Dan Doering is not your typical 17 year old in some ways, but he is like a lot of 17 year olds in a lot of ways.
He has to worry about classes and the social aspects of being a high school student, he has obligations to attend to at home, he has a family and he enjoys hanging out with his friends.
Like many teenagers, he has items on the walls of his room that tell a little bit about him.
"I have a ‘Play Like a Champion Today' poster from Notre Dame, a US Marines Flag, two Incubus posters. Incubus is a band," Dan Doering explained to me, assuming that I would not know.
Truth is that I know of Incubus, but I don't think I have heard their music.
"I just put a Kinnick Stadium poster up on my wall and I have a bunch of airplane posters."
Dan Doering is also one of the most coveted football prospects in the class of 2005 and might be the #1 player in the Midwest.
The 6-foot-7, 290-pound Doering has many layers beneath his impressive exterior, and once you peel away the obvious football aspects, there is much more to this man-child than just a helmet and shoulder pads.
"I also have a ‘Passion of the Christ' poster on my wall, too." Dan said, referring to Mel Gibson's runaway box office hit about the last hours of the life of Jesus Christ.
"I am a Christian, and I saw the movie with one of my best friends. It was a great movie. It really moved me a lot and I was really overwhelmed. Ever since watching that movie, if I think my day has been going bad, I just think about what Christ did for me and I realize that my troubles are nothing."
Doering's story does not stray too far from his hometown of Barrington, Illinois.
"I have lived in Barrington my entire life. I started playing football in the 3rd grade. I played offensive line my whole life. When I was in third grade I weighed 90-pounds, so I was with the fifth and sixth graders and some seventh graders. So I always played the line, mostly right tackle."
"Actually in sixth grade, I started out at 160-pounds, but as the season wore on, I got to play a little bit of fullback, which was pretty cool. But I have never scored a touchdown, isn't that something? After nine years of football."
Scoring touchdowns is not a common thing for offensive linemen, though there is not much that Doering can't do on the football field, and he attributes his early playing days with teaching him some tough gridiron lessons.
"To be honest, playing with the older kids sucked. I got the crap kicked out of me for a good three or four years. It was still fun, I still liked football, but it taught me how to be tough and take hits. In the long run, it probably was for the best."
When you are as big as Dan was at such a young age, chances are someone is going to look at you and see a future playing football. Such was the case with Dan early in his high school career.
"Probably after my sophomore year, my line coach took me in and told me that I had the potential to be as good if not better than Dan Stevenson who is a guard at Notre Dame right now. He said that from coaching me during my sophomore year, he said that I had what it took to be a Division 1 college football player." Doering said.
"From that point on, I had that in the back of my mind and have been working towards that goal. Then last spring, Northwestern offered me, and that started the whole process."
Those of us who follow recruiting usually get to learn about athletes near the end of their high school careers when the reporters and recruiters are following their every whim. We seldom know about the hard work and hours of sacrifice that it took to get them to such lofty status.
"I started working out at the Berto Center (the practice home for the Chicago Bulls) before eighth grade started. (High School teammate) Garrett Seeger and I went there and began working out with a guy by the name of Mike Gattone. It was the entire Vermeil training. So up until right now, I have been training with him."
Doering noted that Iowa Strength and Conditioning coach Chris Doyle has also trained at the Berto Center.
"The work that I do is pretty much what Iowa does. They take your weaknesses and work on them. It's not like basic lifts, but there is Olympic lifting like snatches and cleans. From lifting with him, it has helped me with my balance, back, knees…he has trained NFL players like Jim Flanagan, Jim Herndon, Todd Perry. He knows a lot about what it takes to train lineman."
Success never comes without hard work, and hard work does not come without some degree of adversity. Doering got a taste of that when he made the transition from the eighth grade to high school.
"The toughest time for me was probably my freshman year of high school. Coming from youth football where it was fun, hang-loose football; then going to high school was a tough thing. It was different with regards to practices, and then I had some injuries. In eighth grade we were 8-1, then in my freshman year, I don't think we even won a game." Doering said.
"So I had to deal with all of that in football, and I was looking forward to basketball and in the second day of tryouts, I broke my ankle. So I was on crutches for six weeks. When I went through all of that, I was just ready to get going again in the fall for football.
"Then came my sophomore year, and I went to the varsity level and started and have done that ever since."
That was Doering's first taste of going from the top of the heap to the bottom of the heap, something he will have to deal with where ever he chooses to attend college.
"I know that will be difficult, and I am ready for that. But there will also be an entire recruiting class that will be doing the same thing. So we will have each other to rely on and be able to talk to each other.
Inevitably, when you work hard and you are focused on reaching certain goals, success and accolades become the fruits of your labor.
"The high point of my life to this point was probably when I got an offer from Northwestern. They were my first offer. I was ecstatic. Up until that point, I figured I would just go to Western Illinois or play at a D-3 school or 1-AA school. When I heard that news from my dad, I was overwhelmed. It was amazing." Doering said.
"I think I was the last one to know in my family. But my dad was shocked and floored, like I was. It was a nice moment. Having the possibility to play Big Ten football was a surreal thing to think about."
Dan Doering has had the great opportunity to see several colleges on unofficial visits this spring and over the years, including Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, USC and UCLA. But don't assume that he will be ready to make an early decision.
"Some schools are alike, but I want to make sure that I am comfortable and have the total satisfaction that what ever school I go to is the right place. If I have enough time to think about it, I will do that (decide early)."
"We will have to see what happens. I am still getting a lot of interest from schools around the nation and I feel an obligation to at least examine the school and look into it."