Daniel Nwosu, the son of two Nigerian-born parents, lives in a strict household where discipline is a must and education is paramount. So before Nwosu enrolled at DuVal High in Prince George's County three years ago, his parents had a little sit-down with the head football coach, Dameon Powell.
"His parents told me if he messes up, I can knock him out," Powell said, chucking. "They gave me the keys to do whatever I want with him."
Fortunately for Nwosu, the thought has never crossed the coach's mind. In fact, Powell couldn't be more pleased with his junior tight end, who's excelled both on the field and in the classroom (3.4 GPA).
The latter quality is significant, especially since many a prospect have fallen through the cracks because their grades didn't meet NCAA Clearinghouse standards. Powell has seen it first hand. He has coached numerous Division-I talents who didn't make it because they had Division-II grades (no offense to Division-II schools).
"Academics is something I take a lot of pride in," Nwosu said. "I know without good grades I'm not going to college."
Grades are certainly important, but Nwou's natural talent will help him get to college, too. He is an imposing 6-foot-4, 220-pound tight end with a body like an NBA power forward and hands as soft as pillow cushions.
"This guy has huge upside," said Rivals recruiting analyst Wayne Yarborough, who has studied Nwosu's film and watched him compete. "He will not be denied. He has to work on his speed and polish up his game, but he's a legit D-I prospect."
That's quite an accomplishment considering Nwosu grew up in a household where "football" meant kicking a black-and-white ball into a net. But even though both of his parents and his brother were soccer aficionados, Nwosu couldn't help but fall in love with the American version of football.
Following his friends, Nwosu started playing Pop Warner ball in middle school. He quickly developed an affinity for the rough, physical game, even if he didn't quite know what he was doing yet.
When Nwosu finally reached high school, Powell recognized his potential right away.
"We were just running around in practice and he was out there jumping over people and running up and down the field," the coach said. "Once we saw his size and athletic ability, we knew we had a player. We knew we had to get him ready."
Powell did indeed have plenty of work to do on his young phenom. Nwosu may have been talented, but he was as raw as a piece of red meat. His route running needed refining, his hands weren't developed and his footwork was off.
Thus, Powell stuck Nwosu on jayvee. But the freshman didn't sulk. Instead, he used the opportunity to soak up the game, learn from the coaches and hone his technique. By his sophomore season, Nwosu was given a starting nod . . . on varsity.
"He was a quick learner," Powell said. "He's a laid-back, easy-going kid, but he's very attentive. He picked up the finer points [of the game] quickly."
During a game against Oxon Hill, Nwosu watched the Clippers' linebackers closely. He noticed they liked to cheat up to the line when they were in man coverage.
Realizing he could beat them off the ball, Nwosu alerted his coach. Then when the situation inevitably arose in the fourth quarter, Powell called for a deep pass. Nwosu fired off the line, faked inside and then ran a deep corner. The quarterback hit him in stride for a 20-yard touchdown.
"We watched a lot of film, and I started to learn how to read defenses," Nwosu said. "It paid off."
After a solid sophomore season -- 10 catches, 253 yards, two touchdowns and countless pancake blocks -- Nwosu was ready for a breakout 2010. His numbers didn't necessarily improve, but the rest of his game did. He complimented his sticky fingers with a muscle-bound frame, a newfound toughness and a knack for getting open.
"Anytime I got in trouble, I could just throw it up and Dan would go get it," said DuVal quarterback Raynard Ford. "He catches anything thrown at him -- low, high, whatever. I just throw it in his area and he'll fight for the ball and he'd bring it down."
Nwosu did just that on a play against Laurel last year. Powell called for a play-action pass to the tight end, but Ford put too much air under the ball. Nwosu, however, raced back, leaped over two Laurel defenders and snared the errant throw. Then, after hitting the turf, he realized he lying in the end zone.
"Probably my best play all year," Nwosu said.
Unfortunately for Nwosu, his flashes of brilliance were just that -- flashes. Playing in a run-first, power offense that featured star running back Mark Dixon, Nwosu rarely had an opportunity to show off his hands. In two varsity seasons he's caught a total of 20 passes for 523 yards and four touchdowns.
"I haven't gotten as many chances as I'd have liked," Nwosu said. "But next year, I 'm looking forward to getting the ball more. I think I can get 30 to 40 catches and double-digit touchdowns."
Powell doesn't disagree. Granted, 30 to 40 receptions might be a bit ambitious, but the coach vows to showcase his senior tight end, just as he did Dixon the last couple of seasons.
"He's our guy; we're going to get him the ball," Powell said. "If we use him right, I really don't think anyone's going to stop him. I expect him to own the field."
He'd better. Otherwise, Powell might have to knock him out.
"I'm not worried about that," Nwosu said, chuckling. "I think I can be one of the best tight ends out there, for real."