This is the first of an occasional series on the recruiting of Aaron Maybin of Mount Hebron.

This summer, Mount Hebron senior Aaron Maybin lifts weights for two hours every day, then heads to the track for 30 minutes of footwork training. Next, he travels back to his home in Ellicott City to check his mail, which often includes a dozen letters from football coaches at Division I colleges. He spends most evenings with a phone pressed to his ear, talking to coaches who would love for him to attend their school.

To Maybin, one of the nation's most sought-after defensive ends, football has become more than a sport -- it's a job.

The 17-year-old is working on the biggest business deal of his life. It has been that way since last spring, when the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder's performance at football camps drew rave reviews from college coaches. Auburn, Illinois, Maryland, Penn State, Vanderbilt and Virginia have offered him full athletic scholarships -- and it's still early in the recruiting process.

Maybin is relishing this chance to play college ball, but he also sees it as a way to get a college degree that will help him long after he has retired.

So he said his decision won't be based on the athletic opportunities alone. He scrutinizes depth charts and rosters, looking at defensive ends and how many years of eligibility they have left. But he also is reading about college journalism programs because, down the road, he sees himself hosting SportsCenter, not being featured on it.

"Football is a big part of me, but it doesn't define me," he said. "This is a win-win situation for me. I'm going to play big-time college football and get a free education. Let's face it: There's a lot that goes into making a decision like this, so that's why I treat it like a business deal. I would love to go to an Ivy League school that has a great football team that can win a national championship, but that place doesn't exist."

Despite great statistics his sophomore and junior seasons, Maybin didn't emerge as a coveted recruit until he went to camps at Penn State and Maryland, where he outperformed many top East Coast players.

"I think after colleges saw his game tape and then saw what he did at camps, he became a big-name recruit," said Tom Lemming, a national recruiting analyst who puts Maybin among the top 20 defensive ends in the country. "I think when college coaches look at Maybin, they take one look at him and love what they see because he has so much upside. He definitely passes what they call the eye test."

For Maybin, the "eye test" is a time of 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash, a 41-inch vertical jump, a 315-pound bench press and a developing body. Coaches use the eye test to speculate on a recruit's potential, and Maybin's is even more impressive than the 80 tackles and nine sacks he recorded last fall demonstrate.

"Every day I check my mail, and there's a big stack of mail for me in my box at school that I have to give to Aaron," Coach Larry Luthe said. "Coaches call here all the time wanting to talk with him and asking for updates. We've never been through an experience like this because it's been more than 30 years since we've had someone go play Division I-A football."

When he isn't working out, Maybin is traveling with his father this summer, on a fact-finding mission to Georgia, Auburn, Florida, Florida State and Miami.

"I'd say we've already put 40,000 miles on our . . . Explorer in the last year," Mike Maybin said. "Aaron plotted a course when he entered high school to play college football. And what we're going through now is all part of the process."

"Sure, there are times when I want to shut my phone off, but there are a lot of players who aren't getting this attention, so I feel honored," Aaron Maybin said. "Besides, I talk to everyone so I can make a good impression because I never know when I might be sitting across the table from them asking them for a job."

But he also knows the process is going to become more stressful. He plans to take official visits to five colleges this fall -- the maximum allowed by the NCAA -- and announce his decision by Feb. 1, the day players can officially commit.

"I don't know what's going to happen because this is so new for my family," Maybin said. "Every piece from here on out fits in the puzzle in some way. I just have to make sure I put it all together and like what I see before deciding where I want to go."

"Football is a big part of me, but it doesn't define me," said Mount Hebron's Aaron Maybin, who is considering studying journalism in college.Maybin, a senior defensive end, lifts weights for two hours each day.Maybin, shown working out, has already been offered scholarships by six universities.