Melvindale, Mich., cornerback Wayne Pettus knew he had to make a strong statement this summer to assuage the concerns many college coaches had about his 5-7, 160-pound frame.
Starting in June, Pettus attended a few high profile camps and combines, earning praise for his play at each one. The highlight of his camp tour was winning the defensive back MVP award at the Champaign NIKE Camp. Two weeks later, he secured his first offer of the process from Central Michigan after Chippewa's head coach Butch Jones was able to evaluate him at the Michigan summer camp.
"There is a lot of interest out there for Wayne, but we're kind of surprised he only has one offer at this point," Melvindale head coach Phil Howard said. "The feedback I'm getting is a lot of people love him, they love his athleticism, he has tremendous ball skills, is an ultra-competitor and he has great hips, the unfortunate thing is he is 5-7."
The height concerns appear to be the No. 1 issue Pettus faces in the recruiting process. While he has all the technical aspects of the game in bunches, his size makes many college coaches pause.
"I can understand their concerns, but I do feel [height] is overvalued," Coach Howard said. "I've told every coach I've talked to that they're missing the boat because he can flat out play.
"We're not frustrated, because I think those [offers] will come eventually once they see his senior film. I've told him and I've told his mom that those offers will come, and if they don't come he's got an offer from one of the better schools in the MAC anyway."
Pettus took an unofficial visit to Central Michigan at the end of July for a Junior Day and came away impressed with the university and facilities in Mount Pleasant according to Coach Howard.
Pettus has also been receiving mail and interest from the likes of Illinois, Syracuse, UCLA, Michigan, Purdue, Iowa and Toledo. Two Big Ten programs, in particular, plan to make extensive evaluations of Pettus this fall.
"I've talked to Coach [Norm] Parker at Iowa and he told me that off of Wayne's film he would offer, but Coach Ferentz does not allow them to offer sight unseen," Howard reported. "They are going to come up in the fall and watch him.
"We talked to Purdue and they have what they call "smurf" scholarships for kids who are undersized, but fit their system. They are definitely real high on him and think he can play. We're looking forward to hosting those coaches and I think once they do see him, they're going to fall in love with him."
After receiving praise for his performances this summer, Pettus plan is to capitalize on that attention with a strong senior season. He also is a standout running back for the Cardinals and will be able to show his skills on both sides of the football this fall.
"He thinks that his opportunity is going to come and it definitely does motivate him," Coach Howard added. "Wayne knows he's a good football player."
As a junior, Pettus came away with five interceptions at the cornerback position, taking three of those back for touchdowns. On offense he accumulated over 800 yards rushing.