Alvarado's star ready to rise

EVERY RECRUITING SEASON it happens. Players with Division 1 talent suddenly jump onto the radar screens late in the recruiting game. Even in this age of far-reaching tools and increased scrutiny, despite the advent of 24-hour news coverage on prep football players over the last decade, recruiting remains an inexact science. This is the story of one player his prep coach believes will be one of those gems, introduced to you here in February rather than in December.

It is the first day of practice in Haltom City, Texas., kicking off the 2004 season and coach Kenny Perry is excited. Realistic, but excited nonetheless. He knows there's some holes to fill but he also knows the talent that resides on his team.

It's evident to Perry that Haltom has at least a trio of players who have some serious game. There's linebacker Anthony Lewis, a 6-2 1/2, 220-pound brick wall playing the LB spot for the first time in his life. His tremendous junior season will result in double digit offers by February of 2005.

There's wide receiver Jeremy Brent, a 6-5, 200-pound multi-dimensional athlete who is playing football for the first time since the sixth grade. By February of the coming year, schools such as Washington State, Oklahoma State and others will have offered him a full ride for the next 4-5 years.

And then there's Brandon Alvarado. Before Haltom has even taken the field on this first day of practice, Perry already knows who his primary weapon on offense is going to be because Alvarado is special -- an absolute thrill ride of a football player.

Texas isn't exactly a burgeoning pipeline for Oregon State football. But with a couple teammates getting looks from Pac-10 schools, its not out of the realm of possibility that Alvarado could end up in the conference of champions when it's all said and done. Distance is not a factor to him..and Oregon State has made a living off of players like Alvarado.

At 5-11, 185-pounds, he's a receiver but that's not the story. Just get him the ball any way you can and then listen to the oohs and aahs that cascade down from the stadium walls. And then put him out on defense at cornerback and watch him shut it down.

The team takes the practice field and the familiar sounds of cracking pads ring out. And then it all comes to a crashing halt.

Alvarado blows out his knee on that first day, tearing both the MCL and the ACL. After the swelling subsides, it will require reconstructive surgery. His junior season is lost. And while many players come back strong within a year, the next season is promised to no one who undergoes reconstruction on the knee. It's safe to say, however, that Alvarado is ahead of schedule. Big time. Two months after the surgery, Alvarado was already running.

"It's the most amazing thing I've seen with a kid coming back from reconstructive surgery," said Perry. "He's already back to almost full strength."

With no tape on his junior season to send out, this coming year will be the first opportunity for Alvarado to really show what he can do, the first time schools will get a look at the player his coach describes as "unbelievable."

"No one knows about this kid," said Perry. "If he can come back like it looks like he will, someone is going to snatch him up -- because this kid will put up some numbers. He's an unbelievable kid. He can really go -- jumps, runs, everything. He's the real deal."

EVERY DAY SINCE the doctors gave him the go-ahead, Alvarado has attacked the weight room. No breaks, no days off. Session after session, getting his knee stronger but also working on everything else he can, improving his overall strength and flexibility. He has a definite timetable in mind.

"Oh yeah," said Alvarado. "The doctor said it should be ready to go, 110 percent, by summer. It feels great."

His plans call for attending the 7-on-7 camps at New Mexico and Missouri -- who has been showing the most interest of late -- and he also might attend a few more if he can fit them into his schedule. A top baseball player -- Baylor has made their interest known -- Alvarado will likely forego this baseball season in order to fully concentrate on these last few months of rehab. Football is his first love, and wide receiver is the position he most enjoys, very much wanting the ball in his hands with the game on the line.

Alvarado is open to any college and lists making a connection with the coaching staff, a sound football program and a strong academic program among the factors that will influence his decision. In his position coach and coaching staff, he'd like to play for one who will challenge him to always, always be improving.

"I like a coach that will work me -- a coach that will get on me," said Alvarado. "I'd like a coach who will help get me as good as I can be at the next level."

If talent and a truckload of grit are any indication, he'll get his chance to do exactly that.


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