One year ago, Bishop Sycamore took on perennial powerhouse IMG Academy on ESPN. The lopsided affair quickly devolved into one of the most viral stories of 2021, with Awful Announcing spearheading a lot of the original reporting. With two separate failed attempts to make a comprehensive docuseries on the complexities of Bishop Sycamore, we’ve opted to instead present the following feature from Andy Downing, with additional reporting from Awful Announcing editor Ben Koo.

Marcus first picked up a football at age 7, driven by a love for the game he said he inherited from his father. This passion carried through the youngster’s early years in high school, where as a freshman he played for a celebrated program in the suburbs of Columbus, OH, before transferring to Bishop Sycamore, a fledgling central Ohio program that he said offered the promise of connections to top college football programs and a challenging slate of games that could better prepare him to play Division I football (In 2021, Bishop Sycamore was set to play the fourth-toughest schedule in the nation, according to Max Preps.).

“I went down there [for a visit] and everything was sweet. I was 14 at the time, and it was like, ‘There’s a pool, I can get away from mom and dad and stay here with all of my friends? Cool. Let’s do it,’” said Marcus (a pseudonym), who spoke under the condition of anonymity about his experiences playing for Bishop Sycamore as a high school sophomore in 2020.

While Marcus enjoyed the freedom afforded by life at Bishop Sycamore – he described the experience of living in apartments adjacent to Ohio State University as a year-long summer vacation – he said a lack of structure both on and off of the field ultimately held him back, eventually robbing him of a passion for the game he had nurtured from childhood.

“Going to Bishop, it made me lose my love for football. I didn’t want anything to do with [the sport] my junior year because you just get beat up on,” said Marcus, who expressed frustration with Bishop Sycamore coaches who he said struggled to fully prepare the team for game days. “That was my first year starting on the varsity level … and I kept getting hurt because I wasn’t ready to go out there. I didn’t learn anything except how to have a bad attitude, because that’s what my peers around me showed me. Basically, it was like taking a year off from football.”

The divide between founding vision and day-to-day reality became a running theme in a dozen recent interviews with former players, coaches, Bishop Sycamore officials, and surrounding personalities, much of it attributable to issues securing funding, which often left the school scrambling to cover costs – and, in a number of documented instances, abdicating its financial responsibilities altogether.

This gulf was perhaps most visible when Bishop Sycamore squared off against Florida powerhouse IMG Academy on Aug. 29, 2021, in a game televised by ESPN – a 58-0 shellacking at the hands of IMG in which Bishop Sycamore showed its fledgling program wasn’t ready for the spotlight. Indeed, the game, which took place at a stadium near the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, unfolded in such lopsided fashion that the ESPN announcing team challenged the veracity of Bishop Sycamore, with play-by-play announcer Anish Shroff calling into question claims made by the school about the talent level on its roster.


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“Bishop Sycamore told us they had a number of Division I prospects on their roster, and to be frank, a lot of that we could not verify,” Shroff said in on-air remarks that quickly went viral, thrusting Bishop Sycamore into the national conversation. “They did not show up in our database. They did not show up in the databases of other recruiting services.”

The fallout was immediate. In the days after the game, Bishop Sycamore lost the remainder of its 2021 season to cancellation and Roy Johnson was fired as head coach (though he remains a key figure within the program, and in the litigation over it). Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine also issued a statement saying that he had asked the Ohio Department of Education to conduct an investigation into Bishop Sycamore “to ensure compliance with Ohio law and to ensure the school is providing the educational opportunities Ohio students deserve.” Released in December, the report concluded that, as a non-chartered, non-tax-supported school, Bishop Sycamore was subject to less stringent standards, but investigators could not find evidence that the school had met even minimum academic requirements.

As we pass the one-year anniversary of the ESPN saga, there’s little sign the public interest in Bishop Sycamore has waned. Former NFL player Michael Strahan is currently producing a documentary on the school for HBO Sports. Directed by Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe (Two Distant Strangers), the film is set to premiere in early 2023 and includes the full cooperation of Roy Johnson, who declined to be interviewed on the record for this piece due to his contract with HBO. (Plans for a similar documentary produced by comedian Kevin Hart and Rich Paul’s Klutch Originals were recently scrapped.)

In addition, the two Ohio natives involved in breaking the earliest stories related to Bishop Sycamore, as well as its predecessor, COF Academy – journalist Andrew King and Ben Ferree, who investigated the school in his previous role as the Assistant Director of Officiating and Sports Management at the Ohio High School Athletics Association (OHSAA) – are teaming to write a book detailing the saga in full.

Still, Andre Peterson, who founded Bishop Sycamore in 2019 and serves as its director, cautioned that the final chapters have yet to be written. Peterson said he’s currently exploring all possible options for moving forward, including rebooting Bishop Sycamore as a prep school.

“And that may be the direction we decide to go with, if we decide to continue it,” said Peterson, who acknowledged the numerous challenges Bishop Sycamore could face in the wake of events these last few years. “It’s funny, because I still get messages on Twitter from kids who, if we were functioning now, they would come here.”


Before there was Bishop Sycamore, there was Christians of Faith (COF) Academy. Founded by Johnson in February 2018, COF Academy announced its arrival with a Twitter post that stated “We Here!!!!!” and accompanied by a hype video that declared COF “the premier sports high school.”

Peterson, who was not involved in running COF Academy (though his son, Javan, played for the school), said COF formed out of a partnership with the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Pitched as a private school built on a strong football program, he said the program was intended to help underprivileged and at-risk high school students earn college opportunities.

“People think it was modeled after IMG [Academy], and it really wasn’t. It was modeled after St. Frances Academy in Baltimore,” said Peterson, whose son played four years for COF Academy and Bishop Sycamore and is now enrolled in college.

But modeling COF after St. Frances wasn’t easily replicable, given that St. Frances’ ascension as a school and program stemmed from the coaching prowess and financial backing of Biff Poggi.

Poggi spent a year learning under Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, and, more importantly, spent millions of his own wealth from his career as a successful hedge fund manager to ensure the St. Frances program was on sturdy footing financially.  When the two programs were scheduled to play in 2018, COF showed up more than two hours late to the game with half of the team refusing to get off of the team bus for fear of injury, resulting in a 9:30 p.m. forfeit. The difference in resources couldn’t have been more stark on that night, and it didn’t seem to improve the next three seasons, either.

According to Peterson, initial conversations with AME Church included a donation of land near Easton in Columbus on which COF would construct a campus – renderings of which appear in a video available on YouTube:

Pending construction, COF launched as an online-only school, partnering with Minnesota-based education company Edmentum and its EdOptions Online Academy for its academics program, and then filling its football schedule with games against traditional Ohio powerhouses such as Cleveland St. Ignatius.

But by late summer of 2018, these plans had unraveled. The AME Church Third District posted a since-deleted statement in which it denied any involvement with COF Academy. (A later report by USA Today produced emails connecting COF Academy and the AME Church.) In September 2018, the Ohio High School Athletic Association revealed that it could not verify classes were taking place, and a month later, the Ohio Department of Education revoked COF Academy’s registration and shut it down, reporting that “the school could not be located and student attendance could not be verified.”

After COF Academy closed, Peterson founded Bishop Sycamore, registering the name with the Ohio Secretary of State in August 2019. At the time, Johnson told ThisWeek News that while he helped Bishop Sycamore set up its website, he was informed by his attorneys that he “can’t really be involved” with the new school. Regardless, Johnson was on the sidelines two years later, serving as head coach when Bishop Sycamore squared off against IMG on ESPN.

When Peterson founded Bishop Sycamore, he ran into some of the same issues that plagued COF Academy, with Peterson courting backers who showed interest and then withdrew–often with little warning. This created a situation where school officials regularly had to scramble to pull together personal funds to be used for housing, football camps, and related travel. In the last two years, multiple court filings and police reports have been filed against the program alleging unpaid debts.

“The idea was to try to be as self-sufficient as possible. But the truth of the matter is that’s a hard model to follow, and I’m not a millionaire, so that’s why we’d create other partnerships to bring in revenue to help the program,” Peterson said. “So you have those partnerships you hope are going to materialize and be fruitful in helping you do what you’re trying to do, and then people either lied or backed out. … When you’re going into August and you’re feeling good about the partnerships you have – and we really did – and then in September you start bringing in kids, and those [partnerships] aren’t materializing. And now you have an issue, because I’ve got 40 kids here.”

In March 2021, Cardinal Transportation filed suit against Peterson and Johnson in Franklin County Municipal Court, alleging the men hired buses on behalf of a charity called “ISE Foundation,” which doesn’t exist as a legal entity in Ohio, racking up a bill of roughly $13,000. The lawsuit was dismissed in May after Cardinal Transportation failed to serve Johnson and Peterson with the complaint, according to court documents. Later, in August 2021, the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Canton, Ohio, filed a police report alleging that Bishop Sycamore paid for its $3,596 bill with two invalid checks. The same month, management at the Easton location of BD’s Mongolian Barbecue in Columbus filed a police report claiming a football team left the restaurant “without paying for a significant amount of food”, an event independently confirmed by one of the players involved.

Additionally, Ray Holtzclaw, whose son, Judah, briefly played quarterback at Bishop Sycamore, said he was saddled with a four-figure hotel room bill in 2021, which Bishop Sycamore promised to pay back but never did.

“One thing with being a parent and coach and just somebody trying to help these boys out, is a lot of these kids didn’t have much,” Holtzclaw said. “For them to get that extra chance to play football is important, but they watch everything. They see everything. They hear you saying one thing, and then when they see you do another, like not paying your bills … that paints a different picture. You can’t do that.”

Bishop Sycamore’s history of non-payment followed a pattern established by COF Academy.

In November 2018, First Merchants Bank filed a lawsuit against the Richard Allen Group, which Johnson described as the financial arm of the AME Church, after the group took out a $100,000 loan on behalf of the AME Church to fund COF Academy and then failed to repay it. A judge granted the bank’s motion for summary judgment in August 2021, ruling that the group had engaged in “fraudulent misrepresentation.” First Merchants Bank recently petitioned the court, requesting that all payments for the HBO documentary to Roy Johnson from Michael Strahan’s production company, SMAC Entertainment, be blocked and instead paid to them.

But this was only the start of the financial issues involving COF Academy. In May 2019, ARN Hospitality LLC – the parent company of the Bayside Inn & Suites in Delaware, Ohio, where COF Academy housed players for three months in 2018 and allegedly racked up $110,685 in unpaid bills – filed suit against Roy Johnson and COF Academy in Delaware County Common Pleas. The lawsuit was dropped after the hotel’s lawyer failed to serve Johnson with the complaint. In October 2019, Tailwind Griff LLC, owners of The Griff apartment complex near Ohio State, filed an eviction notice in Franklin County Municipal Court against Johnson and Peterson. Additionally,ThisWeek News reported in September 2018 that the program had accumulated debts with LVL UP Sports Paintball Park ($1,000) and the indoor training facility SuperKick Columbus ($7,720).


There were also issues with the education offered by Bishop Sycamore, with players noting that there was little adult oversight into the online coursework. That meant a player’s education was almost entirely self-driven. Marcus, for one, said he took his classwork seriously, while lineman Justin Daniel said he used his computer to play Call of Duty and NFL 2K, but not much else.

“Online schooling can work,” Marcus said. “But you’re going to have to buy computers for all of the kids. You’re going to need a place where they can all go [and study].”

Peterson, for his part, owned up to the shortcomings in academic oversight.

“Here’s the thing about education: For anybody who needed it or wanted it, it was there,” Peterson said. “But there could have been more control. What we needed that we didn’t have was our own space, because if we have our own space, I can control it, like, okay, everybody get up, and we’re going to be in the classroom from 8 [a.m.] to 2 [p.m.], and we’re going to do this together. … And when you don’t have your own space, your own facilities, it gets harder. Because I can’t go in there and see what you’re doing.”

Like COF Academy, Bishop Sycamore was also accused of fielding players who were older than 18 or who had used up their allotted four years of eligibility. That’s a charge Peterson disputed, saying that some of the players were juniors or seniors who had reclassified, the practice of staying back a school year for the purpose of athletics. In an interview with The Fly Route podcast, Daniel said he applied through the NCAA to be reclassified as a senior to play for the school in 2021 at age 19, a year after his 2020 high school graduation.

While Johnson, Peterson, and countless players have cited reclassification as evidence that the team did not play ineligible players, Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) rules stipulate that players who have either already graduated high school or have been in high school for four full years are ineligible for further participation in high school sports. Whether this was fully understood by coaches and players for the program remains debatable, though sources indicated to Awful Announcing that Johnson and Peterson did attend multiple meetings for prospective new OHSAA members that laid out these rules.

Justin Daniel, for example, said during his podcast interview that he was able to play another season following his senior  year because he didn’t play football as a freshman. While it’s true a student athlete is offered eight semesters of eligibility under OHSAA rules, these must be taken in order of attendance beginning in 9th grade whether the student participates in athletics or not. A player also automatically becomes ineligible once they turn 20.

rules for eligibility
OHSAA rules on eligibility of already graduated athletes

It can’t be understated how central the allure of reclassification could be to players looking for a college football scholarship, particularly when the extra year could be spent with a program pitching the opportunity to be showcased against national powerhouses already on the radar of college recruiters – and at a modest cost (usually under $2,000) compared with other options such as post-grad academies and JUCO programs.

It sounded too good to be true, and that’s because it often was. And yet, absent systemic checks and balances, for years the program was able to schedule opponents and play games at the highest level, and probably would have continued to do so had it not played for a national audience on ESPN.

Throughout the existence of the program, however, some opposing programs did question Bishop Sycamore’s roster construction, and the team regularly shied from sharing full roster information with the media, opponents and game organizers. This lack of roster transparency caused multiple opponents to cancel games with the Bishop Sycamore.

In spite of these mounting issues, Johnson and Peterson have been resistant to pulling the plug completely. Peterson cited the need for a program like Bishop Sycamore. “There are kids being lost in this society who could be not just great students, and not just great football players, but great people in their communities,” he said. “They just need some guidance, need some help. … And it was hard for me to walk away from that.”

Sara, Johnson’s former girlfriend of a decade, said she urged him multiple times to end the program. “I told Roy this from day one: He should have stopped the program the minute the [AME] Church pulled out. So that’s his error, and he’s obviously kicking himself now for not doing that. But, on the other side of things, he wanted to continue to do it because he had a passion for helping these kids,” said Sara (a pseudonym), who filed criminal menacing charges against Johnson in February 2022, and whose name is being withheld to protect her identity.

The recent charges follow a 2020 domestic violence incident in which Sara told police that Johnson pushed her and hit her in the lip, according to court documents. Johnson denied the accusations but spent three days in jail. He later pled guilty to a lesser charge of criminal mischief for which he was placed on probation. Sara said the two remain on cordial terms.

Even as Bishop Sycamore’s financial issues compounded, school leaders refused to capitulate, with Peterson and Johnson developing even more audacious plans in the hopes of ushering the football program further onto the national stage. During an appearance on the Letterman Row podcast, former Ohio State standout Cardale Jones said he declined an $85,000 offer to become the offensive coordinator at Bishop Sycamore in the spring of 2021, a detail Jones later confirmed in a phone call with Awful Announcing owner and editor Ben Koo (Jones passed on the job knowing he was still pursuing a playing career).

“Honestly, I feel like Roy’s heart is in the right place, he’s just going about it the wrong way,” Marcus said. “He wants to start at step A and then go right to Z. He’s not hitting steps B, C, D…”

In an August interview, Brandon Fort, who coached at Bishop Sycamore for two years, said that Johnson’s enthusiasm could sometimes lead to errors in judgment. As an example, Fort pointed to an Under Armour All-American Camp Series held in Columbus in April 2021. There, Johnson, who was not granted a media badge, evaded security and made his way down to the field, hoping to score face time with Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford.

“Roy has a tendency to go overboard, where, okay, he’s bending the rules,” Fort said. “I’ve always known Roy to be an extremist, so once he heard [Alford] was on the field, he was like, okay, I’m good with damaging my reputation to try and move the program forward.”

The decision to keep pushing forward against these growing headwinds has only exacerbated the school’s money woes. In September 2018, former Ohio State wide receiver Jeff Greene told ThisWeek News that he left the program following a short coaching stint because he never received a paycheck. Fort said he was never paid for his time as a coach, and said this was the norm within Bishop Sycamore. “No one got paid, as far as my knowledge,” he said, a fact confirmed by Peterson. “But the money didn’t matter to me, and I wasn’t hurting about that. I just wanted to make sure our student-athletes were getting the proper coaching, or at least when they had interactions with me, I could be a good mentor to them, and help them out.”

Some former Bishop Sycamore players have also claimed food shortages were prevalent, One told Complex, “We probably ate one hot dog every two days,” a charge denied by multiple players and team officials interviewed.

But defensive lineman Jonah Sellers painted a dire picture in the wake of the IMG game, describing how he spent his final days with the program holed up alone with COVID, short on food and sleeping on an air mattress. “ I’m literally sitting here starving, trying to figure out what I’m going to eat. … I don’t like talking about it because it was a real bad experience, but that’s what I had to go through since Coach Roy literally left everybody stranded,” he said.

Others connected with the program said these talks of food insecurity are either false or overblown.

“These kids coming out of the woodwork, saying they weren’t being fed, and that they were sleeping on floors, it’s not true,” said Sara, who opened her house to more than a dozen players for an extended stretch when planned lodging fell through. She said she also sunk more than $50,000 of her own money into the program over the last four years, for which she said she has never been compensated, in spite of Johnson’s repeated promises to do so.

What these shortages did create, however, were scenarios that some players described as a bait and switch. They said they would be shown one set of facilities on a visit and then ushered into different ones upon enrollment. One apartment manager even shared that Roy Johnson had given multiple tours of the pool and exercise facilities at an upscale apartment complex to multiple families of players before being told to stop, because Johnson had yet to rent an apartment at the complex and never did so.

Daniel, an offensive lineman from Kennesaw, GA, who briefly played for Bishop Sycamore during the 2021 season, said that he toured practice facilities prior to joining the program, “and then when I came back [to Columbus], none of that stuff was there.”

Prior to joining Bishop Sycamore, Daniel played for Ultimate Student Athletes (USA) Academy. That’s an Alabama-based private school that, like COF, announced its intent to build “the nation’s next high school sports powerhouse” before flaming out. He said that experience led him to tour Bishop Sycamore before making a commitment.

“When they were representing it [Bishop Sycamore], it was like we were going to be the superstars, and we were [going to play] one of the toughest schedules and be this once-in-a-lifetime-type team,” Daniel said. “And when I got there, nothing was like it was presented as.”


Allegations of broken promises and mounting lawsuits have generated suspicions around the program–a narrative fueled by Bishop Sycamore’s somewhat murky finances. Peterson said in 2021 the school charged students a $1,000 deposit and then $100 a month– money that he said went toward food, football camps, and associated travel. But he estimated that only “13, maybe 14 people” paid anything to attend Bishop Sycamore.

“If I’m a scammer, I’m literally the worst scammer ever,” said Peterson, adding that he was required to turn over all of his accounts and bank records to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office after Gov. DeWine called for an investigation into Bishop Sycamore. “And when they saw my accounts, they saw there was no gain. … They were probably like, ‘Man, I feel sorry for these dudes.’” (The Ohio Attorney General’s Office did not reply to multiple requests for comment.)

“I think the thing the media is missing is some of the intention behind [Bishop Sycamore],” Fort said. “I’m still seeing people saying, ‘Oh, they’re all crooks! It was a Ponzi scheme!’ Nobody gained anything [financially] from it. I never gained anything from it.”

Even the ESPN game turned into a net financial loss, Peterson said, when the sports network failed to deliver on a promised $1,000 payment.

There are questions as to how a team with so many issues surrounding it – and one that got blown out by IMG 56-6 a year prior – ended up playing in a rematch for a national television audience.

All of the games for the 2021 Geico Kickoff on ESPN, of which IMG-Bishop Sycamore was a part, were booked by Paragon Marketing Group. Paragon has partnered with the network in the past and handles most of its high school scheduling across multiple sports.

Paragon previously told Awful Announcing that IMG and Bishop Sycamore entered into a verbal agreement to play the game in May 2021, and that Bishop Sycamore had been recommended to Paragon by Prep Gridiron Logistics (PGL). PGL describes itself as a “personal concierge for identifying, contacting and scheduling elite, nationally-relevant, out-of-state high school football opponents.”

“Joe [Maimone, founder of PGL] sent out a mass email seeing who would want to play IMG,” said Peterson, who estimated that the initial outreach started in March. “And nobody said yes. Nobody said they would play them. We were actually the only ones who replied back. … People want to say we lied our way into it, but ESPN didn’t have any other choice other than to cancel the game, because they literally couldn’t find anybody else.”

Even under the best of conditions, remaining competitive against IMG constituted a monumental task. And Bishop Sycamore came into the game depleted both by injury (multiple players were hurt in the season opener against Archbishop Hoban High School), and from having played another game less than 48 hours earlier against Pennsylvania’s Sto-Rox High School.

“I know people think we did it to get two paychecks, but we didn’t get paid for that Friday game, either,” said Peterson, noting that the initial plan was to treat the Friday game as a JV contest, giving playing time to those who wouldn’t take the field against IMG – an idea he said was hatched when be believed the roster would include 50 or 60 players rather than the 40 or so that suited up. “We actually sat down with the team and said, ‘Hey, this is what’s going on, and with the numbers some of you may have to play both games. And if you guys don’t want to do it, I’ll go ahead and cancel.’ And, honestly, everybody wanted to play.”

But defensive lineman Sellers had a different recollection of events. “[Peterson] didn’t really present it, he just said, ‘You have a game today and play another game on Sunday.’ And everyone was just confused and like, ‘I guess.'”

Playing multiple games over the course of a weekend wasn’t a new thing for the program, either. Peterson and members of the team made a media appearance in between two games Bishop Sycamore played over a three-day span in 2019. The following weekend, the program again played two weekend games, wrapping a 10-day stretch in which the team played four games.

View of Ensworth’s (Nashville) schedule from the 2019 season
View from the Dohn Community (Cincinnati) schedule from 2019

Bishop Sycamore’s smaller roster size compounded the potential for exhaustion, with a number of players lining up to play on both offense and defense. Multiple players interviewed also said the team never employed a trainer on staff.

“There was no trainer at all,” Daniel said. “Literally, if we got hurt, it was we’ll get you in the car and take you to the emergency room in the morning.”

Sellers said he was hurt on the second play of Bishop Sycamore’s season opener against Hoban and played through injury the next two games before he “fell out of nowhere” while running against IMG. He said he was then treated on-site by a doctor affiliated with the facility and was later diagnosed with a torn ACL.

The team further suffered from a lack of familiarity among the players, who were brought in from states as far-flung as California, Michigan, and Georgia. They sometimes took the field for a game without having participated in a single practice. Daniel said he met the team’s starting center the day of the Hoban game, while defensive lineman Jonah Sellers said he arrived in Columbus the day before the game, dressing with little more than an introduction to the players he would be lined up alongside.

“So we’re playing the game, and we don’t even practice, and I don’t even know anyone on the team,” Sellers said. “And [Johnson] was just like, ‘Go with it,’ and I was so confused. I’m like, I gotta get out of here. It was so weird.”

Short on players,  Bishop Sycamore even flew two new players in from Europe the day between the Sto-Rox and IMG games, according to multiple players from last year’s team. Both would go on to play in the IMG game despite not having taken part in a single practice.

This sense of chaos spilled over into game day against IMG, according to Sellers. He said the team arrived at the stadium late and barely made it to the field in time for the broadcast. “I think we didn’t even get [to the stadium] until like 45 minutes before the game,” Sellers said. “We were on the field and only warmed up for 10 minutes. We were rushing just to get dressed. … I remember the announcers saying our school name and everybody ran out … in a rush.”

When the game ended, however, reality quickly set in, with the coaches and players becoming immediately aware that they were at the center of a fast-moving national debate.  Sara said that she drove back to Columbus with Johnson following the game, the normally boisterous coach spending most of the drive in silence.

“It’s hard to push back about something people believe as a truth, without even talking to you,” Peterson said. “I just wanted to get to tell our truth. You’re going through that day, and you’re feeling really good because you’re able to do something that could have a major impact on their lives, putting them on national TV, allowing them to show their skills, to get their name out there.”


A year removed from the ESPN game, Peterson said he has adopted a “glass half full” view of his first three years with Bishop Sycamore, crediting the work the program has done in helping some of its players move on to college programs. “That has always been the goal for us,” he said.

But others have struggled in the aftermath of the nationally televised loss. While he remains grateful for his time with Bishop Sycamore, Fort said some opposing coaches still don’t take him seriously due to his association with the school as a coach, and he’s even lost out on career opportunities.

“When I applied for some head coaching jobs that were open out here, from Columbus City to OCC (Ohio Capital Conference) schools, when I mentioned Bishop Sycamore in my interviews, it was like, ‘Ahhh, I’ll reach back out to you,’ and it becomes an ongoing thing.”

Daniel, also an aspiring rapper, claims he lost a music deal in the aftermath of the ESPN saga. “I was extremely close to a deal with a major distribution company … and when everything happened, my name was one of the ones that was getting bashed pretty badly, so labels and different companies, they wanted to cut ties, and they were no longer interested in working with me because they thought I was a fraud,” he said. “I was on a path to play football and get back to college. I wasn’t trying to go up to [Bishop Sycamore] and have that be the experience. It’s hard to rebrand yourself from that type of thing.”

While Marcus didn’t play in the ESPN game, which took place during the year he spent away from football, he said that entering his final year of high school he’s finally beginning to rediscover a love for the game he lost during his year at Bishop Sycamore, and one that comes with a renewed sense of freedom.

“I learned to shut up and work, because that’s all you can do, really,” Marcus said. “Before, I was chasing an offer, and I was chasing everybody’s approval and what everybody else wanted for me, but I don’t care about that no more. … I’m not looking for an offer. I’m not looking for anybody’s approval. I just want to have fun. And I don’t care about anything else.”