Sponsored by Friday Night Tykes
Ready to feel inadequate? As if the achievements of the ten people listed below weren’t impressive enough on their own, many of them were accomplished before the artists reached the age of ten. That’s right: by the time the rest of us normal folks were preparing ourselves to deal with algebra for the first time, these preternaturally talented young people were already taking big steps into the spotlight. Building a talent, whether physical or mental, takes time and dedication, but some people are lucky enough that they have the raw materials to throw a ball long or nail a really difficult piece of music not long after the training wheels came off their bikes.
Yet while it’s easy to envy someone whose success starts at a young age, life for those kids isn’t easy, either. Most obviously, displaying such talent creates a bar that becomes hard to vault. If, for example, a young boy shows aptitude at the game of football, his entire life becomes set around landing that starting quarterback position. Anything short of that just won’t do. Similarly, the great classical composer prodigies start their careers off writing great music, but those compositions then only set a lofty standard that has to continually be met. Simply put, being a child talent is a blessing that comes with the potential for a curse.
The ups and downs of being an exceptionally skilled young person is captured in the television program Friday Night Tykes, which just began its second season on the Esquire Network. Like many of the folks below, the kids of Friday Night Tykes’ Texas Youth Football Association are gifted but are put to work for it. Football isn’t a sport where a handshake will get you a win, nor is it a game where people are just peachy taking second place. In fact, although it’s easy to be taken by the drive and ambition of these young football players, one can’t help but ask: Is it possible to push a young talent too far in the pursuit of greatness? The people in the list below have already had their success; the aspiring football players of Friday Night Tykes, however, still have awhile before reaching that point. To find out whether or not they make it, tune into the show at 9PM/8PM central on Esquire Network.
Watch the trailer for Friday Night Tykes below:
You can follow the show through the hashtag #ThisIsFootball.
The ten talents below are people who had the tenacity to break through the potential pratfalls of kicking their careers off from an early age. No matter the field they’re in, each is a reminder that although coming back from an explosive start may be difficult, with hard work a dream can be realized, so long as one never takes his eyes off the end zone.
Neil Patrick Harris
This triple threat performer—whose chops in acting, singing, and dancing are well documented—is most well known in the present day as the scheming lothario Barney Stinson from the long-running CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother. Those who know him first and foremost as “NPH”, however, often forget that this perpetually young-looking entertainer’s breakthrough role came in the 1989-1993 TV series Doogie Howser, M.D., wherein he played a teenage doctor. Two decades later, he’s got several far more mature productions under his belt, including two stellar Broadway turns: the Tony-winning revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins and the Broadway debut of John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch. To quote Barney Stinson, his transformation from fresh-faced M.D. to all-around superstar has been truly “legendary”.
Following a decade of appearing in various TV shows, Jodie Foster made a huge national splash with her supporting role in Martin Scorsese’s bleak 1976 drama Taxi Driver as a child prostitute. Foster’s extensive filmography reveals her to have a natural gift for appearing in front of the camera and giving it her all, even from a very young age. She took home Oscars for her performance sin The Accused (1988) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991), which gave Foster her most inimitable role to this day, as Detective Clarice Starling. In addition to her extensive acting work, she’s also taken a few turns behind the camera as a director, most memorably for the underrated Mel Gibson vehicle The Beaver (2011).
In some ways, Timberlake hasn’t shed the image he’s been building since his early days on the Mickey Mouse Club. Even on his more sophisticated musical recordings, such as 2013’s 140-minute The 20/20 Experience, his affable boy-band vocals and harmonies, refined during his time as a member of the juggernaut boy band *NSYNC, are still on full display. Yet while images of Timberlake and his fellow Mousketeer Ryan Gosling are the subject of much web scrutiny, he has done considerable work to progress as an artist. From his stellar 2006 album FutureSex/LoveSounds, to his shockingly good performance in The Social Network, to his numerous digital shorts with the cast of Saturday Night Live, Timberlake has clearly taken it upon himself to do the one thing that is necessary for a child talent to overcome the trappings of his youthful image: branch out.
As Opie on The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968), Ron Howard evokes an optimistic, idealized version of America, a perfect fit for the small town utopia that is Mayberry, North Carolina. Although to some Howard’s performance might be seen as a trifle, a relic of a aw-schucksy America that simply doesn’t exist any more, the truth is it’s an iconic performance, one that has cemented itself into American television history. That alone is something for Howard to treasure, but he certainly didn’t rest on his laurels after leaving Mayberry. Rather than opt for a career in acting—save for a few performances here and there—Howard rose to even wider prominence as a director, with Oscar-bait flicks like A Beautiful Mind (2001) and Frost/Nixon (2007) at the top of his résumé. Mayberry may be a small world unto itself, but Howard was still able to take his craft from that cozy environment to the big screen with great success.
Along with Sara Watkins (fiddle) and Sean Watkins (guitar), Chris Thile formed the widely popular “newgrass” trio Nickel Creek in 1989; the group celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. Thile began in Nickel Creek as a guitar player, but he quickly took to the mandolin, with stunning results. Since his preteen days with Nickel Creek, he has gone on to play with the likes of Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer, which prove challenging supplements to his time with bands like the wildly creative Punch Brothers. He’s also written his own mandolin concerto and recorded a collection of Bach solo violin pieces. Yes, watching Thile rip and and down the mandolin’s wee fretboard remains mesmerizing to this day, but it’s even more stunning to see that unparalleled talent latent in his early days.