Javier Estopinan is a name that recruitniks should remember. A linebacker for South Miami High School in Florida, he has all the necessary tools to be great player. Whether he will develop as projected is still uncertain, but right now he is a hot commodity based upon his potential.
When new head coach Joe Mira and his staff came to South Miami in 2002-03, they found a young man who had played both TE and DE up to that point. They decided to move him to linebacker instead. The results were impressive. "We made him a Sam linebacker - an inside linebacker but outside," Coach Mira said. "Then our middle linebacker got hurt, so we put him at middle linebacker. He just started blossoming. He really enjoyed that position. Coach Steve Johnson, the defensive coordinator and linebacker coach, fell in love with him. Javier listened to him and in the process became all-county linebacker. He led our team in tackles."
For the record, in his initial year at the position, Javier finished with 110 tackles, 2 interceptions (one for a touchdown), 3 fumble recoveries, and 5 sacks.
Javier is both happy about those statistics but yet is not satisfied. "It was the first year I played linebacker," he said. "I caught on pretty good. I hope that next year I can do much better. I need to work in off the block from the lineman a little bit better and a little bit more on my speed too."
Coach Mira not only believes there is room for improvement but that the sky is the limit for young Javier.
"I have had three high school All American linebackers in my head coaching career," he said. "Steve Johnson, my defensive coordinator has been the coach of all three of those. Steve and I both agree that this kid is better than any of the three linebackers we had that made All-American. Those three guys all had an opportunity to be in a pro camp after their collegiate careers. This guy is up there with all those guys."
Talk to his coach long, and he will impress upon you two items:
1. Javier is a young man with solid character.
According to Coach Mira, "This guy has all the right things - the character, the seriousness in his work ethic, he is intelligent, his approach, his humorous side, his serious side - he just has the right elements. He is packed with muscle and intensity but yet is a gentleman who is liked by all his teachers and friends. He is never in trouble. He never misses school. He never misses a workout, a practice, or a film session. Every coach loves him. He is just a real pleasure to be around and coach.
"He does not allow himself to get in a bad situation. One of the things we say around here is, ‘Before you do or say something, just think for a second… If you think it is going to embarrass you or someone in your family? Don't do it or don't say it.' He does not allow himself to get in a situation where he will be embarrassed or called down or a situation where he might get in trouble. He does not hang around with kids who might get him in that situation. That has a lot to do with his parents. He is home every night by a certain time. It is a tremendous code within his family of discipline and love. It is just a great, great family.
"You hear so many horror stories, and there are plenty of them. This guy - there is a place on everybody's roster for a guy like this guy. There is no doubt about it. This guy is the real deal. He will make it big-time."
This begs the question, will Javier let all of this praise go to his head? Will he lose his humility and desire and not maximize his potential? Will his character end up as sour as milk left in the hot Miami sun?
When asked about his greatest strength off the field, Javier answered, "Nothing bothers me. I don't let things get to me. It is hard to focus once you are getting recruited. You have all this attention, but I don't let it get to me. I think that is a big factor. I still have another season to play."
Despite the accolades, Coach Mira notes, "he does not flaunt any of that stuff. When he won the state championship, he had a little smile on his face - a tremendous amount of joy inside himself. (He was) hugging his coaches and thanking them. Yet he is not a screamer and yeller. This guy has a certain amount of control that is beyond his years."
2. Javier is a hard worker who listens to his coaches.
Javier is currently undefeated as a wrestler. After an injury cut short his season in his sophomore year, he won the state title as a junior. Add that to his impressive debut at a new position, and you have a young man who is excelling in multiple areas in a way that most do not. The secret to this excellence lies in the depth of Javier's commitment and his willingness to sacrifice.
Javier believes that on the field, his greatest strength is the effort he puts forth on every play. He is not remotely interested in being a slacker. "I go at it 100% every play," he said. "I like energy between the whistles - intensity; max out between the whistles and then relax. Then max out again."
Coach Joe Mira is a believer in the abilities and ethic of Estopinan.
"One of the ways that people in athletics are able to graduate quickly and do well is by being coachable; not letting your eyes deceive you, but believing in your mind what your coach has taught you," he said. "This is what he does. This is one of his attributes. That is why he is undefeated as a wrestler. It is why he did so well playing a brand new position. He comes into the weight room. We tell him how to do something…that is the way he does it. He is going to go a long way because of that.
"You know he is going to be there. You know he will be at the work out. You know he is going to be at the practice. You know when you need some leadership he is going to be there. You know when a certain play is run - you taught him a certain thing against that play - he will do it that way. He is just so dependable. The kicker of it all is he is a good looking son of a gun!"
So let's get this straight. Javier is a mannerly young man who comes from a strong family, he works hard, he has great physical tools at 6'2", 230-240 pounds with a 4.65 forty time, he dominated in his first season at linebacker, and he is good looking too?
As the old song goes, some guys have all the luck.
Academically, Javier looks to be in decent shape with a 2.5 grade point average. He has consistently taken honors classes during his high school career and although he has yet to take the standardized tests to qualify as a freshman, he scored close to 1000 on the PSAT. For that reason, his coach does not expect him to have difficulty in meeting the NCAA requirements.
Currently, Javier plans to take all his visits and has not set date for committing to a school. He is enjoying the recruiting process and examining all of his options. It is likely that so long as he continues to exercise sound judgment and listen to his coaches, he will make some fan base extremely happy when he opts for their school in February of 2004.
What Javier was wearing when interviewed: "I have an Ohio State wrestling camp shirt on right now."
Coach Mira on Javier as a leader: "His teammates not only like him - they respect him. He does not want to be around people who will not work. Yet when it is fun time - he will joke around and be jovial and humorous as the next guy. There is a tremendous amount of respect, and they all like him."
Javier on his priorities in choosing a college: "The football play is there. You can play football anywhere, but I just want to feel like I am at home. It has to be in a big city. I come out of Miami so I have not seen anything less than a big city. Diversity in the college."
Javier on the player he would emulate if given a choice - and why: "Emmit Smith (because of) His leadership. He carries his football team."
Camps planned: "I have been attending wrestling camps the last three years and this summer I want to go to football camps instead. I will be attending the Nike Camp in several weeks. I will probably be attending the Oklahoma camp and Miami camp."
A possible major for Javier: "I want to be an electrical engineer."
Javier on recruiting: "It never gets old. You only get recruited once."
Coach Mira on Javier as a wrestler: "He goes out for wrestling after the football season, and lo and behold wins the state championship. Undefeated again. He has not lost a match. I went to the state finals in Lakeland, Florida. My wife and I drove up there to watch him wrestle in the state environment with the pressure packed gym and 10 matches going on at one time with the best of the best there. He truly was a man among boys. He is just so dominant. It was very obvious he was a tremendous athlete, tremendous strength, great leverage."