in hopes of earning scholarship offers from Division I schools.
The tour – which has stopped at Ohio State in the past – has more prospects than ever before. After bringing 14 players to the United States in 2017 and 20 players on the tour in 2018, 30 players are in the tour group currently in the United States – many of whom have already earned Division I scholarship offers. Fifteen others will come to the United States as part of a second tour group later this month.
Brandon Collier, the founder of PPI, believes his group is making a statement that there are talented football players to be found outside the United States, and that college football coaches – even at marquee programs like Ohio State – should be taking notice.
“I wanted these guys to compete vs. the best talent in the world,” said Collier, a Cleveland native who played at the University of Massachusetts and later played in the NFL, CFL and professionally in Europe before turning his focus to coaching European football players. “Every camp that we went to, our guys showed up well, so I believe we have some of the best players in the world.”
Collier’s group of players arrived in New York on May 30 and have had a busy travel itinerary ever since, making trips to Mercer, Alabama, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Cincinnati before Thursday’s trip to Ohio State. They visited Michigan State on Friday and are also scheduled to make trips to Michigan, Notre Dame and Penn State before they return to Europe.
All that travel hasn’t been easy, but they’re willing to make that sacrifice for the chance to impress college football coaches from all over the country and make their dreams of playing college football in the United States come true.
“Biggest challenge is the very long bus rides, very long plane flights,” said Samuel Leon Bhoedjang, a wide receiver from the Netherlands. “That’s terrible, but when you come to a camp, you just have to give 100 percent and be the best you can.”
Football players who grow up outside the United States are at an inherent disadvantage when it comes to being noticed by American college football coaches. Most high schools don’t have organized American football teams, so many players in Europe – where football typically refers to soccer – play on club teams instead. Most coaches from the United States aren’t making recruiting trips overseas, either.
That’s what inspired Collier to launch PPI Recruits, a recruiting database for players outside the United States, and organize an annual tour for some of the best international prospects in the world. Collier hosts a series of camps across Europe, while also talking to other coaches across the continent, to determine which players should be offered the chance to be a part of the tour.
“I just saw so much young talent that I knew that there was a market to get these kids here,” Collier said. “So I just count my blessings with God that he opened up a door for me to do something to help kids.”
By going to camps at schools like Ohio State and Alabama and Clemson, the players get the opportunity to put their skills to the test against some of the top high school football players in the United States.
“It’s just a huge opportunity to compete against the best and to just get better, which is my goal,” said Marcel Dabo, a defensive back from Germany. “In Europe, we don’t have that competition.”
None of the 30 players who attended Thursday’s camp at Ohio State received offers from the Buckeyes, but some of them did receive offers from other Football Bowl Subdivision schools that were in attendance, including Rutgers, Akron and Kent State.
The top prospects in the group currently touring the United States including cornerbacks Jairo Faverus and Richard Agyekum, who both hold offers from Penn State (among others); defensive linemen Hugo Klages and Tyrese Owusu-Bediako, whose offers include Cincinnati and Florida Atlantic; and tight ends Roberto Miranda, Maximilian Mang and Viktor Wikstrom, who have all received offers from Eastern Michigan. Miranda also holds offers from Cincinnati, Connecticut and Georgia Tech, among others.
“There was no words from my mouth to describe how excited I was,” Owusu-Bediako said of receiving his first offer from FAU, which came after camping at Mercer. “I didn’t know how to react. I thought I was going to be kind of humble-ish and stuff, but I was just like, I couldn’t speak.”
Collier’s group had the opportunity to meet Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and tour the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Wednesday before participating in Thursday’s camp, while Clemson “rolled out the red carpet” for the group and Alabama coach Nick Saban spent time meeting with Faverus in his office.
All of that helps legitimize the DreamChasers Tour as one that could produce high-level FBS talent, as the first two tours already have. Previous tour participants who are now playing or committed to play at major college football programs include Julius Welschof, a defensive end at Michigan; Isaac Moore, who enters this season as Temple’s starting left tackle; Joseph Appiah Darkwa, an incoming defensive tackle at Penn State; and Alexander Ehrensberger, a defensive end commit in Notre Dame’s class of 2020, among others.
Still, Collier believes that many schools are overlooking his players. He hasn’t been shy about promoting his prospects on Twitter and saying when he doesn’t believe they’re getting the attention they deserve.
“If these kids were playing in Northeast Ohio somewhere, they’d be four- or five-star recruits, most of them,” Collier said. “So if you give these kids an opportunity, they’re going to come through for you.”
Schools like Ohio State that can attract some of the top players from all over the United States to come to Columbus might not soon be inclined to start taking recruiting trips to Europe, but Collier is hopeful that PPI will eventually be able to host its own camp and attract college football coaches to come to them.
For now, they’re touring the country with a mission to put more international players in Division I college football programs than ever before.
As both Dabo and Collier pointed out, many countries in Europe offer free or low-cost college education to all students, so they could choose to stay in their homelands and take advantage of that. The tour’s participants all have their sights set on earning scholarships from college football programs in America, though, to pursue their dreams of playing the sport at a high level.
“The reason they come here is to play football,” Collier said. “Of course education is a priority, but they only come to this country to really play football. So they’re going to give you everything they got.”
After the current tour group of 30 prospects returns to Europe on Wednesday, another group of 15 international prospects – which will include three prospects from Australia in addition to European prospects – will arrive for a tour of their own from June 13-22 that will include stops at Penn State, Michigan, Clemson and Maryland.