During the spring, wide receiver Myles Norwood decided to run track for the first time during his high school career, with expectations that it'd help him on the football field.
And now, on the eve of his senior year, Norwood's coach thinks the work will pay off.
"I think (track) helped the light come on for him," Grace Prep (in Arlington, Texas) coach Richard Reed said. "He was able to get that process of building some strength and explosiveness and he went into the track season at about 170 and came out at about 175. That's what we've been working on this off-season; he's probably up to about 185 now and really starting to physically develop."
The 6-foot-2 receiver, who chose Purdue earlier this month over several smaller-school offers, was coached in track at Grace by former U.S. Olympic Gold medalist Jon Drummond. And Reed says Norwood's times improved, from running about a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash to the high 4.4s.
"You can just see the difference in explosiveness and speed because he was involved in track," Reed said.
Purdue, Reed says, liked Norwood's potential. The receiver had offers from Georgia State, Texas State and Western Illinois before the Boilermakers extended their invitation, the first from a BCS-level program. But others, like Washington State and Oklahoma State, were showing interest.
But Reed says Norwood will fit well at Purdue.
"As I understand it from people who know (Purdue's) personnel, it appears that they have some really long, lean guys (at receiver) or they have some short guys that have a little more thickness," Reed said, "whereas Myles is kind of that best of both worlds. He's got height and has some size now, but I think they see potential. No. 1, he's able to build up physically, and 2, they see the potential that he has as a receiver, that that's going to come to fruition."
Norwood chose the Boilermakers after coming on an unofficial visit earlier this month. After taking in Purdue, he took less than 24 hours to accept an invite to play collegiately in West Lafayette. Athletics played a part, but academics were critical to the decision, as well.
"Academically, we looked at Purdue as offering everything," Reed said. "I often say to my guys, the academic standards at Grace Prep are pretty high, and I don't ever want them to take steps down just to play ball. So you've got to think about life after ball and Purdue with its tradition and reputation, they certainly do chance the game if you keep your nose clean and do the things you're asked to do and take care of business in the classroom. If there's some pro ball at the end of that, then boy that's just icing on the cake. But when we looked at Purdue, we thought 'Boy, this offers everything.' The only downside is that he is going to be a little bit farther away from home. But knowing he's somewhere like Purdue, I'm comfortable with that."
At Grace, Norwood plays outside receiver, but will line up in the slot as well, and in the backfield. He's also a weakside safety and part-time cornerback. It's on offense, however, where he has stood out, with 55 catches for 1,100 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior.
"He had quite a few deep balls last year, but I think his biggest asset was yards-after-catch," Reed said. "We like to get it in his hands in any way possible and let our athletes have space and do their thing. I think that as they look at that and see him on film they can see that potential."
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