BEAVERTON, Ore. -- When Pete Duffy first found Damore'ea Stringfellow as a freshman, the Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde coach saw an athlete with Division I potential.
The player people refer to as String had the body type. He had the hands. He wanted to learn.
The only thing missing was experience.
"I just knew right away, if he did what I needed him to do and we had the support of his parents at home -- which we did -- he would be pretty special," Duffy said.
Stringfellow had never played a down of organized football, but Duffy put him through varsity practices that first year. He worked alongside Quincy Enunwa (now a receiver at Nebraska) and Junior Pomee (a tight end at USC) and against Ronald Powell (a linebacker at Florida and the nation's top recruit in the 2010 class).
Duffy didn't make it easy on the freshman. In fact, Stringfellow got his "[butt] kicked quite a bit." But it formed the foundation that helped the 6-foot-3, 203-pound receiver develop into one of the top prospects in the country.
"I just studied it," said Stringfellow, who is No. 74 in the ESPN 150. "I love the game. I study different positions, linebackers and corners, because I go against these guys all the time. I study them and try my best to defeat them and just work hard at it."
It has been a busy summer for Stringfellow. He was one of seven recruits, including teammate Poasi Moala, who committed to Washington during the Huskies' Rising Stars Camp on June 29. He returned to the Northwest a week later to test himself against the country's top talent at The Opening at the Nike World Headquarters.
During one-on-one drills on the first day of The Opening, Stringfellow hauled in a pass along the sideline with a defensive back draped all over him. It was one of the most impressive catches of the day. He said he wanted the ball, so he made sure he came down with it.
"I'm pretty physical," Stringfellow said. "I'm not really the fastest guy on the field, so I have to build separation, focus on technique and just pay attention to fundamentals."
Stringfellow was easy to find throughout the event. His short dreadlocks were draped over a Nike headband, and his jersey was tucked in half, revealing a chiseled torso that has been through plenty of work in the weight room.
When asked to describe the standout receiver, Duffy said Stringfellow is "a good character kid and a sweet kid. He's a really hard worker, and he wants to be great."
Rancho Verde guidance counselor Robin Ellison added: "He is very easygoing, very focused. He is probably one of my favorite students, and the thing I like about him is that, even though he is getting so many accolades by playing football, he remains very, very humble."
While Stringfellow may be soft-spoken off the field, he has a side he saves for football.
"He's a good, quiet leader," Duffy said. "He's a funny kid with a great sense of humor, but there's a little Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in him. When he first came in as a freshman, he was a really physical kid, but he was also a fighter."
Duffy used Stringfellow as an example early in his career. During one meeting in the weight room, the coach gathered his players and told his team there are talkers and fighters. Stringfellow wasn't much of a talker.
"String is a guy you don't want to talk a lot of [trash] to because you're probably going to get punched in the face," Duffy said.
Everyone in the weight room laughed, even Stringfellow.
"It got him to kind of see the light and loosen up a little bit and really helped mold his character to become the great kid that he is now," Duffy said. "You still don't want to pick a fight with him, but he's a lot more lenient now."
One of three receivers committed to Washington, Stringfellow joined future teammate Darrell Daniels (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) at The Opening.
"It gives me a chance to see what my competition is going to look like," Stringfellow said. "If we get up there and we're both competing, we'll both get the playing time we deserve."
Three years ago, Duffy found a freshman with Division I potential. As Stringfellow prepares for his senior season, he has matured into one of the best receivers the coach has worked with.
"String, for the overall size, speed, catching ability, the whole nine, he's probably the No. 1 guy," Duffy said.
Not bad for someone who is still learning the game.
"It feels really good to have something that you're great at, that everybody loves to watch," Stringfellow said. "It's a great sport, and it's a blessing to be able to play."