As defensive ends go, consider Sheldon Rankins probably one of the more grounded you'll see.
With close to double-digit offers right now, what he cares about is the medical program. "I want to take something in the sports field like Sports Medicine or something along those lines," he said.
What he cares about after that is the relationship. "I want it to be a place that feels like home, where I have a good relationship with the coaches the players, too," he continued
And then when it comes to playing time, he wants his chance to play early. But the key word should be "chance." "I want an opportunity to earn my place, earn my respect and get my time the right way. I don't want a thing given to me," he said.
Then, let's add his perspective on his own ability, which is impressive as the 6-3, 255 lbs. defensive end was a sacking machine last year, notching an estimated 16 on the season. "There is always someone better. There is always someone who works as hard as you do or maybe twice as hard," Rankins said. "If you stop trying to get better, you won't, and everyone will just pass you by."
Combine that with a GPA good enough to get an offer from Stanford, and you pretty much have what many would consider an ideal player, regardless of the position.
Given that, you could probably assume that the nine offers he's sitting at right now might be just the beginning.
Maybe, but Sheldon isn't worry about that, nor is he looking at the fact that while he has offers from places like Stanford, North Carolina, N.C. State and most recently, Nebraska - neither the Dawgs or the Yellowjackes, the two in-state football powers, have followed suit. "I was frustrated by that at first, but not anymore. I grew up a fan of the Dawgs, but I am going to worry about those who have offered me, and the rest isn't something I am going to think about," he said.
Nebraska was the most recent to offer him, and it would be hard to think that a Georgia kid is going to know too much about a team in the Midwest that hasn't recently played anyone he's followed to any real extent. But Rankins did know a couple of things, one probably not a big surprise. "I followed them when they had Ndamukong Suh. I know they have a good defense, which is kind of what they are known for," Rankins said. "Coach Corey Raymond is recruiting me from there, but outside of that I don't know a lot. I will have to do more research on them."
Believe it or not defensive end is a position Rankins has warmed to, but it wasn't the position he wanted to play early on in his football career. "I wanted to play running back. I did that when I was playing football as a kid, and then I played it my freshman year of high school. But I got moved over to the defense, and that's where I have been ever since," he said.
Of course, he's warmed to that side of the ball and the things it allows him to do. "I just love the intensity of it. There's just nothing like knocking someone out or getting that kill shot," said Rankins who is eying the single-season sack record for the state of 24 sacks as one of the very few individual goals he has.
Other than that goal, which he listed down his list, the goals for him are a state title, the number one defense in the state and for a little patience as he knows he's going to need it this year. You can figure that the target on his back will probably be as big as the one he puts on the backs of quarterbacks during the course of a game.
It happened toward the end of last year. "We were playing Henry County right before the playoffs, and they were bringing the running back to give help on that edge. Or it was the tight end. Or it was someone, but it was hardly ever just the tackle," he said. "I know it's probably going to be like that all season this year, so I have to be patient, not get frustrated and then ask coach if we can do that in practice, where they are using two and three guys to stop me.
"But if they are paying all this attention to me, someone is going to have some shots," he continued. "We have a DT (Shaquille Huff) who is a beast. If the other team is all over me, he'll make them pay."
While it's early in recruiting for Sheldon, he's already looking at some visits he'll be taking over the next couple of weeks and into the Summer. This week it's North Carolina. After that it's South Florida. And then it's Clemson and Louisville around May or maybe into June.
With offers from places which are a lot farther away like Stanford, Nebraska and Boston College, Rankins said that those might be candidates for official visits during or after the season. As for favorites among that group, Rankins said he had none, and he doesn't see that changing for awhile. "I'm taking this thing to the end, man. I'm not rushing anything, and I can tell you that nobody is out of the picture," he said.
"I'm looking at everyone, because if you don't know something about a program, you can't really say it is or isn't the right place for you. I'm going to look at everyone looking at me and see for myself."