Michael Deeb not like the rest

Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage middle linebacker Michael Deeb isn't like the most linebackers from Florida.

Most linebackers from the state are modeled after what Jimmy Johnson did at the University of Miami a couple decades ago. That's when Johnson stressed speed and turned safeties into 215-pound linebackers who could fly across the field and chase wide receivers down from behind.

But at 6-foot-2, 238-pounds Deeb is a natural middle linebacker. He's an athletic, imposing threat in the middle of the defense who loves to deliver a hit.

American Heritage coach Jeff Dellenbach is a former standout offensive lineman who spent 15 seasons in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins, Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots. He says Deeb reminds him of the players he used to see back when he was playing in college at Wisconsin.

"I'm a Big Ten guy, so I know what you are talking about," Dellenbach said. "Michael is definitely like those athletes you'd see in Pennsylvania or Ohio because he's so big and physical.

"But he's also got a lot of that Florida natural athleticism in him as well and that's what separates him from the pack. He's a self-motivated young man and he takes pride in everything he does."

Deeb recorded 82 tackles as a junior but he also proved to be solid in coverage with two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.

"I'm always working on improving myself in all areas," Deeb said. "With my size it's easy to say that I'm a prototypical Big Ten type of linebacker but I want to also prove to people that I can play at Miami or schools in the south because I'm always working on lateral movement and improving my closing speed."

Deeb's versatility is certainly one of the reasons he's on the top of recruiting boards across the nation. He already holds offers from West Virginia, Illinois, Penn State, Houston, Vanderbilt, South Florida, SMU, Rutgers, Purdue and Western Kentucky.

"I think Mike can write his ticket because he's such a hard worker," Dellenbach said. "He understands all the facets of the game and because of that he received an offer from Penn State, which is the ultimate compliment any linebacker can receive.

"I believe the sky is the limit for him."

Deeb has taken a few weeks off from recruiting but he's recently spoken to coaches from the Naval Academy and will go to Miami for their spring game with some of his teammates and family.

He will also be attending the Nike Football Training Camp on Sunday -- something he's been looking forward to.

"I love to compete with the other guys from the area and the guys that are the best in the state," Deeb said. "It's going to be fun but every time I'm in a competitive environment I want to stand out."

Deeb is looking forward to seeing out-of-state programs over the summer and says that even though he is close to his family he would consider playing outside of Florida.

"I generally have a greater knowledge of the southern schools but I'm open to everything because I haven't seen much," Deeb said. "I'm really excited to see some of those northeastern programs like Rutgers and Penn State because they could be the right fit for me."

Deeb is an honors student with a 3.8 GPA and when he's not focused on school he's usually in a weight room or doing speed training on the track. He cites Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher as two players that he tries to emulate.

"I love Ray Lewis' game and his leadership skills," Deeb said. "Every year people think he's going to fall back a little but he keeps playing at a high level. He continues to throw his body around but he is also smart enough to know his assignments and be in the right place at the right time."

With rising seniors like Deeb, quarterback Tyler Cogswell and Class of 2014 running back Sony Michel returning from a torn ACL, American Heritage is in a strong position to compete for a state championship. However, Deeb doesn't want to look that far ahead.

"Right now everyone's working hard either in our offseason conditioning program or on the track team," Deeb said. "Obviously the goal is to win it all but we're not going to look that far ahead. Last year we got caught looking ahead and lost in the first round.

"This year everyone is taking it day-to-day and just trying to improve and focus on what's happening right now. If we do what we're supposed to do now who knows what the future will bring?"