- Damon Sayles, RecruitingNation
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SAN ANTONIO -- During a Thursday U.S. Army All-American Bowl practice, one of the receivers made a beautiful over-the-shoulder catch in 1-on-1 drills. Physically, he looked college-ready, nothing like the average high school receiver.
What made the receiver so interesting was that he was wearing No. 73, which belonged to massive offensive tackle Zach Banner (Lakewood, Wash./Lakes). As big as the receiver was -- he stood a shade under 6-foot-6 and weighed 220 pounds -- even he looked small in the 6-foot-9, 310-pound Banner's jersey.
When the two finally came to midfield during intermission, Banner gave back the mystery receiver's jersey. Dorial Green-Beckham took his helmet off, put on his regular jersey and went back to drills.
Green-Beckham and Banner simply were having a little fun ... "fun" being the key word here.
Because Green-Beckham is an icon in the world of football recruiting, the times expected to be fun often are interrupted by a lengthy interview, an impromptu autograph from a fan or a late-night phone call from a recruiter. Many forget that Green-Beckham is still a high school senior looking to enjoy his final days before starting college life.
"Some days, it's hard. Real hard," Green-Beckham said. "It's tough going through the whole process of recruiting. It's exciting, but I'll be happy when it's over with. It feels like it's never going to go away, but when it does, I'll be really excited."
Such is life for the player everybody wants. It's a life he's learned to accept.
Football and the books
The majority of Green-Beckham's conversations with random individuals seem to be the same. As the nation's top-ranked wide receiver, he's constantly asked about his college future. Green-Beckham has Arkansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Missouri and Texas on his final list.
Texas is the only official visit he's taken so far. He said he doesn't have any other officials planned, but he has visited the schools unofficially.
"If you get the info you're looking for," Green-Beckham said, "unofficials are just as good as officials."
Though Green-Beckham won't hint to a favorite, he admitted that all five schools have something special that he wants. The winning school, however, must have something beneficial to offer aside from football. He said he will announce his decision on national signing day.
As Green-Beckham answers questions from all interested, few ask him about life away from the gridiron. What hardly ever comes up in conversation are his grades, and as good of a receiver Green-Beckham is, he'd love to discuss what he can do in the classroom.
"That's something that no one ever asks me about," Green-Beckham said, "and I have a 3.5 [GPA]."
Who's the best?
Normally unselfish and modest, Green-Beckham was asked a tough question following bowl practice earlier in the week.
"Do you feel anyone can contain you?" the reporter asked.
To which he replied: "Honestly, no. When I'm at my best and have my mindset right, I feel like I'm unstoppable."
To many, Green-Beckham's comments are not cocky, nor are they fabricated. The 6,100-plus career receiving yards support that. With his size, speed and athleticism, Green-Beckham is expected to win a large majority of his matchups against defenders.
When he set the national record for career receiving yards in October, he finished with 11 catches for 303 yards and four touchdowns in a win against Republic (Mo.). He finished his senior year with 119 receptions for 2,234 yards (an average of almost 19 yards per catch) and 24 touchdowns -- a score every fifth catch.
"Coming so far and going through so much, it meant a lot to me, my family and the whole community," Green-Beckham said of the national record, previously held by Abram Booty (Shreveport, La./Evangel Christian), who had 5,867 yards in 1996. "My dad smiled, and my mom started crying."
For his career, Green-Beckham finished with 6,447 yards. His accolades were recognized Friday night, as he was named the 2012 U.S. Army Player of the Year, which is awarded to the nation's top senior high school football player.
To Green-Beckham, nothing will solidify all of the honors he's earned better than playing well in Saturday's Army game against some of the nation's elite defensive players.
"Coming out here and being around these guys, some of these guys might actually start at the schools they're going to," Green-Beckham said. "It could be like the same competition as it'll be in college. I want to show everybody what I'm capable of doing and to just have fun. That'll be my last game I play my senior year."
Doing it for Darnell
Saturday marks the end of a great high school football career for Green-Beckham. It also will mark the beginning of new horizons for a player with tons of expectations thrown at him as a college athlete.
Green-Beckham gets his motivation from his adoptive parents, John and Tracy. John is the head football coach at Hillcrest. He also gets inspiration from his younger brother, Darnell Green-Beckham, a freshman dual-sport standout who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in February of last year.
"If it weren't for them, I probably wouldn't be here," Green-Beckham said. "They put me through a lot, and they caused me to be the type of player I am."
Particularly baby brother. Dorial serves as a spokesperson and a primary cheerleader for Darnell as he continues to recover. There were times when Dorial didn't want to work or slacked off in his work. After watching Darnell battle cancer and put in the necessary effort to beat it, big brother looks at life and its obstacles in a totally different light.
"I make sure I come with the right mindset and show I'm the hardest worker on my team. I have to show why I'm the No. 1 receiver," Green-Beckham said. "Watching my brother has made me want to work that much harder. I want to show what I'm capable of doing in class and not just on the field."
Damon Sayles covers recruiting in the Midlands for ESPN Recruiting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.