Sunday, August 11, 2013

Recruit watch: Justice Rawlins, Monessen

Fair or not, when many people thought of the Monessen football team last season, the first name that came to mind was quarterback/defensive back Chavas Rawlins — not his younger brother, Justice, a running back and linebacker.

With Chavas Rawlins now at Duquesne, it's the younger Rawlins' time to shine.

And he knows it.

"He was by far the leader of the team last year," Justice Rawlins said of his older brother. "I think this year everybody looks at me to be that type of person. Of course I'm always ready to step up to the plate."

Few question Justice Rawlins' ability as a linebacker. He was a U.S. Air Force Freshman All-American after finishing with 99 tackles, five interceptions and two touchdowns in 2010, helping Monessen go 9-2 and win the WPIAL Class A Tri-County South.

After a torn ACL wiped out his sophomore season, Rawlins' proved he was every bit the player he was with a fantastic junior year, and NCAA Division I college coaches have taken notice.

Just maybe not enough of 'em: Despite having reportedly been offered by such schools as Pitt, Rutgers and Akron, Rawlins (who's highlight video can be seen here) has seen some of those offers disappear because of other commitments — though you'd have to think if Pitt's Todd Thomas doesn't return, that could free up a scholarship.

Rawlins is taking the up-and-down nature of recruiting in stride, insisting it's on him to solidify his status as a BCS-level player.

"I'm out to prove a lot this year," Rawlins said. "I'm out to prove that I can play at any conference in college football and stand out."

Rawlins said he spent six weeks this summer working with a personal trainer in Minnesota, upping his weight to around 245 pounds and dropping his 40-yard dash time to 4.5 seconds — a deadly combination for someone in his position.

Just a few things he did:

***Pushups where he would have to lift his entire body off the ground, others where he'd have to catch himself and continue through.

***Pushups where he would have to rotate 180 degrees while pushing himself off the ground, other exercises where he would hang from a bar and have to flip himself back over it.

***Running-wise he would run a series of 400-meter sprints, twice each lap around the track, 24 reps completed within an hour.

"He's strapping," Monessen coach Andy Pacak said. "And I think that he wants to really show people that, 'OK, here I am.' It's going to be a very interesting season for him.

"Watching him right now, I know he's 110 percent recovered from his knee injury as a sophomore. He made such a commitment to be in shape that I'm actually looking forward to the season, more than I usually do because you get close to kids over a period of time, and I'm in his corner rooting for him to show people that, 'Hey, you made a mistake.' "

Rawlins right now could be a Division I player, but he's using this year to force himself into onto a BCS school's radar for the Class of 2014.

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