If you think you have heard of Nick Plato before or followed before on the recruiting scene, you are probably right on both counts. Last season, Plato was one of the top tight end prospects in the country when he had the misfortune of being in a car wreck and broke his left femur right before the start of the 2007 season. Nick's father came up with the idea to basically redshirt him and the family petitioned to the Illinois High School Sports Association for him to get a fifth season of eligibility.
The request was accepted and Plato is now enjoying his second chance.
"It goes to show all that hard work when I was growing up is paying off," said Plato. "I couldn't be happier with myself because I am living a dream. This is what I grew up and wanted to do, and I am loving every minute of it. I am healthy and am about at 95 percent. I am almost to the point where I was last year. I am getting stronger every day.
Plato, who can bench 260 pounds and squat 400, is getting a rare second chance to come back from injury in high school and he wants to make the most of it.
"I just think right now I am a more mature guy than other people because it is my fifth year in high school," said Plato, who gave up basketball to concentrate on football. "I believe I have been playing for nine years now, so I think I am going to be a little more mature about situations, both positive and negative. Most kids on my team will go the way I go. I know the game very well and because it is my fifth year I get a chance to be a leader of the team and take care of things."
Plato hopes to get a chance to show everybody that he can catch the ball just as well as he blocks.
"I think I am a well-rounded tight end who can do it all," said Plato. "My blocking skills are one of my strong points, I get on the guy and stay after. My catching ability is good too, but nobody has really seen it because we had a run-oriented team. We had E.J. Jones, who was a big running back for us and we gave him the ball a lot and he was outstanding. Overall, I believe I am a well-rounded tight end who can do anything that is asked of me."
Before his injury, Plato was beginning the recruiting process and he was hearing from a number of different schools. Now that he will get a chance to finally play his senior year, he is getting a second chance to enjoy the recruiting process.
"I kind of touched the recruiting process a little bit last year," said Plato. "I just kind of barely touched it. A couple of big schools were onto me and then I got into my wreck. This year a lot of schools didn't know about my situation, so I started calling up schools and started to talk to them about it. They were surprised, but for the most part were really happy about it. I sat out the first semester and I came back the second semester of this year. I am going to back to the first semester of next year and then graduate after Christmas, and then go to college.
"I have a chance to enroll in a school early, get into off-season workouts and get ready for spring ball. I will get a chance to get to know the system early and hopefully that will allow me to start playing early. A lot of schools want to see if my arm is OK, and all the coaches that I have been talking to have been in touch with my doctor. They have been talking to him about it because they just want to make sure that my arm is going to be OK."
Plato's brief experience with the recruiting process before his injury paid off for him because he understood that is was perfectly acceptable to call college coaches to inform them of his status.
"The recruiting process is tough because a lot of schools didn't know that I got hurt," said Plato. "Some schools were recruiting me and didn't really know what happened to me. Growing up, my dream was to go get a scholarship to a big-time school. Schools were recruiting me and talking to me, but I didn't know what to tell them. Finally, we got this waiver to sit out and come back for a fifth year, so I started to tell those schools and all of them loved it. Colorado, Oklahoma State and Illinois stuck with me. They told me they were going to stick with me no matter what, and that was the great part about it."
Plato's efforts to inform the college football world worked as he garnered a number of scholarship offers at this point.
"Kansas, Kansas State, Illinois , Colorado , Oklahoma State and Purdue have offered me," said Plato. "Oklahoma, Florida, UCLA, Nebraska, LSU, Miami, Florida, USC, Texas A&M, Texas, Notre Dame and a bunch of other schools have been talking to me non-stop."
Plato has been in contact with Oklahoma a bunch and he even made it up for a Junior Day!
"Oh man, I love the place," said Plato. "Coach Kevin Wilson and I talk just about every day. We talk about football and things with me. I went down there in February and I loved the place. I was down there my freshman year for a football camp and I kind of saw some of it. When I made my trip down their, unofficially, I got to hang around Joe Jon Finley and me and him talked the whole time. He was a real cool guy to hang around.
"Coach Kevin Wilson sat down and ate with my parents and it was a great time. I didn't hate it one bit. I got to hang out with Justin Johnson, J.B. Shugarts and Sam McGuffie and we went to the basketball game against Texas Tech. We had a great time. I really can't wait for Oklahoma to finally make a decision on me because it will greatly influence what I am thinking. Coach Wilson is coming in to see me, not this coming Monday, but the following Monday to see me work out. He basically said if I have a big practice that they were going to offer."
Considering the fact that it appears Plato still has a lot of options in recruiting, does he have a favorite at this time?
"Not really, because it is kind of hard to decide right now," said Plato. " Florida ,Oklahoma and Illinois are my top three. Then there are a bunch of other schools that I like as well."
Plato has visited Texas, Notre Dame, Illinois, Florida and Oklahoma. He also hopes to stay busy this summer.
"I plan on going to a camp at Missouri. Then I am going to the USC Rising Senior Camp and the Friday Night Lights Camp at Florida. Oklahoma said if they weren't satisfied with my practice that they would invite down to a camp, and I would be making one of those if it comes down to that."
Plato is qualified.