Detroit Loyola head coach John Callahan frequently has a large to his office. It isn't another teacher or parent, but a sophomore at the school, 6'6, 260-lb Malik McDowell, a star lineman quickly turning into a highly sought after recruit.
"He comes into my office every day and we talk about whatever he wants to talk about. We talk about teachers, we talk about classes, we talk about girls, and just try to keep him grounded and try to keep him on now and not on what's beyond."
More and more their conversations are likely to involve which schools Malik is looking at, where he wants to visit and ultimately, where the best place for him to go to school and play college football will be. For right now though, Callahan says there are plenty of other things for the young man to worry about.
"At the end of the day, I want him to enjoy the ride," Callahan said, "and don't blow it out of proportion. I guess the major schools are the ones I told you, but every D1 school's going to be knocking on the door in the next year. I'm just making sure he'll still have the opportunities to be a kid and 15 years old."
At first, Callahan and Malik's father did that by keeping all the letters colleges sent away from him. Lately, that's been harder to do as more and more schools have shown interest, a handful of them already verbally offering scholarships to McDowell.
Many of these schools want him to come to campus this spring to see practices or spring games themselves, but knowing there will be plenty of time for that over the next two years, McDowell is taking care of his academics, and getting better on the field.
"He's been invited, but I think, if he were a junior, there would be more of an emphasis on visiting schools, but what I'm trying to do with him right now is keep him focused on his grades, keep him focused on the classroom, and keep focused on the speed drills and getting ready for this football season. Then after this football season, then I think we can get more serious about look. Because right now, you ask him where he wants to go and it's 'I don't know.' LSU is nice, Alabama is nice, Michigan is nice, so he'll throw out some names, but he hasn't even Googled a school. He hasn't looked at a stadium or seen a campus. By the time he's a senior, they're going to ask him to come to the East Coast, the West Coast, the South to come visit and he really doesn't need to focus on that right now. He needs to focus on himself and getting himself in the best situation that he can."
McDowell is receiving this type of attention at this early stage in large part because of his physical gifts. His size, athleticism and ability to move around at that size is rare in a young player, and Callahan says the strides he has made in the strength department will pay big dividends as well.
"He's 15 and he's 6'6, 260, and he plays basketball, so he does a lot of running, so his conditioning is good, but also, he's not your typical lineman where he'll eat two or three pork chops and go to bed and be 290-300-lbs. He's slim. You look at his body, he's not skinny, but he can carry 35-40-lbs. He's 260, but he's a slim 260. I'll tell you what, he's deceivingly strong. The thing about Malik where I've seen the biggest improvement is in the weight room. Last year, I'd bring him in the weight room and keep an eye on him and he'd be missing some reps and some sets. He goes in now and we have a pretty structured weight program and he makes sure every single rep, every single exercise is done and sometimes we'll go back and repeat a few things if he feels he hasn't gotten enough out of it, so his mindset in the weight room has improved 100%."
He has made strides as a leader too, and there was one particular day when the light came on.
"I'll tell you, the most proud of him that I've ever been, was not related to football. It was actually related to basketball. When he was still on the JVs before he was brought up to varsity. They lost a basketball game and I wasn't there, but the coach came out and told me. I guess after the game, they were in the locker room laughing and kind of screwing around and he stood up and yelled and told them, 'we just lost a basketball game and when I go out in the bleachers to watch the varsity, if I see any of you laughing or playing around, I'm going to knock you out.' When I heard that, I knew he finally got it and understood that you put a lot of time in and he took a leadership role."
Not bad for a kid who's only 15.