ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Although he currently resides in Ohio, Pickerington North High School star offensive lineman Justin Boren felt right at home during in Ann Arbor, Mich. this past weekend at the NIKE Camp. In fact, the 6-foot-3, 319-pounder knows the University of Michigan better than anyplace else, one big reason why the Wolverines could be adding one of the top linemen in the nation very soon.
"I grew up on Michigan football," said Boren, who was dominant at the NIKE Camp this past Saturday and was easily the best lineman on either side of the football during drills and one-on-ones. "Having my dad play there, it was obviously a team I followed since I was young. I feel comfortable around the coaches and just feel at home here. That's one reason why I've told all the schools I've talked to except for Michigan and Ohio State that I appreciate the attention, but I don't want to waste their time. I'm going to choose between those two schools."
Boren, whose father Mike played in two Rose Bowls and a Sugar Bowl with Michigan as a linebacker back in the early 1980's, has 23 written offers from prominent schools like Oklahoma, Michigan State, Northwestern, Boston College and others with one expected from Southern Cal this week. However, he's been following Michigan and, to a lesser extent, Ohio State all of his life.
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"I never dreamed of playing for Ohio State," Boren admitted, a rarity for any Ohio native. "My dream was to always play for Michigan and I've been here in Ann Arbor so many times. I'm just so comfortable here."
Does that mean Boren is ready to commit to the Wolverines?
"When I get that feeling and I know for sure where the right fit is, then I'll commit," he said. "I started to get it coming up here on Friday so it's getting close, but Ohio State is a great program and they have great coaches too. Once the feeling hits me, I'll be done."
It's no coincidence that Boren wore a Michigan t-shirt under his NIKE gear for the camp.
"There's some significance to the shirt," he smiled. "I'd be lying if I said there wasn't."
Whichever Big Ten team he choses, they'll be getting an outstanding prospect at either guard or center.
"I've heard a rumor that they're looking at me for center and I'll play wherever," he said. "I've never played center, but whatever will get me on the field the quickest is fine with me. I think I could learn to snap and play center. Our team runs a Wing-T offense so we do a lot of run blocking already, but I also love to pass block."
If Boren were choosing based on the depth chart situation, the Buckeyes would come out on top.
"It looks like I could play there a little earlier," he said. "But I'm not choosing based on depth chart because no matter where I go there will be tough competition and I'll have to give it my all to play. Nothing is guarenteed."
The big offensive lineman started playing football at six years old, but insisted on playing a position that wasn't made for him.
"I wanted to be a linebacker like my dad," he said. "It was all I wanted to play really, but in seventh grade my coach told me I didn't have a chance to play it, I was just too big, I switched to offensive line. I really started liking football during my freshman year in high school when I started varsity and our team went to the regional finals."
Boren realized he had a future as a D-1 player during his sophomore year because of Ohio State.
"I always dreamed about it because of my dad and thought I could do it, but during my sophomore year Ohio State started recruiting me really hard, that's when I knew it could happen," he explained. "Ohio State was my first offer and then Michigan followed after that. That's one of the reasons why it's down to those two teams, they believed in me the earliest."
One of the things that attracted the two Big Ten powers to Boren was his tenacity and intensity on the field.
"I always play intense because it's one of my mottos that if I'm not going to play with intensity then I might as well not play at all," he said. "I'm always looking for someone to hit out there on every play."
Boren's aggressive nature is loved by his coaches, but not always by his teammates.
"Coaches have told me to tone it down a lot in practice, but that's when I know I'm playing well," he said. "My dad always told me that you play like you practice so if I'm going half speed in practice, how is that going to prepare me for a game? Sometimes my teammates get ticked off a bit, but they understand. It's football. If you don't want to get hit, you're playing the wrong sport."
Boren's father has helped educate Justin on the ways of football and also handed him some great genetics.
"I get my strength from my dad," Justin said. "He was always a strong guy and I think I get that from him when it comes to lifting weights and playing strong. I bench 460 pounds and squat 650 and that comes from him."
"I've pretty much been there and done that when it comes to football," said his father. "So I can pretty much tell him to do as I say and not as I did because I learned from all of my mistakes and can help him avoid the same ones."
It doesn't hurt that the weight program at his school is excellent.
"We train so hard in the weight room," Justin said. "We train a bit different than some other schools where we'll pump out seven reps and they'll change the weight on us like it's a Nascar race and we pump out more after that. It's a lot of high intensity lifting in short bursts."
Could a proud Michigan alum and former player allow his son to attend Ohio State?
"Let's just say I'm staying out of it and allowing Justin to make his own decision, but Michigan is a great school and is one of the best places in the country," said his father. "The thing about Michigan is that I played with a lot of the coaches here and it's a family and I know what it's like to attend Michigan and play here. But I'm staying out of it as much as I can and wherever he decides to go, I'll support him all the way."
It doesn't take a detective to figure out which way Boren is leaning, but when will a final decision be made?
"By the end of May the latest I would say and as early as the next week or so," said Justin. "I'm getting very close."