Maxx Forde of Woodinville High in Washington is the first to admit he is a football player who just happens to play basketball. But it was one of his efforts on the hardwood that underscores why he's one of his state's top prospects on the gridiron.
Earlier this year in a game against Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline, Forde, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound defensive end who doubles as a forward in basketball, drew the assignment of guarding Kasen Williams.
Williams is arguably the top receiver prospect in the 2011 recruiting class and already has offers from coast to coast. Williams, who is 6-1 and 196 pounds, is also a talented basketball player who excels as a slashing guard.
On this night, however, Forde shut down Williams in a game that still causes his coach to shake his head in amazement months later.
"You'd figure a big guy in hoops compared to a guard, yeah, maybe he'll lose a step or so because he's quicker at the perimeter," Woodinville coach Wayne Maxwell said. "But with Maxx's athleticism and his range, it was pretty impressive to see him shut down Kasen like that. He was all over him that game, and Kasen didn't have a whole lot of opportunities that he normally does because of Maxx's athletic ability."
Athletic is the most appropriate way to describe Forde. A three-sport athlete (football, basketball and track), Forde is just starting to come into his own as a football player. He has never really had a chance to train for just football with his focus on other sports, but Maxwell said coaches see his frame and agility and have quickly decided that he's a must-get player.
"You look at him, he's got a big frame," Maxwell said. "He's got these long limbs, and he's got some weight to put on still. The recruiters are looking at him, and they're looking d-line now with the possibility he could move to the other side if he continues to grow. They'll start him on the edge. If he could get bigger, they could possibly move him to the inside.
"You'll have to ask him what his 100-meter time is, but it's a pretty impressive site to see his big butt in the starting blocks. He's always going against all the sprinter kids. Maxx holds his own there. There's some different coaches coming out that watch him run and are very impressed. He's still kind of like a blank canvas as a football player, but he's got a lot of things that others don't have – pure athleticism."
Forde said a lot of that athletic ability has come from his father, Brian Forde. Forde's father played at Washington State and then spent five years in the NFL after being drafted in the seventh round by the New Orleans Saints.
With his father's background in the game, it would be easy to assume that Forde was immersed in football early, but his father kept him off the gridiron as long as he could. The move paid off because it has helped Forde develop the right way.
"I've always wanted to play football, but my dad wouldn't let me until I was in the seventh grade," Forde said. "It might have been a little bit because he didn't want me to get burnt out on it, but he also didn't want me to get taught bad technique by the little league coaches. So he figured it would be easier to teach me when I got older."
In the end, it was the right decision as Forde now has learned a lot from the coaches at Woodinville and has become one of the state's top prospects. He's already been offered by Washington State, Wyoming, Army and Air Force and is getting heavy interest from Oregon, Stanford, Washington, Idaho and others.
"I've grown up a Washington State fan for a long time," Forde said. "I've kind of known about the traditions they have there, but right now I like what the coaches have going there. They've brought in a new attitude. I felt that when I was over there for their junior day. I really like what they're doing right now. I was excited to get that offer.
"I'm not necessarily going to go there because my dad went there, but I can definitely see myself ending up there. I really have no idea what I'm going to do. I've gone back and forth with myself. When should I get this done? What I came to, basically when I feel right, that's when I'm going to do it. So it could be a couple of days from now, or it could be all the way up to Signing Day."
Plenty of punch from the Panthers
While recruiting successes from other programs like Texas, Florida and Alabama have dominated the headlines, Pittsburgh's run the past two weeks is also something worth mentioning.
The Panthers have landed 10 commitments since June 25, a run that included three pledges on June 28 and was capped off Monday with a commitment from Pittsburgh Woodland Hills defensive tackle Khaynin Mosley-Smith.
The biggest commitment during the string of pledges came from North Olmsted (Ohio) four-star guard Matt Rotheram. Rotheram, who is 6-6 and 310 pounds, had as many offers as any interior line prospect in the country. He could have chosen schools like LSU, South Carolina, Wisconsin or Boston College, but in the end he felt Pitt was the right fit for him.
"I think Pitt's a great fit because they run the football a lot, unlike some teams, and that's important for me because I want to be as successful as possible, and Pitt is a good place to do that," he said. "I really thought Pitt was the best place for me."
Crunch time in Lakewood
Monday, it was Lakewood (Calif.) defensive lineman Justin Utupo's time to shine as he announced his commitment to Notre Dame. Now, all the attention at Lakewood turns to blue-chip quarterback Jesse Scroggins and four-star safety Dion Bailey.
Lakewood coach Thadd MacNeal said Monday it's "getting [to be] crunch time for both Jesse and Dion." Scroggins said he will announce his decision near the end of the month at the EA Sports Elite 11 Quarterback Camp, and Bailey could also announce in that same time frame.
Where Scroggins ends up is anybody's guess.
He's narrowed his focus on three schools – USC, Florida and Tennessee. Scroggins knows the attention from three of the nation's top programs is only going to build the anticipation, but he said he's not going to be rushed into a quick decision.
"The rumors are like critics," Scroggins said. "They are never going to go away and everyone is going to continue to speculate. My goal is to take the next couple of weeks and work towards deciding what is the best school for me."
Bailey's attention has narrowed to three schools also, two of which are in common with Scroggins. Bailey said he's looking mostly at USC, Tennessee and Notre Dame. He, too, would like to commit around the same time as Scroggins, but Bailey also wants to see Notre Dame and Tennessee before making a final decision.
Never too early
More and more young players are earning scholarship offers. Two weeks ago, news surfaced that Tennessee had received a commitment from Evan Berry, the younger brother of Tennessee safety Eric Berry, even though he is just 13 years old. That was followed this week by BYU offering a scholarship to Greer (S.C.) 2012 linebacker Adam Ah Ching.
Ah Ching, who is just 15, earned his offer after impressing at the All-Poly Camp in Bountiful, Utah. Word is that other schools like USF, UCLA and possibly South Carolina might not be too far off from offering either. Ah Ching was named his team's freshman impact player of year in 2008 and also qualified for state wrestling as a freshman after never participating in the sport before.
What impressed coaches the most at the All-Poly Camp was Ah Ching's athletic ability. He's 6-0 and 205 pounds, and he has been clocked at 4.65 seconds in the 40-yard dash, has a 300-pound bench-press max and a 500-pound squat max.
"It's a big honor to be recognized this early," Ah Ching said. "It's something I'm going to use as a motivator. I don't want to get a big head and let it be my focus. My focus is still on being the best player I can. I'm real aggressive, and I love to hit. I'm a true middle linebacker."