Local youth quarterback to compete in prestigious bowl game

By Jennifer Holloway - Staff Writer
Enfield - posted Thu., Aug. 11, 2011
Daron Bryden drops back to pass to his father. Bryden, 9, was invited to play for the East Team in the Offense-Defense Youth All-American Bowl Game in January. Photos by Jennifer Holloway.
Daron Bryden drops back to pass to his father. Bryden, 9, was invited to play for the East Team in the Offense-Defense Youth All-American Bowl Game in January. Photos by Jennifer Holloway.

Lots of kids dream of a career as a professional athlete, and the same holds true for 9-year-old Daron Bryden, a quarterback for the Manchester Sentinals Pop Warner league. Many of those kids later trade in their athletic dreams to become veterinarians, teachers or engineers, but if the present is any predictor of the future, Bryden may just make it to the pros.

Recently Bryden, a soon-to-be fourth-grader at Prudence Crandall, attended the Offense-Defense Football Camp at Hofstra University, where he won the award for best quarterback for the 9-10 age group and the Peyton Manning Award for best youth quarterback. Additionally, Bryden was invited to play for the East Team in the Offense-Defense Youth All-American Bowl Game in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Jan. 2, 2012.

Earlier in the summer, Bryden was invited to the Duel of the Dozens National Quarterback Competition in Canton, Ohio. The competition invites athletes between sixth and 12th grade. Bryden was invited as a third-grader and competed against sixth-graders at the competition.

For most kids Bryden’s age, the introduction to sports happens in a backyard with a parent or sibling. Bryden’s father, Craig, did introduce his son to football, but he did so virtually.

A few years ago Bryden was watching his dad play “Madden NFL,” a football video game. Craig, who is 6-foot-7, played baseball and basketball, but his experience with football was mainly with a television and video game controller. Bryden watched his dad play and was hooked.

“I wanted to play flag football, but they didn’t have my age group,” Bryden said.

The father and son did head to the backyard to practice passing, but Craig decided to call in reinforcements in the form of a quarterback coach. “I’d never played, and I didn’t want him to learn the wrong mechanics,” Craig said.

Bryden’s first coach was impressed with his skill set, even at age 6. At 9, Bryden is now working with his third quarterback coach, Todd Krueger.

“The skill set he has is so advanced,” Krueger said. “He has the skill set of a starting high school quarterback - great footwork, great passing technique. He understands passing routes and how to read defenses.”

Krueger once played for the Buffalo Bills and is now a professional quarterback coach. He also works with juniorrank.com, a company that trains and identifies top athletes. According to Krueger, Bryden would be within the top five nationally for quarterbacks his age, though there are no official rankings for athletes that young. “If he can maintain the skill set he has, he’ll do well,” Krueger said.

Off the field, Bryden is the oldest of three children, and both of his parents are deaf. “He’s a great kid,” Craig said. “He’s always ready to help me and his mother out with what other people are saying.”

Bryden’s siblings are also getting involved in sports. “It keeps them active,” Craig said. “They meet new friends, and it’s a great way for families to get together and watch the kids play sports. I’m a sports guy. I believe playing sports improves your life.”

Bryden’s father is with him on this journey, offering advice and cheering him on. “I get so hyped up [when he plays],” Craig said. “He’s my favorite player to watch.”

Bryden already has high schools calling him, and he does have thoughts on college and the NFL.

“For college I want to stay close to home, like UConn or Rutgers,” Bryden said. And if he made it to the NFL and had his choice of teams, he would play for the Pittsburgh Steelers, his dad’s favorite team.


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