CLEARWATER (FOX 13) - James Smiley just finished eighth grade and he already has a verbal offer to play Division I college football at Florida Atlantic University.
"I was astonished,” James told FOX 13 Sports. "I was like, an eighth grader?”
James is the first Bay Area prospect to receive such an incredible invitation before high school.
"I liked what happened when they came up to the school and offered me on the spot,” said Smiley.
"I always knew he had that push in him, that drive in him,” offered James's mother, LaPorche Holmes. "He was a 9-pound baby, so to say the least I knew he was going to do something in sports."
Some people will be surprised by an eighth grader receiving a full scholarship offer to a Division I program like FAU, but Owls head coach Lane Kiffin has a successful track record with it. He's been making offers like this for the last 10 years.
"I think Lane is on top of a trend,” said Capree Holmes, James's uncle. "That you're seeing more and more with the middle school offers. That idea is matched up with this time. Kids are really that good, this early now."
James can't officially sign his name on the deal, but why would he? He has four years to make a college decision and this attention will likely open doors for more to come.
"I ultimately tell James to stay focused, stay humble. Keep God first,” his mother continued.
"Focus on my academics right now,” continued James. "Trying to make sure my SAT scores are good and all that."
James got his first taste of high school football this spring playing for Superior Collegiate Academy in Clearwater. His high school head coach, B.J. Hall, wasn't sure he was ready yet, but quickly changed his mind after watching James rush for 180 yards on just eight carries.
His future is bright with aspirations to play for the best: "Alabama,” smiled James.