Growing up, Eddie Gordon was such a big kid that his parents decided to enroll him in school a year early. Although the 6-foot-2, 300-plus pounder is preparing to enter his senior season at Boiling Springs (S.C.) High, he just celebrated his 17th birthday on Tuesday.
"He's really just a pup," coach Bruce Clark said. "In reality, he should have two more years of high school left.
"I think there's two schools of thought and I would much rather my son compete against older and more mature people than letting him be the 12-year-old in a 10-year-old league. You give them a false sense of security and, oftentimes, they don't get any better. I think with Eddie knowing that he was a year younger than everybody else, he had to compete a little bit harder and that pays tremendous dividends in the end. I think it not only helps you from a mental standpoint, but also a physical standpoint because you have to work a little harder in the weight room to be able to compete. When he [first became a starter] for us, the kid was just coming off his 14th birthday. It's definitely helped him out in maturing and getting better."
The Rivals.com three-star prospect celebrated turning 17 by announcing his college decision and selecting NC State, his first collegiate tender, over an offer from ECU and interest from several other schools. Gordon, who began last season over 325 pounds but is now down to 305 according to his coach, has been starting at guard on the varsity squad since he was in 10th grade.
It should come as no surprise to those that know Gordon's family that he found success on the gridiron at such a young age, even while competing against older opponents. Gordon's late uncle, Calvin Stephens, was a standout lineman at South Carolina in the late 1980s before being selected in the third round of the 1991 draft by the New England Patriots. The big man is also related to two Super Bowl winners: former Ohio State and Oakland Raiders safety Jack "The Assassin" Tatum, a three-time Pro Bowl selection who helped Oakland win Super Bowl XI, and former Penn State fullback Sam Gash, who was a two-time All-Pro with the Patriots, Bills and Ravens and helped Baltimore win Super Bowl XXXV.
"The league we play in is murder, you're going to play Gaffney every year, you're going to play Dorman every year, you're going to play Burns every year," the coach said. "You're not talking about the average high school football programs [that Boiling Springs plays], but he's done very well.
"He's a three-sport athlete - he plays basketball and football and does track. All of those have helped in the development of his feet and in the speed program here, he's worked his butt off. He has matured not only intellectually, but also athletically, and I think that has been the biggest improvement he's had other than strength."
Clark noted that Gordon competes in field events for the track team, but added they always end their races with something fun that they call the, 'fat man relay.'
"He runs the 4x1, he anchors it, and does a tremendous job," the coach said. "It's amazing to see him do that and he has a lot of fun with it.
"I think his biggest attributes is that he has great feet, changes directions very well and he is able to base block pretty much everybody he's faced. He's an excellent pass protector, his hands and feet are his biggest attributes. He moves extremely well for a 300-pound young man and I think his future is very bright with NC State."
Clark is entering his fourth season as the head man at Boiling Springs so he has been alongside Gordon every step of the way. He said the kid is a tireless worker in the weight room and has worked, "his butt off" changing his body.
Gordon has always played guard on the prep level, but the Pack may like him at center and Clark is toying with the idea of having the rising-senior man the pivot in 2011. He does have some experience in practice at the position, but the coach is not worried about the transition.
"We've worked him a little bit there but, athletically, I don't think that will affect him very much at all," Clark said. "His first responsibility becomes snapping the football and we're in the gun most of the time, but I don't see if having an effect.
"At the collegiate level, especially at NC State, he's got to call all of the shots, he's got to be the quarterback of the offensive line, but he's a smart kid, good student and he knows the game."
Even with as impressive as Gordon is on the field ¬- he won offensive lineman MVP honors at an April VTO Showcase - Clark contends he might be even more well-rounded away from the gridiron.
"Eddie Gordon is one of the most respectful young men you'll ever find," he said. "I call him a big teddy bear. His dream is to be a football coach and he communicated very well. He's great with kids, he's a yes sir, no sir, yes m'am, no m'am-type of young man, he's got a very strong family base and I think he is a young man who would never embarrass your school or program.
"I think he's done a great job for Boiling Spring High School and I think NC State will be a great place for him."
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