- Jc Shurburtt
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Under Armour All-American defensive end William Gholston Jr. (Detroit, Mich./Southeastern) has the physical tools to develop into an outstanding college player. More important, the 6-foot-7, 240-pounder has the mindset and work ethic to take him from promising prospect to dominant player.
Not buying into recruiting hype is one of the biggest challenges that prospects face when they get to college. It's very easy for an 18-year-old to let national recruiting attention go to his head, and to confuse that with a free pass through college football and into the NFL. This makes the development of a work ethic -- which is a prerequisite for collegiate success -- a major challenge.
It won't be an issue here. Sure, Gholston possesses a rare blend of size and speed that has most of the country's major programs flocking to the Motor City to recruit him. And, yes, he is in the nation's premier all-star game for high school players. However, he is driven by a love affair with the game he has played most of his life.
"I never have thought that I was one of the top prospects in the country," he said. "I started playing football when I was 4 years old because I liked the uniforms. When I was 7 or 8, my love for the game progressed. The funny thing about it, I can't really even describe why I love the game of football so much. It's just a feeling I get before the game. I will look at myself in the mirror. I will have my headphones on, and eating McDonald's french fries.
"I just love the sport and everything about it."
The humble reverence is an important mental trait to have as Gholston, who is a cousin of New York Jets linebacker Vernon Gholston, moves into college football next season.
Gholston might be his own harshest critic. Southeastern head coach Donshell English has been impressed.
"He's the best I have ever seen," English said. "I have never seen a kid that big run like he does. I am sure they have guys like that in the pros, but I have never seen a kid like that in high school."
Because of his size and his ability to run, Gholston wants to try to play middle linebacker in college.
"I was coached and trained to be a linebacker," he said. "I want to try to play middle linebacker in college. When I go to college, I am going to work three times as hard to play the position that I want to play. That will give me an advantage. I will play where the coaches want me to play."
English says the position his star plays in college depends on how much weight he gains.
"With his frame, I don't know if he is going to be able to stay at 250 pounds once he gets into a college weight program," English said. "But maybe he can. I think he probably will get up to around 280. He reminds me a lot of Jason Taylor long term."
In recent recruiting cycles, the production of football talent in Detroit has been on the upswing. Highly touted recruits such as William Campbell (Class of 2009, Michigan), Joseph Barksdale (Class of 2008, LSU) and others have gained national attention in recent years.
"I have been blessed to play with so many talented people," Gholston said. "There is so much talent in this city. Even the guys that may not have the ideal size, they may be extremely fast. So they are solid players even though they may lack the physical attributes.
"I play in the Detroit Public School League and the schools here are very close together, so we all know each other. It's like playing against your brother. I know that when you compete against your brother, you wouldn't want him upstaging you, so the competition is great."
English talked about the role football plays in the lives of the young people in the city. He tries to keep the players in his program as involved in school as possible, using study hall sessions and practice to keep players at the school into the evening.
"To be truthful, the kids in the inner city don't really understand the tough economic times," he said. "Still, they use football as an outlet. They use it as a way to stay off the streets and out of trouble. We keep them here until around 7 p.m. nearly every day; then we tell them to go home, get something to eat, relax and get ready for the next day. It's like a safe haven for them."
Gholston is excited about heading to Orlando for the 2010 Under Armour All-American Game this coming January.
"It's a great opportunity for me to test myself against the best players in the country," Gholston said. "I hope to dominate, or at least I am going to work as hard as I can to dominate. Times are hard not only in Detroit, but also throughout the state of Michigan, so I am excited to represent not only my city, but also my entire state."
JC Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2009 Under Armour All-American William Gholston isn't letting praise from outsiders influence the way he approaches football, writes JC Shurburtt.