|Hometown/School:||Hamilton, Oh. (Hamilton HS)|
Although Hamilton HS cornerback Brandon Underwood would never readily admit a weakness on the field, he does admit to having one weakness off the field.
"I love peanut butter. I could sit there and just eat a thing of crunchy peanut butter in my room. If I get ice cream, I just put crunchy peanut butter in there," admitted Brandon, whose older brother, E.J., plays cornerback for Ohio State.
Like his favorite food would stick to the roof of your mouth, Brandon is just as adept at sticking to opposition wide receivers. Last season for Hamilton HS, Brandon recorded 50 tackles, 15 pass break ups, 3 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles from his cornerback position. Those statistics, along with his 32'' vertical and 4.1 shuttle, have attracted a truckload of college recruiters to visit Brandon at school during the May Evaluation period.
So far, schools like Virginia, Iowa, Michigan State, Penn State, Ohio State, Arizona State, Ucla, Maryland, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and Louisville have been in contact with Underwood. Have any of those schools officially offered Brandon a scholarship?
"Maryland's and Cincinnati's (offer) letters came in on the same day. I have Penn State, Arizona State, Maryland and UC," said Brandon.
Others, like Pittsburgh and Ucla, have told Brandon that offers should soon be on the way to his house.
"Yes sir. I talked to one of the coaches (at Ucla) and he said 'they don't come out here (Ohio) for nothing,'" admitted Brandon, who could potentially camp with the Bruins this summer along with Iowa, Ohio State, Arizona State, Virginia, and Florida. "We keep a book of all the coaches. We have about three and a half pages, maybe four now, of all the colleges that came in. Basically all of the Big Ten came in."
Notre Dame has also asked that Brandon retake his ACT in hopes of him upping his original 19. Although he carries a 2.6 gpa, the Fighting Irish would like him to improve his academic credentials, to better enhance his chances that he will be approved by their admissions department.
Has any one school or schools distanced themselves from the pack a little, staking a claim as Brandon's leader?
"Pretty much nobody, everybody is about the same. I'll look at everybody in the same light until I get out there on the officials (visits). I'll use my officials wisely. I'm going to see the schools that have the most interest in me. I'm not going to waste an official on someone who is not interested in me or is not showing me the love that someone else does," he explained, further commenting that distance would be no barrier. "I could go to school as close as UC (Cincinnati) and as far UCLA."
With official visits seemingly a definite possibility, Brandon has already seen Penn State and Arizona State (while in Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl between Ohio State and Miami, Fl.) unofficially at this early point in the process. What comments did he have with regards to the Nittany Lions?
"I was there (Penn State) at the Nike Camp and the two days before that. I was there on that Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and the Monday after," he said. "I went to a concert on Friday. On Saturday we went to the spring game. Then on Monday I had a meeting with Coach Paterno."
Did the meeting with JoePa turn out to be a very productive encounter for the Underwoods?
"It was good. We talked a lot about my future with them and where I was at with them," explained Brandon, who's being recruited primarily as a corner by Jay Paterno. "Basically that's where they offered me, but they just had to make it official with a letter."
Brandon continued, "He said he was changing his whole style of recruiting. He wants to meet most of the players before they offer them scholarships so they'd know what kind of person they were. He said that's why they didn't offer me earlier."
"I loved it up there. I got to hang out with some of the football players after the concert and after the spring game and they treated me really well. I like the atmosphere. I like the campus; it's not so big where I'd get lost."
This was Brandon's second trip to Penn State; the first came during the very memorable thrashing of Nebraska in September. At that game, Brandon's friends father almost did not survive the keyed up Nittany Lion faithful.
"It was exciting. My friend and I had on blue, but it didn't say Penn State or anything, and my friend's dad had on a red sweatshirt and they were like 'boooo' and throwing popcorn at him. It was crazy," laughed Brandon.
What aspect of Brandon's game did JoePa cite as the part of his game the legend noticed first?
"My aggressiveness. They said I'm a little bit raw and they could work with me because I have the potential."
A school conspicuously absent from Brandon unofficial visit list are the home state Buckeyes. Has Brandon gone there on any kind of visit?
"I guess you can say I've been there (on an unofficial visit) because my brother goes there. So I've been up there a couple of times to visit with him," stated Brandon.
Would Brandon commit if the Buckeyes were to present him with a scholarship offer?
"No, I'd have to weigh my options," he stated, continuing on that chances he might be offered don't look as good now as they once did. "I don't know. I guess they were only going to take so many [defensive backs] this year. It'd be great to go there, but I'm not going to go there just because my brother goes there. I would like to make my own name for myself. I guess they just offered this kid (SirJoseph Welch) from right there in the Columbus area. He committed to them. Rumor had it that they weren't taking that many [defensive backs] this year. I could possibly fit in there. It would be nice to go there just because of my brother, but that wouldn't be an only reason."
Has E.J., who works with Brandon a lot during the off season, tried to influence his brother in any direction?
"He wants me to go where it would make me happy. If I went [to Ohio State], he would be all for it, but he wants me to be happy," he confidently stated.
We will not know Brandon's final destination until after the 2003 football season, but with the options he has available, don't expect Brandon to be eating too many late night, crunchy peanut butter sandwiches because no coach likes an overweight cornerback.
(Interview by Steve Curry)