CHECOTAH — Chandler Garrett grips the football, cocks his arm and sends the ball spiraling tightly down the field.
No wonder he's been invited to the finale of the Steve Clarkson Dreammaker Tour, a multi-city talent search that's "American Idol" for quarterbacks. Garrett looks like a star in the making. He's strong. He's accurate. He's fluid.
He's also a sixth grader.
In an Eastern Oklahoma town already known for one blonde superstar, this 13-year-old could be the next big thing to come out of Checotah. He has the size and pedigree. He has the family support and good home training.
Chandler also has the ambition.
"I want to be in the NFL some day," he said. "That's my dream."
Sports have always been part of his family. His grandfather wrestled in college, and his father played football. Even from the time Chandler was an infant, a football or basketball or baseball was always in his hands.
The older he got, the more he wanted to play.
"If you don't have practice," his mom, Shecoeta, said as she eyed Chandler, "you are driving me nuts trying to find an open gym."
She raised an eyebrow, and he laughed.
"Geez, you are not an only child."
Chandler is the oldest of five, and Bodie and Shecoeta Garrett have always done everything in their power and within their budget to provide anything for them. That's part of the reason why they live in Checotah; small towns offer more opportunities and a lower cost of living.
It's also the reason why Shecoeta went looking on the internet earlier this year for a football camp that Chandler could attend. He'd never been to a camp, and when she found one in Dallas on his birthday, it seemed like a good fit.
"We signed you up for this football camp," his parents told him. "It's supposed to be like a big deal."
Not only were there more than hundred kids at the Dreammaker Tour stop back in March, but there were also lots of television cameras.
Chandler also saw that some of the other boys had two or three pairs of cleats with them while he had just one. Some of them were talking, too, about the football camp they'd been to a week earlier; he had been playing basketball and hadn't picked up a football since last fall.
His nerves skyrocketed. He struggled to just throw the ball to another camper standing 10 yards away.
"It was really hard for me," Chandler said. "I really didn't know what to expect."
About the only thing he knew for sure that day was that he had no chance of making the tour finale. He turned his attention back to basketball.
Thing is, Chandler's performance wasn't all bad.
"He did start out rough," said Chris Dubek, director of player personnel for Steve Clarkson Dreammaker. "But his ability to take the teaching, to take the coaching ... that's what you want."
Dubek believes no one in Dallas improved more from start to finish than Chandler. That's why tour officials invited him to another stop in Houston. They wanted to give him another shot.
Chandler wanted to make the most of it.
Even though he had less than two weeks to prepare, he asked Preston King to help him. King, who quarterbacked Checotah High School a few years ago, spent an hour with Chandler four or five days a week.