Rising senior Ryan Norton was a bit of a late bloomer at Mauldin, but his name sure has caught on of late with college recruiters. Still, it wasn't all that long ago when he wasn't even sure that Division I football would even be an option.
"When he came in as a freshman, he played C-team," said Mauldin coach Doug Shaw. "He was decent sized, but he was a freshman. We didn't want to bring him up too soon, but we wanted him to be able to play and get as many reps as possible."
"He's kind of reserved, but when it comes to the weight room on the field, when it's time to get something done and he's got his mind set on whatever it is he's doing, he's wide-open doing it," Mauldin head coach Doug Shaw said. (Hale McGranahan)
"Truthfully, I didn't think I was going to be a division one football player," he said. "I thought I was too small. I guess I'm not."
Clemson running backs coach Andre Powell stopped by Mauldin during the day Tuesday and offensive line coach Brad Scott watched the 6-4, 270-pound Norton practice later that afternoon.
Norton hopes to get his weight up to 280 before the start of his senior season this fall. In the weight room, he's maxed out on bench press at 350 and recently cleaned 270. He's been doing light weight in the squat rack because of a sprained left MCL that he suffered mid-way through last season.
Despite the injury, there are plenty of schools in hot pursuit. Coaches from South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame and Illinois have made their rounds through Mauldin. Recently, N.C. State and Maryland sent in offers.
As it's been for quite some time now, Norton favors Clemson over South Carolina and Georgia Tech. A decision could be on the horizon.
"Sometime (soon), maybe after the spring game," he said.
Ryan Norton, pictured above at today's spring practice in Mauldin, told CUTigers.com he would likely decide on his collegiate destination after spring ball. (Hale McGranahan)
"It's always exciting because you always have to play for your spot, no matter who you are, so I just get out there and do my best and try to help the team as much as possible," Norton said.
How does a two-year starter and future D-1 center consider that he's not guaranteed a starting spot this fall?
"You can't sit there and say, ‘I'm too good to do my job.' You've got to keep being yourself, no matter what happens," Norton said.
Shaw loves having a player with that kind of mindset touching the ball on every play.
"He's just a blessing for us…we couldn't have asked for anything better right there, we get to snap all the time," he said.
Shaw said all of the college coaches he talks to about Norton rave about his mentality when it comes time to play. Mean, tough and physical on the field, it's a different story off it.
"He's kind of reserved, but when it comes to the weight room on the field, when it's time to get something done and he's got his mind set on whatever it is he's doing, he's wide-open doing it," Shaw said. "He's an easy going fella. He's the kind of guy, if he's sitting in my office, if you don't ask him a question, he might not talk. An awesome kid, we love having him around."