Last summer Austin Haywood didn't have any Division I scholarship offers. A year later, he might play a key role with the Sooners as a true freshman.
When players report early next month one of the intriguing story lines: How quickly can Haywood work his way into the tight end competition?
"He has tremendous ability," said Southmoore coach Chris Jensen. "He's a very tenacious blocker and has great hands. If he buys in to what Schmitty (OU strength coach Jerry Schmidt) preaches he could play right away. And I think he will. He practices hard."
In modern day recruiting, Haywood is a rare exception, a potential All-Big 12 player that that didn't garner much interest until his senior season of high school.
Academics were an issue. But the primary reason Haywood flew under the radar is he never showcased his football skills until after he moved from Anadarko to Southmoore in his junior year.
Haywood, 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, arrived too late to play football as a junior but began drawing interest from D-I coaches before playing a down for the SaberCats. Opting to not play baseball for the first time, Haywood dedicated himself to Southmoore's spring football program.
"A lot of Division I coaches came through and noticed his size and stature," Jensen said. "You can tell a lot by watching a kid in practice, how he approaches the game during the drudgery of practice. Austin shows up. He goes hard all the time."
Despite being one of the stars at the Edmond Shootout, a 7-on-7 competition held in July, Haywood still had no D-I offers when the 2009 season started. It wasn't until October, late in the season, that offers flooded in.
"That's the thing about recruiting," Jensen said. "If a kid doesn't have offers as a junior they want to see him on film. I'm not knocking Anadarko, but 6A is a different level competition, gives (college) coaches a better idea what a player might do at the next level."
Haywood dominated on both sides of the ball. He recorded 34 catches for 578 yards and 20 touchdowns, including eight rushing touchdowns. He also compiled 73 tackles and nine sacks at defensive end.
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Austin Haywood School: Southmoore Position: Tight end Height: 6-foot-5 Weight: 250 pounds Senior stats 34 receptions, 578 yards, 12 TDs 33 carries, 134 yards, 8 TDs 73 tackles, 9 sacks, 2 Int.