It didn't take long for former Lakewood (Calif.) coach Thadd MacNeal to know he had something special in wide receiver Darius Powe. Fast-forward a few years and now the whole nation knows, as the talented athlete was presented his game jersey on Friday to play in the Under Armour All-America Game as part of the American Family Insurance jersey presentation tour.
"The first time I saw Darius was at our freshman camp," MacNeal said. "He already had that big body and really soft hands. Then I saw him run and he just jumped out at you. His body began to change because of his dedication to the weight room and now he looks like a physical beast.
"I absolutely loved coaching him because of how hard he worked. He's one of those players who never wants to leave the field, he loves blocking and is a super-physical player. On top of that, he's a great kid and I still keep in touch with him. His top-end speed is real good and if he can just improve his burst a little, you're looking at a very special player."
For Powe, being selected to the Under Armour game has been a four-year mission since he first heard about the game going into his freshman year of high school.
"When I was a freshman, I made it a goal of mine to make this game," Powe said. "Then my sophomore year, our quarterback Jesse Scroggins played in the game and he came home just raving about the experience. He was telling me how much fun he had and said if I ever have a chance to play in any of the All-American games, I definitely had to do Under Armour.
"This is going to be my last high school game and I can't wait to test myself against some great players. I think playing in The Opening in Oregon and also Gridiron Kings was good because I've already gone up against some elite players from all over the country. That was just 7 on 7 though, I'm a much different player with pads on because I can be more physical, so I'm ready to go show what I can do."
Powe has had a somewhat frustrating senior season thus far and has battled the injury bug a little.
"I haven't been 100 percent all year," Powe said. "I missed two games with an ankle injury and just haven't felt as explosive as I normally do. I want to go out with a bang this year so it has been very frustrating for me but I feel like I'm getting a little better every week.
"I'm still working hard and trying to improve on all things. I'm going to run track this year just to improve my speed. This will be the first time I've run track. I think you can always improve your footwork and route-running and I'm working hard on that, as well."
Powe is also working on his college choice and, in a perfect world, would like to make it while in Florida for the UA game.
"I still want to take my visits and if I can do them prior to the game, I would like to commit out in Florida," Powe said. "I want to visit Michigan for sure and also Oregon State and UCLA. Arizona State and Utah are recruiting me really hard as well and hopefully I can see all of them before I decide."
Greg Biggins covers recruiting in the West region. He can be reached at Greg.Biggins@espn.com.