As a rising ninth grader, Aiken could barely get into a three-point stance. His bench press was a measly 115 pounds.
Dreams of playing football in college might as well have come out of the fiction section.
"I wasn't the sorriest kid on the team, because I had played ball, but it just didn't look pretty when I played," he told CUTigers.com on Tuesday.
"I could never see myself getting to this day where there's so much attention here for me, all of [the college coaches] wanting to come to see me and talk to me about playing football at that university," Aiken said.
The Scout.com four-star defensive end believes it's a testament to the program that head coach Kevin Crosby has built during his tenure at Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School.
"I went from benching 115, right before the summer started when I was in eighth grade, to right before the summer ended, when I was about to become a freshman in high school, I was benching 225," Aiken said. "I made a big jump. A 110-pound jump right there. Then, I went from 225 my freshman year to 280 my sophomore year…before you know it, I hit 330. Every couple of months you're going to get up a little higher.
"That's how it is. We work all day long, from about 3:15 to about 5:30, 6 o'clock. It works."
Now, Aiken bench presses 330, squats 465 and power cleans 285. And he expects that all three of the maxes are actually higher.
That work ethic, Aiken said, surrounds the program.
"Our coaches have that mentality. When you're around the coaches as long as we are, when you're around the school, around them when we come here to lift weights and workout, when you're around them like that, you get the same mentality they've got," he said.
"That's how it is. We work all day long, from about 3:15 to about 5:30, 6 o'clock. It works." (Hale McGranahan)
The 1-A program has produced two five-star college prospects that are now in the NFL and several others that have moved on to play major college football. And it certainly doesn't hurt to have Ricky Sapp and Da'Quan Bowers dropping by the school anytime they're back at home.
Aiken always knew who Bowers was, but didn't get to know him until he was a senior. Aiken, an eighth grader at the time, has an older brother that was teammates with Bowers. The two remain in touch to this day.
"He talked to me one day before the draft. Before he went out to California to train I sent him a message of Facebook telling him good luck on the draft," Aiken said.
"He messaged back and said thanks and asked about the recruiting process and how it was going— I told him. He told me that it can get a little rough sometimes. There are going to be guys coming in and some of the coaches are going to be pressuring you to come to their school. They're going to kind of throw everything they've got at you, if they really want you. You've just got to take your time and make sure you go where you want to go, where you feel the best at."
They haven't spoken in a couple of months, but Aiken did spot Bowers at the Orange and White spring game in Clemson.
"He was signing some autographs for some little kids when I saw him. I didn't want to go down there and the little kids think that I was trying to take him from them," Aiken said. "They were going pretty crazy over him. I just figured I'd let them take their time and get their autographs and I'll catch him later. I haven't talked to him since he's been in Bamberg. I'll probably see him soon. He'll be by here before he leaves again."
He and Sapp sat down with one another last week to talk football and share a laugh.
"He was telling me that he had to go back [to Philadelphia] on Monday. He was telling me about the draft, talked me and joked around with me about Clemson and everything…that's a great guy," Aiken said. "Every time they come back home they talk to us a little bit."