Xavier Proctor could see the writing on the wall. It was the summer of 2007, just a few months before his senior year at Mt. Hebron High School, and Proctor was preparing for what could have been his final season playing football.
Over 6 feet in height, the youngster weighed only a little more than 200 pounds. He had the build of a player destined for bigger things, but he knew that success could be achieved only if he was willing to put in the work.
"What really motivated me was my family members really believing that I could actually play in college," he said. "I realized that my senior year didn't have to be the end. If I didn't give it my all then, though, it could have actually been my last year playing football."
Seven years later, having worked to fill out his now 6-foot-6 frame with an extra 80 pounds of muscle, Proctor no longer hopes for breaks. He has learned that good things happen to those who make opportunities for themselves.
This fall, as a defensive lineman on the Detroit Lions' eight-man practice squad, Proctor finds himself just one step shy of the biggest break of his life.
"I always knew how to achieve my goals without going the easiest route," said Proctor, who signed his first NFL contract on Aug. 1 with the Lions after being invited to training camp.
"Being this close to finally achieving my (dream) is definitely a rewarding experience, but at the same time it's give me even more motivation ... of making a career in the NFL."
Growing into his body
He may be listed as Xavier on Detroit's depth chart, but Proctor's close-knit family has always just called him 'Chaz.'
The middle child of three boys, Proctor and his brothers are close, according to his stepfather, James LeMon, principal at Wilde Lake High School.
The family moved to the Ellicott City area after spending Proctor's freshman year at Long Reach High School.
At Mt. Hebron, he joined a program that was enjoying its fair share of success. Just a few years ahead of Proctor was future Penn State star, and 2009 Buffalo Bills first round pick, Aaron Maybin, who was leading the way for the Vikings on the field.
"Him being in the NFL, and how good he was in college, was definitely something to look up to," he said. "I knew I could obtain that if I worked hard too."
Though they both graduated from the same school, Proctor's journey to professional football was anything but easy.
Many of the opportunities that Maybin had were far from what was available to him.
Maybin had the size, the drive and the skill. He had scholarship offers from top football schools, and premiere college coaches from across the country were coming to Howard County to knock on his door.
Two years later, when it was time for Proctor to determine his collegiate future, the same fanfare that had thrown Maybin into the local spotlight was nowhere to be found.
It wasn't until senior year that former Mt. Hebron coach Ross Hannon said "the light bulb came on" for Proctor in terms of preparation and his approach to the game.
"If nobody else wanted to take it seriously, he was not going to let it hold him down," Hannon said. "Unfortunately, with college and scholarships, it's not what you sell, it's what they buy. And they're buying the film."
Highlight reels, and the gaudy statistics to go along with them, weren't there for Proctor, who notched only 50 tackles (10 solo) in his senior year for the one-win Vikings.