Ohio junior Ben Gedeon is turning heads, including some at U-M
To many sports fans Allen Iverson was "The Answer" and Jevon Kearse was "The Freak", but in the northeast Ohio town of Hudson, both of those nicknames belong to someone else.
Hudson high junior Ben Gedeon is known by those monikers, and is one of the Buckeye state's brightest gridiron stars.
Scout.com recently ranked Gedeon the No. 5 player in Ohio's 2013 class, but his physical prowess has been garnering attention for much longer. Case in point, the "Freak" designation was given to him at a very early age.
"Probably back in grade school," said Gedeon regarding when he was first referred to by the nickname. "I was just always a little bit bigger than everybody, so my family called me that."
Fast forward to high school and he is still a little bit bigger than most youngsters his age. He is also a little faster and a little stronger. Hudson coach Tom Narducci took those truths into account when going over the questions facing his 2010 squad. In Gedeon he realized he had "The Answer."
"Need a quarterback, running back, defensive back, linebacker, cover rusher? We have Ben," Narducci told the Cleveland Plain Dealer before last season. "He's 6-3, about 210 pounds, and he's a real specimen."
Gedeon proved his coach prophetic by helping lead his team to a conference title with 105 tackles on defense and over 800 yards rushing, receiving, and passing on offense. In a memorable outing versus Cuyahoga Falls he completed four passes, rushed 21 times for 125 yards, caught two passes for 34 yards, and spearheaded a spirited defensive effort. It was performances like that that caught the attention of numerous college programs, including Michigan.
"Coach (Greg) Mattison actually came to my school and he was sending me some (camp) stuff," Gedeon recalled. "That's when I knew (the Wolverines) were pretty interested in me. I knew they were really trying to turn around the program and all their recruiting classes lately have been pretty strong, so it was pretty cool. I was excited about that."
Gedeon demonstrated just how excited when he traveled to Ann Arbor in late June for Michigan's annual summer camp. It didn't him take him long to show what all of the fuss is about.
"He was excellent when we saw him in camp settings and his film verified what we had seen in shorts and T-shirts," Scout.com midwest regional manager Allen Trieu said. "He is a well built kid at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and moves very well at that size."
The Michigan staff obviously agreed. The day after Gedeon returned home they promptly offered him a scholarship and invited him back to campus for the "Barbecue at the Big House" in late July. When he made his way back to the Great Lakes State for the picnic-like event, he found his second Michigan experience to be even better than the first.
"It was great," Gedeon said. "I got to meet a lot of the coaches, their families, and a lot of the other recruits. It really felt like family. They made you feel like you were part of it all and getting to see the campus was awesome."
The coaching staff, especially, impressed Gedeon.
"Coach Mattison is a great guy and I've been talking to him since this spring," Gedeon said. "He takes a personal interest, he's always a great guy, and my parents love him. I got to meet his wife as well and they are both great. I also talked to coach (Brady) Hoke a lot and he is a great guy. He is really turning around the program, which is great to see. He was talking to us about how they renovated the stadium last year and we got to see that a little bit. It was amazing.
"I talked to (Orchard Lake St. Mary's linebacker and Michigan commit) James Ross a little bit and I met (Lakewood St. Edward offensive tackle and Michigan commit) Kyle Kalis," he continued. "That was pretty cool because I've been following (Kalis). They had nothing but good stuff to say about Michigan."
The same was true of Gedeon's parents, both whom gave the Wolverines rave reviews.
"They loved it," Gedeon said. "They got to see the campus a lot. I know the first time we saw it (during camp) they loved it. They loved it even more the second time because we got a tour and stuff and the coaches made them feel like we were welcome there and they liked that a lot.
"We'll see what happens, but I like Michigan a lot. After (the barbecue visit), it is definitely on the top of my list."
Unlike many prospects in Ohio, Gedeon doesn't consider his affinity for the Maize & Blue to be sacrilegious.
"I was always a Notre Dame fan growing up," he said. "As far as Michigan and Ohio State, I wasn't too much of an Ohio State fan. I was always pretty neutral."
Time will tell whether the Wolverines are able to hold onto their spot atop the leaderboard. There will certainly be fierce competition in the coming months. In the few weeks since he received his Michigan offer, Penn State, Tennessee, and Boston College have followed suit.
"I have been to the Penn State camp two years now," Gedeon told Scout.com. "Most of my team goes up for the summer camp. I also got to see the campus and I liked it a lot. I like the whole campus. I like how it is centered around the football stadium, and how it's a college town.
"It was kind of a surprise when (Tennessee) offered me. I haven't had much contact with them until now. I was very excited when the offer came, especially with all of the tradition they have. I'm interested in them but need to check out the campus and meet the coaches.
"I know (Boston College) always has had a great program. I've been able to see the campus a few times because my brother goes to Harvard, which isn't too far away."
Each of those programs and any other suitor that enters Gedeon's recruitment will be given a fair chance to win him over. The ingredients for doing so are already quite clear.
"The education will definitely come first," he said. "Then I'll talk with the players there and see what kind of guys they are and if I'd fit in with them."
Gedeon plans to take his time assessing that fit. He is relying on his parents and few other family members to help him decide.
"I've got two brothers, so my older brothers will come into play," he said. "They are big role models for me. My uncle will definitely come into play (also).
"I am just going with the flow. Maybe around this time next year I will commit somewhere."