The moment Damian Prince opened the door to his house one day last week, his taste buds began to water from the swirling aroma. Stiff-arming the countless McDonald’s and Chick-fil-a restaurants that the Bishop McNamara senior offensive lineman regularly passes is one thing, but this was his mom’s fried chicken crackling over the stove.

“Come on, Mom,” Prince said with a smile as he entered the kitchen.

“There’s some other food you can eat,” his mother said. “I’ll grill some chicken for you later.”

The battle between mind and stomach has become a daily one for Prince. On one hand, eating is what helped make Prince into the 6-foot-6 giant that he is today, leading nearly 40 major Division I football programs to extend offers. On the other hand, eating healthy is what’s allowed Prince to knock 50 pounds off his frame since last season, transforming him from a big body to a nimble, big-time athlete.

On this particular Sunday, that meant electing to eat tilapia, a ham sandwich, a grilled chicken salad and chips (“I know chips aren’t the best, but I’ve gotta eat”), all washed down with several glasses of water and green tea.

“It’s like your body is an engine and if you put bad oil in it, you can’t expect it to run right,” Prince said. “I’ve always wanted to be in shape, but I had to realize it’s about more than just working out; I had to start eating right and that’s when I started to see results since the end of last season.”

After seeing his frame balloon to 337 pounds, Prince has trimmed down to a weight of 287. Scouts have taken notice as Prince has zipped up the national recruit rankings for Rivals (No. 10 overall) and ESPN (No. 18). The All-Met lineman recently narrowed his extensive list of suitors to 10 finalists, with Maryland pushing the hardest to sign Prince and his wealth of raw potential.

Damian Prince has worked to cut weight and improve his conditioning since last season. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post). Damian Prince has worked to cut weight and improve his conditioning since last season. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post).

“He’s athletic. He had that athletic ability at 340 pounds, but now that he’s under 300, he’s just moving a lot more fluid, a lot quicker,” McNamara Coach Keith Goganious said. “And I think he’s more sure of himself with his balance and now he doesn’t get tired as quickly. The transformation has been tremendous.”

The process hasn’t always been easy, though. Prince’s commitment to lose weight began about two years ago following his sophomore football season. After playing every offensive snap for the Mustangs, Prince rolled right into basketball, figuring a winter competing in his second favorite sport would help him slim down. Problem was, every calorie Prince burned on the court and in the weight room would quickly resurface with each meal he ate.

“I was going really hard trying to lose weight but I wasn’t watching what I was eating, so I didn’t see any results,” Prince said. “It got kind of depressing because I was going days not eating, drinking water and protein shakes, but not seeing any results. Once I started to put the pieces of the puzzle together and not map out a diet but realizing that you can’t eat McDonald’s all the time and started eating more good stuff, I started to see a difference.”

And with those results came an increased sense of self-control. For as tough as trips to the mall can be, the food court menus glowing with fried meal choices, Prince has learned to redirect his attention to the places with more green than grease.

To hold him over between his three or four meals a day, Prince snacks on fruit cups, strawberry applesauce, granola bars, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches…and a few other things.

“I’m not going to lie,” Prince said. “Every now and then I have a honey bun or Oreos, but it’s nowhere near as much as I used to eat them.”

Those times he slightly strays from his diet, Prince typically makes his way to the track at Ballou, which is not too far from his house. There, he’ll engage in several cardio workouts with heavily recruited friends Jalen Tabor, a senior defensive back from Friendship Collegiate, and senior safety Marcus Allen of Wise.

Continuing the exercises that Prince endured as a shot putter on the McNamara track & field team this past spring, the trio runs bleachers, 100-meter sprints, ladders and several footwork drills. When Tabor and Allen work on their coverage skills, Prince goes to another part of the field to polish his technique on the offensive line.

“One thing I’m working on is my hand placement. I watch a lot of film on NFL and college guys and they place their hands so well, that you don’t really have to use your strength,” Prince said. “I’ve seen guys use tennis balls or put on handcuffs to keep their hands close and in the right place, so I’ll do stuff like that and work on my balance.”

Along with participating in several national events during the summer, like the Nike Football Training Camp (NFTC) and Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge, Prince joins his Mustang teammates for three-hour training sessions on weekday evenings. There, they will run gassers (sprinting from one sideline to another), engage in footwork and agility drills, lift weights, watch film and run through plays.

With each workout and every extra bit of attention placed on his eating habits, Prince is building toward his senior season, when he hopes the change in his physique will produce positive results on the field.

“Every camp I’ve been to, they always say he’s lost a lot of weight and that makes me feel good,” Prince said. “That shows that I’m not doing this for no reason and not seeing any results. That’s how it was at first. But now I can see it and everybody else can see the difference and that makes me want to push even harder.”


No turning back for West Springfield runner Caroline Alcorta | Video

For Maryland recruit Melo Trimble, basketball never stops | Video

Forest Park’s Mustaqeem Williams won’t slow down for summer | Video

Summer workouts heat up for Paul VI’s Ariana Freeman | Video