Recruits leave the glory days of high school to get a leg up

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 17, 2012 - 6:37 AM

The Gophers are part of a trend in which prep players -- such as Jordan Hinojosa -- graduate early and start college in time for spring practice.

hide

Gophers recruit Jordan Hinojosa is part of a trend in which prep players graduate early and start college in time for spring practice.

Jordan Hinojosa will start college and join the Gophers football team this week, several months ahead of other freshman-class teammates, and it's an achievement that required some sacrifice. In order to graduate from Miami Central High School a semester ahead of schedule, while also turning himself into a Big Ten-worthy recruit, the defensive lineman basically had to forgo ... wait, what exactly did he give up again?

"Basically, being a teenager in Miami," said Jordan's father, Norton Hinojosa. "Jet Skis, pools, hanging out with friends. He didn't get to have much fun."

No, and it's not exactly a party from now on, either. Hinojosa is willingly trading breezes off Biscayne Bay for a Minnesota winter, pad-the-transcript electives for college prerequisites, big man on campus for the freshman dorm. And the payoff won't come, he understands, for months, maybe years. It's a passionate attitude, an impressive commitment, and one that more recruits are making all the time. Hinojosa is one of at least four Gophers recruits who have chosen to speed up their graduation, pass up a victory-lap semester in high school and sign up for college classes and winter workouts.

"I want to be the best," Hinojosa said resolutely. "I'm sacrificing a lot. Last summer was grueling -- I had practice, lifting or class from 9 to 7:30 every day, so it felt like I was giving up my life. I never got to kick back. But I'm absolutely dedicated to football. To the victor go the spoils, and I know someday that will be me."

In addition to the benefits, tangible and otherwise, of starting college a half-year early, it's a remarkable demonstration of the players' zeal for college football.

"I can't wait to play. That's the biggest thing to me -- doing whatever it takes to get on the field as soon as possible," said Mankato West quarterback Philip Nelson, who moved onto campus over the weekend. "I told Coach [Jerry] Kill, 'How soon can I start?'"

The answer is: Today, when Nelson attends his first class on the Minneapolis campus even though signing day isn't until Feb. 1. But the fact that the prep star asked the question was crucial, too, because Kill is aware of the sacrifice required from the early entrants.

"We never talk [recruits] into it. The ones who do it are kids who mention it to us," said Kill, speaking generally because he is prohibited by NCAA rules from commenting on specific recruits. "Sometimes a parent will go, 'What do you think?' I may say, 'Hey, this could be a good opportunity if you want to do it,' but they have to be sure, because you're asking a lot."

'Spring football, that's huge'

The players believe they're gaining a lot by doing it, too. Once they are enrolled, they can take part in strength coach Eric Klein's offseason workouts. They can adjust to college life away from the craziness of two-a-day fall practices, settle into a routine and tackle the normal freshman homesickness. They can bank a semester's worth of credits, lightening the academic load later in their career. They can take part in spring practices, absorbing the playbook and the football staff's routine.

"Spring football, that's huge," said Mitch Leidner, who graduated last month from Lakeville South and now is a roommate of the fourth early arrival, defensive tackle Scott Ekpe of Lewisville, Texas. "As a quarterback, learning the offense, getting some reps right away, it's definitely an advantage."

It's an advantage that the incoming freshmen believe might help them avoid a redshirt. "I'll be a step ahead of the other commitments at my position," Hinojosa said. "I fully intend to play as a freshman, and this gives me a chance to do it.''

Kill has seen mixed results

That chance worked out for receiver Marcus Jones, who followed the same academic path a year ago. Jones, who graduated early from Wake Forest-Rolesville (N.C.) High School, caught Kill's attention with a strong spring, and was on the field for every Gophers game until injuring a knee against Nebraska.

"It worked out pretty well for Marcus, but it's not for everybody. We had a quarterback at Southern Illinois who tried it, and it didn't work out," Kill said. "Last year, [offensive lineman] Tommy Olson could have done it, but he wanted to go through his senior year, and I was OK with it. You see more and more kids trying it now, but I don't blame anybody" for staying in high school.

That's because of all the activities that prep players forgo. For Leidner, "it meant giving up basketball, which is hard," he said. "But I just decided, I love football, so it's worth it."

And at least in-state recruits still can take part in commencement exercises in May, should they choose to. For out-of-staters, high school is officilly over.

Hinojosa's graduation ceremony, the teenager said, will amount to "stopping by [Miami Central] over spring break and picking up my diploma." His senior class trip with friends has been reduced to "probably just saying hello over the summer, between workouts." And the senior prom?

"I'm missing it," Hinojosa said. "My girlfriend gave me some grief. But she understands. This is my future."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Kansas City - J. Vargas 7:07 PM
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 3:00 PM
San Jose
Boston 6:00 PM
Toronto
NY Rangers 6:00 PM
Montreal
New Jersey 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Dallas 6:00 PM
NY Islanders
Detroit 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Chicago 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
Nashville
Tampa Bay 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Florida 8:00 PM
Arizona
Washington 9:00 PM
Calgary
So Florida 17 FINAL
Cincinnati 34
Troy 13 FINAL
South Alabama 27
BYU 30 FINAL
Boise State 55
(6) Oregon 59 FINAL
California 41
UAB 17 FINAL
Arkansas 45
Rutgers 24 FINAL
(16) Nebraska 42
Maryland 7 FINAL
Wisconsin 52
Texas 0 FINAL
(11) Kansas State 23
Memphis 48 FINAL
SMU 10
North Texas 21 4th Qtr 5:20
Rice 34
Minnesota 24 4th Qtr 0:11
Illinois 28
North Carolina 21 4th Qtr 11:27
Virginia 27
San Jose St 17 3rd Qtr 6:45
Navy 24
Northern Ill 14 4th Qtr
Eastern Mich 10
(25) UCLA 17 2nd Qtr 6:12
Colorado 6
Akron 21 2nd Qtr 2:35
Ball State 6
Massachusetts 20 2nd Qtr 3:03
Toledo 14
Ohio U 7 2nd Qtr 4:45
Western Mich 21
Ga Southern 27 2nd Qtr 6:12
Georgia State 17
Kent State 0 2nd Qtr 15:00
Miami-Ohio 7
Oregon State 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10:59 PM
Hawaii
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Louisville
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Memphis
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
Army
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
FIU
(18) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Temple
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Connecticut
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Miami-Florida
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Syracuse
Texas State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico St
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
(20) USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Louisiana
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UNLV
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(5) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(1) Miss State
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(6) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(7) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Navy
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(15) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(19) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(14) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Los Angeles 0 1st Half 25:00
Seattle 0
D.C. 3:00 PM
Montreal
Toronto FC 6:30 PM
New England
Portland 7:30 PM
FC Dallas
Colorado 9:00 PM
Vancouver FC
Montreal 23 FINAL
Ottawa 17
Saskatchewan 27 FINAL
Calgary 40
Hamilton 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who wins and loses in football this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close