Over 200 miles separate Sterling Galban’s hometown from Houston, but the three-star slot receiver regularly makes the three-hour trip south to work out at the Blitz Football Camp.
Camp founder Rischad Whitfield has trained dozens of college and professional athletes, including NFL Pro-Bowler wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell. He centers his workouts around agility and speed drills, earning him the nickname “The Footwork King.”
Whitfield also instructs and mentors high schoolers. Galban, a junior from Burnet, Texas, is one of those players who works closely with the former college football athlete.
“We work on route running, obviously footwork, speed and transitioning in and out of my breaks,” Galban said. “He’s really taken my game to the next level.”
“The Footwork King” isn’t the only person who helps Galban improve his craft. His dad, Demetrius, played wide receiver at Midwestern State, where he ranks in the top 10 for career receptions, yards and touchdowns. This inspired his son to play flag football at age 5.
“He’s had a big influence on my game because he knows a lot about football and the position that I play,” Galban said.
He says the father-son bond is a connection that no trainer or coach can compete with.
“He can give me tips that nobody else can,” Galban said. “I know he’s always there for me because every time I do something wrong or do so something right, he lets me know.”
The 5-foot-10 receiver played in just three games as a sophomore, catching 11 passes for 94 yards with no touchdowns, according to MaxPreps.com. He believes his inexperience and size held him back during his first two seasons, which is why he wasn’t an immediate starter. But this has only fueled him to work harder to disprove his critics.
“People get so caught up in numbers,” Burnet wide receiver coach Billy Cook said. “I know [coaches] on the college level and they want guys who can make plays. You can go out there and recruit a guy who is 6-foot-5 that has all those numbers but just doesn’t make plays. I want players and [Sterling] makes plays.”
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman and former University of Washington wideout John Ross serve as Galban’s inspiration.
“I like Edelman a lot. He’s a dog,” Galban said. “[I like Ross’] route running abilities and his speed.”
Edelman was a crucial part of two Super Bowl championship teams. He is 5-foot-10. Ross is one of the top players at his position entering this year’s NFL draft. He is 5-foot-11.
The offseason determination—running track, long workout sessions and competitive tournaments—resulted in 59 receptions for 724 yards, both of which led the team. Along with his nine receiving touchdowns, his speed allowed him to also run the ball eight times for 45 yards and a touchdown.
This vast improvement from one year to the next came as no surprise to Cook.
“He’s one of the most hard-working players I’ve ever had the pleasure to coach,” he said. “He goes non-stop from early in the morning until late in the evening.”
Galban’s success junior year led to four offseason college offers, three from Ivy League schools —Columbia, Cornell and Dartmouth—and the most recent from Iowa State, his first offer from a Power Five conference program.
Galban has yet to officially visit any of the four schools, but education will be a major factor in determining where he’ll go after graduating high school. He plans on studying business or marketing so he is set up nicely after his career in football ends.
Despite the recognition college coaches are giving him, Galban is still focused on his senior season. He aims to win a state championship and earn all-state honors so he can make his name known.
“I feel like I am the best slot receiver in the country and I have no doubt in my mind that I am,” Galban said. “I know all these rankings have a bunch of other receivers ahead of me but I’m just trying to make a statement.”
To prove that, Galban knows he has a lot of work to do. His coach thinks he needs to be more physical and work on blocking, but Galban has more in mind.
“[I need to improve] probably everything, elevate everything,” he said.
Even though that may seem like a tall order, Galban’s drive comes from his size.
“[My motivation is] really just proving everybody wrong about my size and also just showing that I can compete with the best in the country.”
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