Kenny Bigelow's support system is second to none.
For motivation, he looks to his mother, who works full time and is going back to school.
For coaching and mentoring, he turns to his high school head coach, Dwayne Thomas.
For a father figure, assistant coach David Sills fills the role that was vacated after Bigelow's father passed away two years ago.
"I get to see Kenny all the time in non-football aspects," Sills said of the ESPNU 150 Watch List prospect from Red Lion Christian Academy (Bear, Del.). "I've seen him grow spiritually, academically and from a football perspective. So I've seen him grow from an older boy to a young man.
"He's become a huge part of the leadership of our football team. He carries himself tremendously. I think he's going to be a great asset when he gets to college."
Bigelow's college is already decided. The junior committed to Southern California in November, joining Sills' son, who committed to USC in February 2010 as part of the 2015 class as a much-ballyhooed 13-year-old. The younger Sills, who is also named David, trains in southern California when he's not heading up Red Lion's offense.
Therefore, the Sills' family ties to the Trojans and the area gave them, and Bigelow, a certain comfort level with USC they were unlikely to find anywhere else.
"I know the coaches at USC very well," Sills said. "It's comforting to me to know where he is and the fact that I'm out there so often, it gives me a good feeling that I know he's in great hands."
Bigelow's decision was part businesslike and part based on emotion. Businesswise, USC's system is much like the NFL, and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron has a long history of sending defensive lineman to the NFL, such as Cortez Kennedy, Russell Maryland and Warren Sapp.
"I think me and Coach Orgeron have a great connection going on," Bigelow said. "It was a huge deal knowing that a guy like that really wanted me to come out and play for his team. It made a big impact on me."
On the more emotional side of his decision, Bigelow said he's fond of USC's campus, the people from the area and the atmosphere out west. Delaware native or not, he seems to fit in out west.
"I'm a people person," Bigelow said. "I like to be around people and there's plenty of people out there. I like to have fun. There's plenty to do in California. I just think it will be a great fit for me."
Such an early decision will likely cause many schools to mark Bigelow off their board. Sure, there will be some contact attempted, but Bigelow seems 100 percent certain of his commitment. Essentially, he ended much of the interest in him before it had really begun. No matter.
"The attention had nothing to do with it," he said. "I wasn't considering that if I wait a little longer I could get more attention. It was never about that to me. It always helps to know that I'm already committed. It gets some stress off my back."
Now Bigelow can focus on his senior season and preparing himself for the next level.
"I feel like I'm a very physically imposing threat to other people," Bigelow said. "I feel like I get off the ball better than a lot of other guys. This season I want to work on my technique because I know at the next level I won't be able to out-speed everybody or out-strength everybody, so it's going to come down to my technique."
Bigelow already learned that the hard way. He didn't start playing football until he was in eighth grade, so when he got to high school and went against players his size or bigger, he struggled. Subsequently, he had to refine his game.
Thomas still remembers when Bigelow turned the corner. It happened during his sophomore season.
"I watched that film after that particular game ... I watched how well he had adjusted to techniques and strategies that he was taught," Thomas said.
Since then, Bigelow has continued to improve. No longer just a raw talent, he has picked up on many of the varied nuances of being a defensive lineman.
"Now he's learned to be more of a strategist as it pertains to setting up blockers," Thomas said. "I think he understands the concept of the run game and how he needs to adjust to different types of blocks. Time has been a benefit to his skills."
But don't think a smarter Bigelow means a softer Bigelow. Just ask him what his favorite aspect of football is.
"Imposing my will on the guy in front of me," the 6-foot-3, 280-pound lineman said flatly.
Judging by his stature in recruiting, he does that well. It's time to give thanks to all his supporters.
Dave Hooker covers Southeast and Atlantic Coast recruiting. He has covered recruiting and college football for more than a decade. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.