Here came Joseph Weté, the sophomore starting defensive end for Gonzaga, swaggering up to the line of scrimmage in a fresh purple jersey and black pants, ready to burst into his first varsity football game. Then he looked up and saw four-star Maryland recruit Jordan McNair, the offensive tackle, lining up over him.
“I didn’t know many things about being a pass rusher,” Weté says now. “I didn’t have a lot of moves. I’m not going to lie, that was not a good game. But that’s the beauty of highlight tapes. You don’t have to show that.”
McNair, of McDonogh School, dominated Weté, who is now a four-star recruit himself heading into his junior season. Weté wasn’t strong enough to go through McNair. Occasionally he could beat him around the edge.
Weté played at a lean 6-foot-3, 195 pounds — basically wide receiver-size — his sophomore season. If a half-decent lineman got his hands on him, Weté would end up waiting for the next play. When the season ended, Weté hit the weight room. He put on 30 pounds of muscle and grew an inch.
All of a sudden the scholarship offers, from the likes of Michigan, Georgia, Penn State, and Southern California, started pouring in from programs salivating over a young pass rusher with a Division I-ready frame.
Already in summer workouts, he said he feels the difference in his game. He’s not gliding around the field like he was before. He’s driving through drills in quick, explosive bursts. In 2017, he wants to be able to go through offensive linemen, not just around them.
He spent the winter and spring on a disciplined diet and strength training regimen to add all that weight. He eats five meals a day — “When I stop feeling full, it’s time to eat again,” he said — because he needs all the calories he can get to recover from workouts.
He’d routinely be at school until 8 p.m., finishing a conditioning session or taking an ice bath.
That routine led him to reconsider what football means anymore. It’s not a game. It’s a lifestyle, one he’s fully aware can do more than just pay for college, he said. There are sacrifices that go along with that mind-set.
When friends go the local rec center on Fridays for pickup basketball, as they’ve done every week for years, Weté joins, but sits on the side, maybe shoots a couple of jumpers in between games.
“I can’t,” he tells them. “Right now is my job. My body is my money. My body is my future.”
“God forbid,” he says, “I go up for a layup and land wrong, the consequences are more than what my friends would have in that situation.”
There’s a search for understanding in such moments. Not all of his friends “get it,” he said. His parents, both from Cameroon and unfamiliar with the multibillion-dollar business that is college and professional football, don’t understand why he’s at school so late.
But folks around football, coaches and teammates, do. And so the weight room is a place of refuge and the practice field — “Practice isn’t meant to be fun,” Weté says — provides familiarity. This is what it takes, Weté tells himself, to be an elite football player.
“I know that college football is a business and the better school you go to, the better second stringer or third stringer they have,” he said. “Sometimes that extra step, that extra rep on the bench is the difference.”
» Oxon Hill 2018 wide receiver Daniel George committed to Penn State last month. George, a four-star recruit, was arguably the biggest prize left uncommitted from the All-Met Power 5 class of 2018.
At 6-2, 201 pounds, scouts and coaches loved his size and strength, which he prolifically used to shove defenders out of the way while route running. He was first team All-Met as a junior and caught 45 passes for 873 yards and 15 touchdowns. He was also an All-Met and state champion track star.
» Maryland goes another week with a big splash in the local recruiting scene.
The Terrapins secured a commitment from Good Counsel 2018 linebacker Tyler Baylor, a three-star prospect. Baylor was also considering offers from Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisville and Pittsburgh.
Baylor adds more name recognition to Maryland’s recruiting class of 2018. The Terps had gone about a month without landing a big-name local prospect, a constant imperative to keep recruiting momentum rolling.
» South County 2018 wide receiver Dillon Spalding told the Post, “People will be surprised with where I commit.”
The 2016 All-Met first-teamer and four-star recruit cut his list down to Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Temple, East Carolina and West Virginia in early July, but said he’s looking at other schools outside of those five. The tweet announcing those schools as his finalists has been deleted.
He said he will likely will announce his commitment by the end of the 2017 season.
Scouts like Spalding, who measures at 6-2 and 216 pounds, for his physicality and size. He excels at overpowering defensive backs and hauling in passes with good body control. He had 67 catches for 1,069 yards and 14 touchdowns his junior season.
» Episcopal 2019 safety Litchfield Ajavon visited Notre Dame, Michigan and Michigan State over the summer, but said he’s done with visits likely until after this season. Those three schools don’t have a significant edge over the roughly dozen others that have courted his services, including Clemson, Georgia and Wisconsin. They just happen to be grouped relatively near one another in the Midwest. Ajavon said he doesn’t plan on cutting his list of suitors until next summer.
» Another area long snapper is headed to play college football on scholarship from a Power 5 conference school.
W.T. Woodson 2018 long snapper Michael Vojvodich is headed to Minnesota, he announced last week. Centreville long snapper Brock Assel committed to Air Force in June.
Proud to announce that I have committed to the University of Minnesota. Thank you Coach Wenger and Coach Fleck for this amazing opportunity pic.twitter.com/IPnS3BaeKZ
— Michael Vojvodich (@mikevojvodich) July 29, 2017
» Potomac (Va.) 2018 offensive tackle Jesus Gibbs committed to South Carolina in late July. Gibbs, a three-star recruit, also had offers from North Carolina State, Yale, Princeton, Boston College and East Carolina, among others.
» Avalon 2018 cornerback Jermaine Waller committed to Virginia Tech last week. The three-star prospect was also weighing offers from Virginia, Maryland, Temple, Connecticut, North Carolina State and Rutgers.
» We’re trying to keep a running list of all the players in the area with Power Five conference offers. And we’ve recently added a page for the class of 2020.
Are we missing anyone? Let us know by commenting on this article or tweeting @jacobbogage, and we’ll make updates.
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