"Recruiting has been good so far," said Renell Wren, a defensive end from Lutheran HS North in St. Louis, Missouri. "I've had a few decent coaches come in. Memphis, Illinois Cincinnati, and Missouri so far."
Wren holds offers from two programs so far. Memphis was first to offer, followed by Illinois. The offers are validation for a lot of hard work.
"It feels good to have division one scholarships first of all," he said. "I went down to visit at Memphis and they offered me there. Then Coach Salem came to my school and offered me there."
Lutheran HS North isn't even close to being the biggest school in the St. Louis area. At just under 700 students total, Lutheran North as a whole is smaller than most high schools' graduating classes, but that isn't stopping Wren from getting noticed.
"Even though I go to a smaller school, I still have to work hard and go through what everyone else has to to achieve my goals," Wren said. "We don't always get as much exposure."
Wren is a natural pass-rusher. Throw on his tape, and you'll see a player who is constantly in pursuit of the quarterback. His combination of size and speed makes him lethal when he gets the edge on his opponent.
"My mindset is to always get the quarterback," he said. "I'm a good pass-rusher and I have good speed. I actually run a 4.6 forty. I don't take any plays off. Skill-wise, I use my swim move a lot, and like they say, speed kills. I like to speed rush a lot. That's how I get to the quarterback."
Still, Wren knows he can't rely solely on his athleticism and strength. He has more to work on, especially now that he's also preparing for a future division one football career.
"The biggest thing for me is my footwork and technique," Wren said. "My pass rush skills and my speed are set."
Wren isn't just strong and fast, he's also a big guy. He stands at an imposing 6'6" tall and 250 pounds with very little wasted weight on his frame. Not many of his opponents can match up with him physically, but he still brings his full effort no matter who he's facing, or how many guys he's facing.
"I have a big advantage over my opponents," Wren said. "Most of the time when they face me, they try to double team me, but I don't let them get me down. I run hard at the quarterback and stay in pursuit."
The pass-rush specialist is also a patient rusher at the same time, not overpursuing very often, and he has already learned how to shed blockers well.
"I make sure to keep my leverage when I'm rushing," he said. "If I don't the running back can get outside of me. That's really it for me."
The once under-the-radar prospect is now getting plenty of mail on a regular basis from programs all over. Wren isn't dead-set on going to a championship program, but instead he wants to help whatever program he ends up with achieve success.
"I've been getting a lot of mail," he said. "It really started when I put out my highlight tape. Really I want to go somewhere with a big campus environment. Really a decent football program is fine by me. I just want to go in and join a team where I can help build the program and help them win championships and conference games and all that."
Illinois Coach Tim Salem, who primarily recruits the St. Louis area, has already build a great relationship with Wren and made him feel valued as a prospect.
"Coach Salem is a really good guy," he said. "I went to the junior day and they were really welcoming. They all made me feel welcome. It's a great stadium and a good football team too. Coach Seamonson came up to talk to me and he was saying he wants me to come up and check on the academics. He talked about the tradition at Illinois and what they do for team bonding all the time."
With the ability to play either defensive end spot and maybe even stand up as a rush linebacker, Wren is open to wherever a coach wants him to play, but he knows what his strength is no matter where he's lined up.
"Of course I like to pass rush a lot," Wren said. "I'll play anywhere I'm needed to play, but weak side defensive end is where I'd like to be."
Wren grew up following a couple of programs known for strong defense, especially along the defensive line. But as he's started to delve into the recruiting process, he's become much more open and doesn't play favorites with any schools.
"Well, growing up Alabama and LSU used to be my favorite teams," he said, "but they aren't really anymore. Now I'm pretty open to most division one football programs. Knowing I can help them out whether or not we win still means a lot to me."
Now with an offer in hand, Wren, who already visited Illinois previously for a junior day, is planning a return visit with Illinois, but this time it will be at a nearby camp just east of the Mississippi River.
"Oh yeah, I'm supposed to be coming to the camp June 8th in O'Fallon Illinois, so that should be cool," he said. "Illinois is making a pretty good impression so far. I think Missouri could be close to offering me. I also just had Indiana University and Auburn in contacting me either wanting me to go to camps or just to see what I can do."
But with only a couple months until the heat of summer high school football practices turns up, Wren is already focusing on what matters most to him this fall.
"Really our goal is to get to state," he said. "That's everybody's goal. I just want my team to take no plays off and do the best they can. We have a lot of seniors, so hopefully we do great and make them proud."