First Offer

An Ohio linebacker had a nice surprise waiting for him in the mail one day last week.

Steve Gardiner, an inside backer from Dublin Coffman High School was sitting at his kitchen table when he got a letter with the words "Scholarship Offer Enclosed" on the outside. It was in that manner that Gardiner learned he had gotten his first official offer, from West Virginia University, to play college football.

"It's pretty exciting," said Gardiner of the offer. "I have been talking with coach Bruce Tall, and he has been in communication with me a lot, but the offer was out of the blue. I have talked with Coach Tall since the offer came, but I am still trying to get in touch with Coach Rod about it."

It's not that Gardiner, an all-conference and all-district selection, wasn't expecting any offers. After all, anyone who racks up 130 tackles during his junior year is likely to attract attention. It's just that he wasn't expecting it so soon. But now that he has it, the heady defender, who has been a linebacker his entire career, thinks he understands what the Mountaineer coaches see in him.

"I love playing linebacker, because it's the most physical position on the field," Gardiner said. "You are involved in every play. I think I have great speed and agility, and I am very physical. I have great coaches, too. I have had the same coach since my sophomore year. We have a great relationship, and I have learned a lot from him."

Although Gardiner is good enough at running back to rack up 1050 rushing yards and 11 TDs as a junior, he sees himself as strictly a linebacker in college. It's where he is the most comfortable and most productive (he also had two interceptions and four sacks from his inside spot last year), and also where his instinct suit him the best.

"I am not the biggest linebacker, but my speed compensates for that," said Gardiner, who checks in at six feet, one-and-one-half inches and 210 pounds, eith a 4.5 second 40-yard dash time. "I can beat blockers. And I think I have a great nose for the ball."

Gardiner, who hasn't yet visited West Virginia, plans to make the trip for the Mountaineers' spring game. He is also interested in Ohio State, Michigan State, Cincinnati, Miami (Oh), Louisville and Tennessee. Although he hasn't made any firm summer plans yet, he has stops at the football camps at Michigan State, Ohio State and West Virginia on his agenda, and also plans to attend several combines as well.

Gardiner, who also earned special mention all-state honors, has an idea of how he would like to conduct his recruitment, but knows that things can change in a hurry.

"I would like to know where I am going before the season starts, but I will look at all my options, and whatever is best for my family and myself, that's what I'll do," he noted.

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