When ESPNU Watch List linebacker Nick Ramirez was on the football field as one of Lee's Summit (Mo.) West's youngest players, his nickname, "Bam Bam," fit him perfectly.
Ramirez, a sophomore when the name stuck, was a pup in age but noticeably one of the big dogs when it came to delivering big hits. Since he lined up at a chiseled 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, there was nothing young about Ramirez from a physical perspective, either.
The kid who once started on varsity as a freshman has now grown up, and Ramirez is preparing to enter the all-important offseason as the incumbent leader of the Lee's Summit West defense. Even while wearing a sling at the moment -- he recently had shoulder surgery to fix a labrum injury suffered during the season -- Ramirez has plans on returning the Titans to the top of Missouri high school football and setting himself up to be a high-caliber college football player.
"You talk about work ethic," LSW coach Royce Boehm said. "He works his tail off, and that's what you get when do that. When you're able to do what he did as a freshman and sophomore, it sets some standards."
Ramirez has recorded triple-digit tackles since his sophomore year. As an inside linebacker, Ramirez had a team-high 135 tackles as a sophomore when LSW won the Missouri Class 5 state title. He moved to outside linebacker as a junior, notched 115 tackles and helped the Titans advance to the state semifinals in 2011.
For his efforts, Ramirez now balances offers from Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue, Kansas and Kansas State. And once he's fully healed and in the full swing of training again, expect that list to double.
"I remember getting my first offer from Nebraska and how happy I was. I was a sophomore," Ramirez said. "Then I got my next offer from Missouri. There are kids who would do anything for an offer, and I have eight now. It's such a blessing. It's just really overwhelming, but it makes me want to work hard and get more."
And work is something he has never shied away from. While his nickname is "Bam Bam," some may have wanted to call him "He-Man" after what took place midway through his sophomore season. What was supposed to have been a random gentleman's bet in the weight room turned into a mesmerizing scene.
"It was close to spring break, and some kid was squatting 405 [pounds]," Ramirez said. "I was messing around with him, saying that was light weight. He said, 'I bet you couldn't do it.' I said, 'I bet I could bench-press it.'
"Honestly, I was just messing around. I didn't think I could do it, but I decided to try it anyway."
A self-proclaimed "weights junkie," Ramirez had spotters all around, but as quickly as the bar left the rack and touched his chest, the bar returned to the rack on his own power. Ramirez, at 16, lifted 405 pounds. Think about that for a minute.
"I was in disbelief, and everybody was looking at me with their jaws dropped," Ramirez said. "No one was cheering because the whole weight room was speechless. I mean, I was kind of speechless."
Boehm hasn't seen Ramirez's achievement in person, but he said offensive coordinator Chris Barrows witnessed it. Despite his commitment to weights, Ramirez was asked not to max out his junior year in an effort to focus more on agility and quickness. He hasn't lifted in weeks with the shoulder injury but is growing eager to return to the weight room upon doctor's clearance.
Ramirez started lifting a few years ago. He described himself as a chubby kid in elementary school and started doing pushups in the sixth grade simply to tone up. He asked for a gym machine for Christmas as a 12-year-old. Ramirez first bench-pressed 200 pounds in the seventh grade. By freshman year, he was bench- pressing 340.
Ramirez made the LSW wall of fame his sophomore year with his bench press, although surprisingly his lift is not the school record. Sal Badali, a 2008 LSW graduate and professional power lifter who has competed in several Strongman competitions, pressed 450 as a right guard on the offensive line.
"When everybody else was playing video games, I was in my basement working out," Ramirez said. "Now the fat kid's getting scholarships."
Ramirez's commitment to being the quintessential football player caught the attention of a player he considers the face of LSW -- Under Armour All-American and recent Missouri signee Evan Boehm, the coach's son.
Boehm and Ramirez have been teammates the last three seasons. They've celebrated championships, and they've shared agonizing defeats -- most recently a 76-70, four-overtime loss to Kansas City Staley in the 2011 Missouri Class 5A state semifinals, considered to be one of the greatest games in Missouri high school football history.
Boehm's respect for Ramirez's versatility is sky high. In addition to his power, Ramirez brings speed to the team, as his fastest 40-yard dash time is 4.57 seconds. Boehm has an appreciation for Ramirez being good, but it's Ramirez' desire to be better that makes him a favorite.
"He caught one of the fastest running backs [in Missouri] from the opposite side," Boehm said, referring to a touchdown-saving play as a freshman on current Missouri Tiger E.J. Gaines. "In the Staley game, he switched back and forth from positions. He's a great kid with a great attitude and will lead the team next year. He will be a good role model for hard-nosed kids.
"Most importantly, he's a hard worker and a freak in the weight room."
In addition to his offers, Ramirez has interest from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Texas, Texas A&M, Tennessee and a host of other schools. Royce Boehm is expecting some of those interests to turn to offers very soon.
"He just has a passion for the game, and you can't teach that," Boehm said. "He understands the game. Whenever you're able to step on the field as a freshman, you've got a true understanding of what it takes to play. That's what he brings, and I think the next level will be huge for him."
Ramirez added: "Everybody calls me Bam Bam ... and I have to give them Bam Bam when I'm on the field."
Damon Sayles covers Midlands recruiting for ESPN Recruiting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @DamonSayles