After scarcely registering on the radar screens of college recruiters after his junior season, Mount St. Joseph's J.J. Outlaw wound up among the most prolific receivers in Maryland high school football.
Today, during the early signing period for football, soccer, field hockey and water polo, Outlaw, 17, will sign for a full football scholarship to Division I-AA Villanova.
Outlaw, who also plays basketball, turned down a scholarship offer in that sport from Coastal Carolina. He plans to try out for the Division I Wildcats basketball team.
"Villanova believed in what I could do, and the program and the situation and the quality of the academics there was unbelievable," said Outlaw, who turned down football scholarship offers to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, James Madison and Division I-A Bowling Green. "I had about three or four more visits after Villanova, but I canceled them. From the academic advisers, to the kids on campus, to the secretaries when you first walk in ... everyone was just good people. I believe everything is going to work out well."
Many recruiters said he was too small (5 feet 10) and too slow (a 4.67-second 40-yard dash). That "put a lot of personal fire inside me to prove something to the college coaches," Outlaw said. "I felt slighted, but I felt my skill level and my talent level were above a lot of guys that were getting looked at ahead of me."
Outlaw earned first-team All-Metro honors as well as consensus All-State honors from the Associated Press this past fall.
"The speed was the thing, and he's not real tall," said Gaels coach Mike Working. "Everybody's looking for a burner, but sometimes they can get carried away."
Outlaw's statistics support his coach's sentiments. His 1,428 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns last fall are single-season state records, as are his 41 career scoring receptions and his 167 career catches. Outlaw's 78 receptions last fall are second in the state and his 2,839 career receiving yards rank third all-time in Maryland.
"A lot of colleges want the tall guys - 6-2, 6-1 - but a lot of guys at that size still don't run very good routes, still don't catch the ball, still don't have the heart and the desire to compete. They're just big," Outlaw said. "But I'm a competitor deep down in my heart, and I love to win. That's something that's not measured in a combine and that's overlooked by a lot of people."