SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Reeve Koehler received his first football scholarship offer before he ever strapped on a pair of shoulder pads.
Koehler, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound eighth-grader from Kaneohe, Hawaii, was always too heavy to play Pop Warner football. But Koehler, the 13-year-old brother of Arizona freshman offensive lineman Solomon Koehler, impressed Hawaii coach Greg McMackin so much during drills at the school's camp this past summer that McMackin extended a scholarship offer.
The offer isn't binding, and Hawaii can't make a written offer until Koehler is a junior in high school, but for now, Koehler may just be the most sought-after prospect in the class of 2013. He could receive more interest after Sunday, when he plays his first regulation, 11-on-11 game in pads in the Football University Youth All-American Bowl at the Alamo Dome. The game will be streamed live at footballuniversity.org.
Koehler has practiced playing on the offensive and defensive lines in camps run by Hawaii's program and by local coach Brian Derby, but he aches to deliver some real blows against a properly outfitted opponent. For most linemen whose girth kept them out of youth football, their debut in pads typically came in a freshman or junior varsity game on a cow pasture of a field in front of several dozen parents.
"My first game that I'm playing in pads is going to be on a national stage in a dome," Koehler said Friday, smiling and shaking his head at the thought. Unfortunately for Koehler, he won't play another game in pads until September, when he starts high school. "I just can't wait for this school year to get over," he said. "I can't wait to start playing football."
As for his scholarship offer, Koehler remains stunned. He said he and his parents went to McMackin's office to lend moral support to Kimo Makaula, a cousin entering his senior year at Punahou High who had gone to McMackin to ask to be considered for a scholarship. Because the Koehlers approached McMackin, he was allowed by NCAA rules to speak with them and to discuss a scholarship offer. Koehler and Makaula wound up getting offers, but only Makaula offered a non-binding verbal commitment. Hawaii coaches and officials are forbidden by NCAA rules to comment on players who have not signed a national letter-of-intent.
Koehler is not like the prep basketball stars who accept scholarship offers while still in middle school. His father, Rick, made sure of that. "We were deeply honored that he was even considered for an offer on that level," Rick Koehler said. "But that's a long time away. Reeve hasn't even put on pads yet."
The elder Koehler hopes the experience provides motivation for his son to work hard so that he can earn a free college education. "The ultimate goal is to have college paid for," Rick Koehler said. "Prior to my older son going, no one in my family has had the opportunity to go to college."
Reeve would love to follow in Solomon's footsteps, but first, he'll have to make sure he really has what it takes to play on the line. After all, he doesn't set foot in the trenches when he and his friends play football in the street.
"I'm usually the quarterback," he said.