Hard Work is Paying Off

The alarm goes off at 6 a.m., and Jonathan Baldwin jumps out of bed. Five hundred push-ups later, he is out running. Then it's time to work on his route running and pass catching. Call that the summer routine.

Basketball practice has just ended, and if time allows before they shut the lights out inside the Aliquippa High (Pa.) gym, Jonathan Baldwin stays and shoots 150 jump shots before hitting the showers.

"I've got to do it," Baldwin said. "I am trying to be the best I can in both sports. I don't want to play anything that I can't be the best I can."

It's easy to see why the 6-foot-5, 218-pound Baldwin will be one of the most sought after receivers in the 2008 recruiting class. He is also highly touted on the hardwood, already holding impressive offers in both sports.

Notre Dame is obviously interested, sending Baldwin at least two letters a week.

"Just a great kid," stated Aliquippa head coach Mike Zmijanac, who has a great idea of what he is talking about after completing his 43rd year as a coach. "He has great athletic ability. He is a wonderful citizen and a marvelous athlete."

Marvelous athlete could be an understatement. Baldwin said he clocked a 4.31 and a 4.33 40-yard dash at the Pittsburgh camp this past summer. This past season, Baldwin caught 21 passes for 470 yards (22.4 avg.) and five touchdowns. A guard or forward on the court, Baldwin is currently averaging 21 points and nine rebounds per game.

Baldwin said he has received football offers from Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Ole Miss and Michigan. When it comes to mail, Notre Dame is right there at the top of the list for most sent, and Irish assistant coach John Latina has made a couple calls to Zmijanac regarding Baldwin.

"You can't teach 6-6 225 pounds," Aliquippa receivers coach Sherman McBride stated. "That is something you cant teach with 4.3 speed. Those type of receivers don't come around very often."

"I'm a go to guy," Baldwin said. "You can throw me the ball any time. I can be a possession receiver, a deep threat, and I ain't scared to go across the middle either."

"He looks like Plaxico Burress to me," Zmijanac said.

Baldwin said basketball offers have come from Florida State, Marquette and Buffalo.

"Right now I'm leaning, I haven't really decided to tell you the truth," Baldwin said when asked what sport he is going to play in college. "I'm just playing right now. I'll probably decide that after my senior year."

Notre Dame could play its way into the mix.

"I want to get up there and visit," Baldwin said. "I've never been contacted and nobody has contacted me. I don't know how to go about it.

"My coach told me if Notre Dame was ever interested in me, don't just turn them down. Just give them a chance and go up there and see how they look, how the place is and what they have to offer me academically. But I already know Notre Dame has great academics. A degree from there is a good thing to have under your belt. If they ever get in touch with me, I'd try and take a visit."

Zmijanac advised Baldwin to take a good look at any top-notch schools that are interested in him.

"Notre Dame is one of the great universities in the United States," he said. "You talk about one of the top-10 programs in the country and Notre Dame is always mentioned. I probably would have told him the same thing about Ohio State, Texas and Southern Cal. Those are all great universities."

Baldwin took an unofficial visit to the Michigan-Michigan State game this past year in Ann Arbor. He also has a link to the Wolverines in cousin and Aliquipa alum, Ty Law. The veteran NFL cornerback plans to work out with his cousin this summer.

"When I was in the middle school parking lot running last year, he was there with a friend and we got to talking for a little bit," Baldwin said. "He told me next year, if I keep working hard I can come train with him. He got in touch with me this year, and told me to come up.

"I'm going to have to see what my AAU schedule is. I might have to miss some games."

Other kin that have played football at a high level is Baldwin's father Jeff, who was a defensive end at Pittsburgh. He broke his ankle his rookie year with the Philadelphia Eagles and was released. Another cousin and Aliquipa alum, Charles Fisher played at West Virginia and then with the Cincinnati Bengals, before blowing out his knee.

Baldwin said he can bench press 320 pounds. He is going to start training in the weight room for the 185-pound rep test he will get at the Penn State Nike Combine. Baldwin isn't sure about any other future camps or combines.

Funny thing, Baldwin has never squatted in his life.

"My legs have always been naturally strong," he said. "I might have to when I go to college. During the summer in my training, I run up dirt hills in my spikes like Herschel Walker used to do.

"I do a lot of speed stuff and I jump rope."

Baldwin also works hard in the classroom. He says that he has a 3.0 GPA.

"Recruiting is going well, but I don't think I'm going to commit until after basketball season my senior year," Baldwin said. "If it's football, I'm going to commit before that because they might pick up other people, and the school I want to go to might not have room for me."

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