He'd see fellow Taft Eagle D.J. Morgan collect large letters, emblazoned with a school's logo.
He'd feel jealousy, anger even, at the lack of attention.
Antwaun Woods just wanted to be wanted. Woods (6-1, 330) hoped coaches would stop him one day, hoped he would soon be the bearer of those prized envelopes. He hoped he too would feel the happiness that often comes with being recruited.
In September 2009, Woods got his wish. He decided to check his mailbox one day, and it practically fell open without his touch. He soon had a bin of letters to flash to his friends.
"I never made weight in Pop Warner. I played like three games where I made weight. But then I got excited when I played and ate a lot of food so I didn't make weight any more. After the game you get hungry!" he said.
For a guy as satirical as Woods is, his upbringing is hardly funny. Woods' only motherly figure was his grandmother Doris, whose name is permanently stretched across his right forearm.
Six months before those letters came, on Mar. 20, Doris passed.
With only his dad as a guardian, Woods could have gotten into trouble or messed around. Instead, he chose to be USC's earliest commit for the Class of 2011. He turned down the likes of California, Arizona State, Washington, Florida and UCLA.
"When I got to high school if I had a chance to get a scholarship and make my life better I wanted to do it," he said.
Perspective has given Woods a decent amount of maturity. A native of Baldwin Hills, Calif., Woods and his dad would make a nearly two-hour round trip to Taft High in Woodland Hills so Woods could be brought up in a more diverse area.
"I was just around so much negative [back at home] and for me to go to all this positive at Taft it made me realize I have to take care of business in football," Woods said.
He chose USC early and without much hesitation because of his lifelong fandom. He even began to recruit other guys in his class to be Trojans, like incoming guard Marcus Martin.
"I'm actually a fan of USC. If I went to UCLA I would still be cheering for USC," Woods said.
"He kind of motivated me to come here and go to camps because he was telling me competition would make me better," Martin said.
Woods cites his speed and being able to take criticism as strengths. So what can he do for USC right away? Improve both, he said.
"Being coachable is number one, if you buy into the system it'll only make you better," he said.
The second would be losing that weight he put on in the offseason, about 15-20 pounds.
"For a big guy I'm pretty quick. It's all about that first step. But I am out of shape," Woods said.
Woods loves playing nose tackle, because it carries great responsibility and is one of the more challenging positions on the line. On USC's latest depth chart, tackles Christian Tupou and Da'John Harris currently control that position. But Woods said he plans to embrace the hardships he assumes comes with balling at USC, like the always-deep competition and the recent NCAA sanctions.
"I don't like the sanctions but I feel like it's a good motivation because you have to respond to adversity. If we win the Pac-12 or go to the BCS [the following year] it'll be an even better feeling," Woods said.
Stubbornly optimistic, Woods uses his humor to disarm others. But once he gets in the game and hears that snap, a team's opposing line won't be doing much laughing.