Practice for the 2010 high school football season in Illinois begins Wednesday and nobody is looking forward to his first tackling session than James Adeyanju, Curie's 6-3, 245-pound defensive end.
Adeyanju is one of the leading college prospects in the state and one of the few who remains uncommitted and insists he won't make a decision until after the season. Glenbard West's Jordan Walsh has committed to Iowa, Vernon Hills' DaVaris Daniels is hoping Notre Dame will accept him, Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin's Ryan Klachko chose Nebraska, Naperville North's Nick Lifka is pledged to Boston College and Fremd's Brian Bobek and Vernon Hills' Evan Spencer will attend Ohio State.
But Adeyanju isn't in a hurry to make one of the biggest decisions of his life.
"I have a great opportunity," he told me. "I will do my due diligence and check out all the schools that I am interested in. When I make my decision, it will be the right one. I'm pretty sure I won't decide until after the season. I certainly won't decide before the season begins. I want to make all five of my official visits."
That is a rarity. Few players, whether they are five-star or two-star prospects, take all five official visits. In fact, many make commitments in the spring or summer prior to their senior years. Some declare without even seeing the campus. Some feel more pressure than others. Some leap at the first scholarship offer extended to them. But Adeyanju seems to have his game plan in order.
"I thank God every day for the situation I have," he said. "I don't like how you feel pressure in the recruiting process. How can you say no to a school like Notre Dame or USC? A lot of people would love to go there. The hardest part is to tell schools no.
"But the great part is I get to talk to great coaches, people I didn't think I'd ever meet, and go to places I never thought I'd go. For example, Tennessee offered me and defensive line coach Chuck Smith is recruiting me. I talked to him on the phone. He is training a lot of great players. He played with the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL."
Adeyanju has made unofficial visits to Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Northwestern, Cincinnati and Arizona. This fall, he will make official visits to Wisconsin (against Arizona State), Boston College (against Notre Dame), Nebraska (against Texas) and Illinois (at a date to be determined). His fifth official visit is to be determined, either Tennessee, Arizona, Cincinnati, Michigan, Michigan State or Northwestern.
Notre Dame and UCLA expressed interest but didn't offer.
He is eager for the 2010 season to begin. To begin preparation, he went to Arizona to train with his older brother Victor, a former Indiana star who plays with the St. Louis Rams in the NFL. Victor advised him to do 100 situps and 20 pushups every night and to play hard all the time, to never give up. He also showed James some pass rushing moves designed to make him more explosive off the ball.
"I feel I am bigger, faster and stronger," James said. "But I feel I have a lot to prove this year to myself. I have to be a leader by my actions. I want to prove to myself that I am a good player and can dominate on the field. Then all the work I have done will pay off."
Last year, Adeyanju felt he had a "decent" season. He was credited with 16 1/2 sacks. This year, he is determined to be more dominating.
"I should have been more dominating last year," he said. "How do you measure success for a defensive end? By pressuring the quarterback, getting sacks and beating double and triple teams. Every game I want to get to the quarterback. I want to get at least two sacks in every game."