When Branden Albert arrived in Glen Burnie seven years ago to live with his brother's family, he was a 340-pound basketball player with quick feet, a soft middle and no time for homework.
All that changed - except for the quick feet - once he settled in with Ashley and Adrienne Sims. Ashley, his brother, was a former defensive end at Maryland and a probation officer in Washington.
Before long, Albert was playing football at Glen Burnie, doing double duty at night school and polishing up his basketball game. The transformation gets an exclamation point today when Albert, an All-Atlantic Coast Conference guard at Virginia last season, takes the big step into the NFL.
By most accounts, the 6-foot-5 1/2 , 311-pound college junior will be drafted in the top half of the first round. Because he has been projected as a left tackle, some mock drafts have him going as early as the fifth pick to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Albert has been making up for lost time ever since his mother, Susan Albert, sent him down from Rochester, N.Y., to get his life on track. Sims made Albert hit not only the books, but also the blocking sled. According to Adrienne, that was the prerequisite of the deal: come to Maryland and play football.
"Ashley basically wanted him down here," Adrienne said. "His mother was single mom, working full time, and Ashley felt he needed a more structured place. He was into making sure his brother succeeds."
Albert was a better basketball prospect at Glen Burnie than a football player. He averaged 15.5 points and 10.6 rebounds for coach Mike Rudd as the Gophers won two region championships.
"He was an incredible basketball player," said Bruce Sider, Glen Burnie's athletic director. "He had such a wonderful touch for a big man."
Going to summer school, night school and day school, Albert "jammed four years of high school into two," Rudd said. After a year at Hargrave Military Academy, he got a scholarship to play at Virginia and his career took off.