When I first met Jones High defensive end Kendrick Hair in 2009, he was a gangly freshman who stood nearly as tall as his coach, Kenard Lang, an NFL veteran. He wasn't quite filled out, but he also didn't look like a normal freshman.
His feet were huge and his, hands were big, and anyone could tell his wide shoulders were going to fill out nicely. Strange thing, however, was that he was still a bit of an unknown. Injuries have nicked him up at each stage of his Jones career.
We've been waiting to see Hair reach his potential ever since. Of the 33 games Jones has played since his freshman season, Hair has played a little over half of those. He has hit academic snags along the way, even sitting out as ineligible last spring.
As his senior year approaches, however, Hair looks to have his classroom and football priorities correctly calibrated.
Hair, who received scholarship offers from Louisville and Marshall last week, is 6-foot-5, 273 pounds of quarterback-seeking mean. He has a friendly little wager each game/season with talented teammate Devin Washington (6-3, 225), who lines up opposite Hair, to see who can get more sacks.
The pair bookends the formidable Jones D-line, which also has Stanley Windom Jr. (6-1, 245) and Mike Miller (6-1, 245) as the down tackles.
Washington is one of the top players in Central Florida and in the state for college offers. He currently has 20 schools in the mix, and it could reach 30 by the time spring practice rolls around in May.
As for Hair, he has also grown academically.
Hair has taken major steps in his scholastic progress and he has done it the right way, realizing there was a need for help early and then seeking out the help to get him steered in the right direction.
He has been enrolled in virtual school through a program called Education 20/20. He is also enrolled at Orange County Life Skills, which, according to the website, is "an alternative high school opportunity for at-risk youth providing a unique academic model and a proven record of success.''
Hair said he misses being around his teammates at Jones, but that he is doing the right thing to gear his future toward a college education. And while pursuing his diploma with Life Skills, he is still eligible to play football for Jones because Life Skills offers no such athletic opportunity.
"Sure, I miss them, but at the same time it kind of motivates me to get back there and makes me want to work extra hard to be with them," Hair said.
If everything works accordingly, Hair plans to return to Jones High to finish out his final semester next spring.
"The virtual school is helping me get back on track so I can graduate with my 2013 class," said Hair, who now carries a 3.2 GPA. "I'm still doing the things I need to do to graduate, so I can get off to college. It allows me to work at my own pace."
Hair goes to one three-hour session a day at Life Skills, then to Jones for practice, and after practice he spends his time with the E/20/20 Virtual School.
And if getting back to Jones with the other classmates isn't enough incentive, Hair now knows other people are watching, like the coaches at Marshall and Louisville.
"It all feels pretty good and makes me work a little harder with the offers coming in now," Hair said. "It motivates me and shows I have the talent because people want me at their schools."
Those two offers won't be the only ones Hair sees if he stays the course.
"I can say I give it my best in everything I do," Hair said. "I think once they watch me and see what I do, I think a good amount of people will like me."
Of the schools who might potentially offer Hair, he said he'd like to see USF offer … oh, and also Florida.
"I've always liked the Florida Gators," Hair said. "I liked Tim Tebow and that kinda really made me start liking them."Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting.