SEEING STARS: Eighth graders Jayden Gibson and Waseem Murray receive invite to Under Armour Camp

Millions of student-athletes play prep or middle school football each year in the United States. Only a minuscule percentage receive the opportunity to showcase their talent at the Under Armour Next Camp Series.

Jane Macon standouts Jayden Gibson and Waseem Murray were a couple of the chosen few to earn an invitation to compete at the Under Armor camp this weekend in Orlando.

The rising freshmen will attend one of just five of the exclusive middle school camps held around the country.

Invitees are selected through a process that sees scouts grind through Hudl film of football players across the nation with the most promising aspiring All-Americans receiving a bid to one of the regional camps in Atlanta, Orlando, Dallas, Los Angeles and Baltimore.

Both Jane Macon stars certainly had the impact of future college prospects as they helped the Eagles recover from a winless season a year ago to play for the middle school championship in October.

Primarily a corner, Gibson recorded six interceptions, eight pass breakups and 51 tackles on the defensive of the ball while chipping in 657 yards of total offense and 13 touchdowns. True to his favorite player, hometown hero Darius Slay, Gibson thrives off the competition of the position.

“I love it because I love competition, for real,” Gibson said. “It’s the hardest position on the field, it’s hard for a lot of people. It’s not easy.”

Murray’s home in on offense, where he totaled 1,171 yards and 23 touchdowns, but he’ll also lineup on defense and special teams, where he tallied three interceptions, five pass breakups, 32 tackles and three touchdowns on punt returns. He takes his notes from early-career Odell Beckham Jr.

“Route running, speed, catching, run after catch. I just like that,” Murray said.

But only the elite get invited to the Under Armour Camp Series. So even for a couple of eighth-graders already with offers from Georgia Southern, there were no guarantees.

It wouldn’t be until February that the tandem finally received their official invitation.

“Actually I walked in the weight room and I just saw everybody smiling, so I knew there something was up,” Gibson said. “That’s when they told me. They showed me the email. I was just happy; I was just excited to get to showcase my talent and come out of Brunswick.”

Murray actually learned of Gibson’s invitation before his own. Without access to his dedicated football email, he had no way to check to see if he had received the same opportunity.

“Bruh,” Murray said exasperatedly. “I felt I was lacking, getting behind.”

Of course, Murray would soon discover he had received an offer as well, but the sentiment is part of what makes the duo so special. The two are best friends, yet neither wants to concede an inch to the other.

As a natural corner and receiver who both play the other side of the ball and have a near maniacal passion for getting better, Gibson and Murray are tailor-made practice partners that embody the phrase: “Iron sharpens iron.”

“I’m probably going to think he’s one of the best in the Class of 2027, so if I go against the best, then I’m going to be the best,” Murray said.

“Having to go against an elite guy like Waseem in practice is everything,” Gibson added. “Waseem is so fast and shifty you have to play with great confidence and technique.

“Once the game gets here, I’m just out there having fun because I’ve been going against the best receiver all week in practice.”

Now they’ll get their chance to prove it.

Athletes selected to attend the Under Armour Camp Series have the option to participate in NFL combine-style testing, which includes the 40-yard dash, vertical, and agility drills. Players will also face off in various 1-on-1s.

Results of the camp will be analyzed by the All-American Selection Committee and the top players will be offered a spot in the Under Armour 8th Grade All-American Game in Orlando.

It’s a big opportunity, especially for a preteen.

“It makes me kind of scared in case I mess up,” Murray said. “But it’s just something I’ve got to work out if I make a mistake at the camp.”

But this is the moment the two have been waiting for. Gibson and Murray both routinely workout in the early mornings, and again after school. Days off are few and far between.

Not only has that passion and dedication been instrumental in earning Gibson and Murray the opportunity presented to them, their intangibles are infectious in the locker room of any program.

“They’re the epitome of what hard work gets you,” said Jane Macon head football coach John Williams. “These guys have worked their behinds off when nobody else was looking, and now the public is starting to see the fruit they’re starting to bear from how hard they work.

“As far as their importance and what they’ve meant to the team, I could be here for hours speaking on how important, how beneficial they’ve been to, not only me personally, but our team in general.”

Though Gibson and Murray aren’t seeking any praise for their endeavors, the recognition of their work thus far through an invite to the most prestigious football camp in the country has been validating.

“I know I’ve been working hard, so I feel good about having this opportunity,” Gibson said. “I wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning, workout then, workout before school, workout after school, I workout on the weekends. I’ve just been putting in the work.”

Murray added: “It makes me feel good that the work that I’ve put in, the grind that i’ve put in: Waking up in the morning, going to workout after school, doesn’t get thrown out the window.

“It’s not for nothing.”