Every year, there are players who I see and I can't understand what all the fuss is about, and there are others who I can't believe are not being more heavily recruited. This year, there were a couple of those in Ohio who I thought should have been more heavily recruited, and E.J. Underwood is one of them.
What is especially puzzling with Underwood's ranking is the lack of talent at corner nationally this year. Last year was a fine year for corners. If you don't see a player personally, you can go by the talk to get a good feel for how good a position is, and this year, there is no Ahmad Carroll, let alone a Marlin Jackson or a Dominic Robinson, who were players that were ranked on one or more top 100 lists. Why couldn't an E.J. Underwood get on more national lists?
I think Underwood would have been a top 20 corner last year. This year, with little competition and the tear he went on over the spring at various camps, there is no question in my mind this is a top 10 corner. The real test is who wants a player. Penn State and Tennessee wanted Underwood. Virginia and LSU still want him.
Underwood brings some special skills to the table, but what may separate him from the others is heart, dedication and work ethic. That work ethic stands out even more when you look at his academics. You see, despite the gaudy grade point average and test score, E.J. Underwood has a learning disability.
We are so used to seeing the really low numbers for learning disabled kids, but it doesn't have to be that way. It helps to have a skilled and dedicated teacher, and Underwood acknowledges that he would not be here without Ms. Andrea Joyce.
Recently, E.J. and his wonderful family came up to the Touchdown Club of Columbus Blue Chip banquet in honor of the top senior football players in Ohio, and he brought Ms. Joyce with him. This was an event that is supposed to let the players sit back and bask in their accomplishments. Underwood took the time to thank his teacher publicly in a speech that was totally from the heart and off the cuff that brought some in attendance to tears. He thanked God, his parents and his fine coach Ed Mignery, but he spent most of his allotted time thanking the teacher who helped him get to this point.
Coach Tressel has stressed character. He has seen Underwood on the football field, but you can bet character played an important part in extending an offer to this special player and special young man.