In a vote by the players, Gambrell was named a team captain as a junior.
"He's definitely one of those kids that we knew that the kids would vote for because he's a charismatic guy," Rogers head coach Rick Rios told BuckeyesSports.com. "He's talkative with the group and he's a confident kid and the kids feed into what he's doing and what he's saying. We expect some big things out of him.
"It's a big rarity for us."
As a junior, Gambrell earned first-team all-league honors as he recorded 50 tackles, forced three fumbles, recovered two and picked off one pass. Offensively, he accounted for seven touchdowns. He also shared the captain spot with a classmate: Brandon Hunt, a linebacker.
Rios said the 6-2, 180-pound Gambrell lines up at free safety for the Rams in an effort to keep teams from always throwing away from him.
"He's got such good hips and good movement that he can turn and run," the coach said. "He's a good cover man. He's still growing. He's maybe a little bit over 6-2 now and about 185 pounds. He's just an exceptional athlete. He's one that he could possibly grow into a safety, but I still think right now he's a corner."
As a junior, Gambrell lined up at flanker and often motioned into the backfield, where he carried the ball about 50 times, Rios said.
The coach said he had no doubts that Gambrell would end up at Ohio State. The head coach was helping him get used to the recruiting process following a standout junior season. As the two looked ahead to the future, Rios said Gambrell had one goal.
"All I'd ever hear was, ‘Coach, how can I get to Ohio State?' " Rios said. "The day they offered, we knew that pretty much it was done for him. That's exactly what he wanted. The minute they offered, I knew he was done."
That scholarship offer came in Feb. 15. Gambrell waited almost exactly one month before pulling the trigger as Rios said he wanted to simply make completely sure of his decision.
Gambrell's other scholarship offer came from the University of Toledo. He first showed up on OSU's radar when he attended a camp in Columbus last summer.
"DerJuan is just an explosive player," Rios said. "That's why Ohio State caught a glimpse of him when he came down for a senior camp last year. We brought him down a little early and he did awfully well. He's a tall, rangy kid that can run. He's got good hips."
Although he displayed enough leadership capabilities to be named a captain last season, Rios said he is challenging Gambrell to continue to grow in that area this year.
"The one thing that we talk about the most is just him being a leader," the coach said. "He was a junior captain for us last year, so he's definitely got those abilities but he's still a kid. He'll still do some squirrely things every once in a while. For me, it's sitting down with him and talking about being the leader that we need so that we can step it up and go to the next level."