Mark Lenkiewicz is an offensive tackle for Andrews High School in Tinley Park, Illinois. He had an outstanding junior season, showing speed, aggressiveness and persistence with his blocking. But major college coaches took a wait-and-see approach as Mark was undersized as a high school junior.
Now, everything has changed for the better thanks to some hard work in the offseason. Andrews coach Jim Zimmer has been extremely busy this month.
"The last month has been a pretty busy time here at the high school, not only with Mark but with all of us. He's averaging about 3-4 coaches a day coming in. He currently has ten offers on the board right now.
"The reason I think things are starting to heat up is because he has gained a nice amount of weight this offseason. When college coaches came earlier in the process, I assured them he's a hard worker in the weight room. With a good year, he will end up gaining weight.
"That all came out the way we thought it would. He put on good weight, and college coaches came in to see him. He changed quite a bit. He's much bigger.
"He is 6'-5", 255, but he played at 220 last fall. He has the frame to add much more weight. I think he will graduate here at about 275-280, and then the sky's the limit for him in college with a strength & conditioning coach. He's definitely gonna have a good relationship with him because that's something that's important to him."
According to Zimmer, Lenkiewicz has the athleticism and ball skills all schools covet.
"The biggest thing about Mark is that he's a smart football player. He understands the game. Also, his first two steps are some of the fastest I've seen in the years I've coached. His athletic ability is something that sets him apart from a lot of other linemen. With this new strength and weight he has now, he's gonna be an even better player here in the future."
Talented left tackles are especially important for a college football team as they must protect their quarterbacks from speedy defensive ends. Zimmer is convinced Lenkiewicz is the epitome of that type of player.
"I see Mark as a left tackle in college because of his ability to be a pass protector, and his feet. He is athletic enough to play that position against the speed pass rushers they have in college."
Lenkiewicz says he has ten offers on the table right now.
"Illinois State, Colorado State, Ball State, Eastern Michigan, Akron, Bowling Green, North Dakota State, Indiana, Minnesota and one I can't remember right now."
But that number will swell as major colleges begin to evaluate his growth and his playing ability.
"Every Big 10 school has contacted him other than Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State," Zimmer states. "Colorado is another big one. Vanderbilt and some of the other high academic schools are involved because he's a very good student."
Coaches from Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Northwestern and Indiana have shown a lot of interest according to Lenkiewicz. So has Illinois.
"I am definitely considering Illinois. Coach (Curt) Mallory is my recruiting coach."
Lenkiewicz agrees with his coach about how colleges are looking more at players with his physique and growth potential.
"At first, I got a couple of MAC offers. But when I started getting bigger, that started a lot more interest from schools.
"It looks like more teams are looking for guys built like me now, 250-260 and leaner, moreso than the guys that are 300 pounds."
Coach Zimmer is helping Lenkiewicz decide what summer camps to attend and helping him evaluate his opportunities. He is doing his best to get the young man's name out to the colleges.
"Yes. You know, if I find that one of my players has the ability to play college football, I do everything I can to get film out and expose our young men to as many college coaches as I can. If they have the ability and want to become college football players, it's my responsibility and something I take great pride in. They work so hard for us throughout the season and offseason, that's my job to get that done."
Zimmer will play Lenkiewicz at defensive end this fall in addition to left tackle to take advantage of his athleticism. He believes the Andrew Thunderbolts will field a quality team this season. And he has a couple other linemen who will be drawing more attention in the near future.
"We were 4-5 last year. We were a young football team, and we lost a lot of close games. We look forward to this year because we have some key components coming back to our team, a lot of returning starters.
"Garrett Parker is the other tackle. Garrett is 6'-4 and 1/2", 300. A lot of the schools that have come in have come in to see both boys. After everything's said and done, Garrett will be a scholarship football player.
"I have a boy who started for us last fall as a sophomore named Tony Durkin. He's a 6'-3", 240 pound lineman. He has two more years, so we're excited about him. He's a real athletic offensive lineman."
Lenkiewicz is excited about all the attention he is getting. But chances are he will be receiving even more attention in the near future.