Ashton Gaines remembers what some people said when he fracture a bone in his foot a couple years ago, making it worse by not realizing it was broken until a couple of months later. Playing the two sports he loves (baseball and football), Gaines kept playing on his foot until the pain caused him to go to the doctor.
When he heard the doubters, Gaines heard people giving him motivation.
"I went to the doctor and he told me how bad it was and that it was affecting my speed," Gaines told Badger Nation. "Some people say that I might never run the same again. It's been tough, but it made me work harder to get my speed back up. I know that I am running well and that I have to keep getting better."
At the Scout.com Chicago Combine earlier this month, Gaines (a 5-foot-11 sophomore wide receiver from Detroit's Crockett Vocational Tech) proved that his speed is starting to come back. While he struggled running the 40-yard dash (5.18), Gaines performed well in the short shuttle (4.43), the three-cone (7.47) and the broad jump (8-3).
"I had 11 touchdowns on 50 receptions. Defensive wise, I had eight picks," Gaines said of his sophomore year. "My ball skills are good. I am pretty quick to the ball on my cuts and my slants, especially on my outs and corners. When the ball is in the air, I can spot it real well and go up and get it."
Gaines isn't the fastest kid on the field, but knows what he needs to do in order to make a play on the football, using a variety of moves to consistently get open during one-on-one drills by using his solid vision to make plays on the ball and catch virtually every pass that is thrown his way.
That skill, according to Gaines, comes from his time as a baseball player playing shortstop.
"Playing shortstop, the ball always comes your way, so you've got to have a quick reaction and good hand-eye coordination skills," he said. "It comes in real handy a lot playing football."
Although wanting to play baseball his whole life, Gaines' mother wanted him to be more active and stay off the streets of Detroit. So after baseball, Gaines would go play football and eventually, made the transition
"Yes, it was a good move," he said. "I get to play football and get a good education."
Although recruiting interest has been marginal for the soon-to-be junior, Gaines has his eyes set on schools in the Big Ten, particularly Michigan State.
When he was young, Gaines became a Spartan fan because of receiver Charles Rogers and his brother. Watching the Spartans growing up, Gaines got a chance to meet Rogers when he was young and the former second-overall NFL draft pick by Detroit was one of the big reasons Gaines wanted to be a receiver when he grew up.
Another one of Gaines' role models was his brother, who was a 2004 graduate of Michigan State and is now working in communications at a job in California.
"My brother is one of my biggest role models," Gaines said. "He was a great influence on me growing up, like a father to me."
With his verbal commitment a long way away, Gaines' goals are simple heading into his junior year – make an impact on the field and play well enough to get the opportunity for a solid college education.
"The automatic goal is to be first team all-state, go to the All-American game and make my momma proud," Gaines said. "I want to get out of Detroit, get a good education and go play football. It would be nice to stay in state, but if another school offers me with a good education, I'll take that."