UT Chasing a Sack Master

J.B. Paxson Some experts think J.B. Paxson is bound for gridiron glory while others see a future for him on Major League diamonds. Some believe he's a sure thing at defensive end while others envision him as a trench warrior at tackle. Everyone agrees he's a great athlete and an even better player who's facing big decisions at an early age.

The Center Grove High School (Greenwood, Ind.) senior is a force to be reckoned with whether he's catching passers or catching pitchers. He has more sacks than an A&P and he hits at a career clip that eclipses the venerable .400 mark.

A varsity starter since his freshman year for a team that captured consecutive state football crowns, Paxson amassed 21 sacks as a sophomore. He followed that standout season with 56 tackles (19 for losses) and a stunning 27 sacks while earning all-state honors as a senior.

He intends on topping that tremendous total with 30 sacks his senior campaign and there's ample reason to believe he will get there. He stood 6-foot-3 and weighed 230 pounds as a junior but has since added 30 pounds of lean body mass and considerable strength.

"I put on 30 pounds and it's all muscle," Paxson told The Insiders. "My goal is to have 30 sacks this year. I figure I need three per game. But I know it's not about individual goals. If I had five sacks and we won the state championship that would be great."

Although he doesn't have blazing speed at 4.81 he is exceptionally quick and plays the game with total abandon. The five-star prospect who is rated the nation's No. 3 defensive end prospect by The Insiders, has drawn comparisons to Georgia's David Pollack, but he's sure to remind Tennessee fans of Will Overstreet with his relentless pursuit and nonstop engine.

"I pride myself on my motor always running and I want to be disruptive," he said. "Teams have to account for me and that helps my team.

"I get to the ball and I'm great at pass rushing. I'm very athletic for my size too. I'm quicker than most offensive linemen and I have quick hands. I have a knack for getting to the ball. I want to improve my overall speed and I need to work on my technique. I'd like to shield off blockers better too."

Paxson bench presses 315, squats 450 and has a 30-inch vertical leap. He enters his senior year with a 2.6 GPA and he scored 860 on his SAT.

He is drawing interest from across the country and he's looking at mostly Big Ten and SEC schools including: Purdue, Michigan, LSU, Florida and Tennessee. He's also considering Oklahoma. Paxson expects to concentrate on the upcoming season when Center Grove will be shooting for its third straight championship before making most of his official visits. Purdue has the early lead of a race that is far from over.

"They (Purdue) are the in-state school and I grew up watching them," he said. "My brother and sister went there and I have been to a ton of games. It was always my dream to play for them."

Florida is a school that gained late momentum with Paxson after he received a good recommendation from a Indiana native and former Gator.

"It's the south and the most important thing is the warm weather. When we play in November here in Indiana, it's cold and I don't wear sleeves or gloves. The climate is somewhat important. But with Florida I will really look to see how they do this season. I know Rex (Grossman) and he gave me a real good impression of Florida."

Paxson came away from an unofficial visit to Knoxville impressed with Tennessee's campus and head coach.

"I like Coach (Phillip) Fulmer and I saw them this summer," he said. "They work hard and have fun doing it. The facilities are awesome and they are not even done yet. I also liked the campus a lot."

After making his decision on a college, Paxson may have another decision to make in June.

"All of these schools have different things that are great about them and it's not all about playing time," he said. "It's about where I want to call home for the next four or five years of my life.

"If baseball works out it has to be with Major League Baseball so we'll see if anything happens next June."

Ultimately, the team that finally wins Paxson may also lose him.

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