Valentine – a four-star defensive tackle ranked No.20 at his position by Scout.com - had a productive year playing with one healthy shoulder, recording 37 tackles, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and two sacks. After right shoulder surgery to fix a torn labrum, Valentine is starting to feel the strength return to his upper body.
"I feel myself getting stronger than I was during last summer, so I think my senior season will be way better," Valentine said. "It messes with your confidence a little bit, but I am really excited to get back on the field."
Even though his spring has been relatively quiet, competing in the shot put and discus on the school's track team to build arm strength, it's been a hard balancing act for Valentine. Trying to balance the schools he has been to and wants to find out more about, Valentine has a lengthy offer list that includes Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kansas State, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin.
"Recruiting has been wild lately and it's hard to say who is on the top for me because I want to visit all the schools that have offered me," Valentine said. "I really like Florida and Nebraska just because I have talked to the coaches a lot and I like the traditions of the programs. It's all about right now keeping up with the schools I am interested in and the coaches that are keeping up with me, talking to me and how they make me feel."
In regards to Wisconsin, who offered him midway through his sophomore year, the coaching criteria is been the biggest selling point. Being recruited at Wisconsin by new safeties coach DeMontie Cross, who came down recently to Edwardville High School to speak to him, Valentine was impressed with their brief conversation.
"Coach Cross is pretty cool," Valentine said. "I really like him because he's straight forward and tells me what's up. He doesn't just talk to me about the program, but about all sorts of stuff."
Valentine was at Wisconsin's Junior Day in February, one of only three schools he has visited along with Illinois and Oklahoma. The most impressive aspect of Valentine's UW visit was experiencing a high intensity workout and lauding how much the Badgers' fan base creates such a positive atmosphere.
"I get a great vibe from Wisconsin," Valentine said. "The campus is great, the coaches are great and I know they've had a couple coaching changes, but I like Coach Cross. I love the campus and the feel of it. It was like my first college visit, so it was really exciting. I definitely like Coach Bielema, because he coaches aggressively and is super nice off it. He talked to me in his office, made me feel welcome and made me feel like home. I know if I come in and work hard, I could get early playing time."
When asked what he's looking for in a college, Valentine listed a number of factors from academics to the coaching staff to the tradition, but he said the two real important things to him is winning football games and early playing time, two things the Badgers can offer.
"I have to look at schools that are successful and make bowl games because I don't want to go to a school that offers me early playing time and doesn't win," Valentine said. "I definitely was impressed that Wisconsin played in the Rose Bowl last year."
This summer after track season, Valentine is trying to plan visits to Florida, Michigan, Nebraska and Tennessee. After his visits this summer, Valentine may have a better idea of where he wants to go, but that doesn't mean he will be making a decision any time soon.
"I'm going to definitely take my officials," Valentine said. "I am going to narrow my list to probably 10 midsummer and then to five by the end of summer. That'll be who I take my officials to."