POTTSTOWN, Pa. -- Football has been a guiding force for athlete Terrell Chestnut of Pottsgrove High School.
The talented, versatile prospect had a rough childhood. He watched his older brother, Don, die of an asthma attack when he was 10 years old. He also bounced from foster home to foster home and struggled in school.
Yet through an unshakable support structure that included his grandmother, key faculty and staff members and numerous football coaches, Chestnut has developed into an excellent prospect that's a lock to play major college football and a high-quality individual that's on track to being a success in life.
"[Chestnut] is not only a great athlete," Pottsgrove coach Rick Pennypacker said. "He's a great person as well. The other kids really gravitate toward him, and he's one of the leaders in the school."
Chestnut started playing football in seventh grade. His coaches played him exclusively on defense because he refused to learn the offensive playbook.
"I didn't like to study, and if I wasn't going to study hard in school, I certainly wasn't going to learn a playbook," Chestnut said. "At the end of the year, I got moved up to the eighth-grade team and felt like I had accomplished something. At that point, I started surrounding myself with good people."
Chestnut saw action on the Pottsgrove High School freshman team as an eighth-grader, and then was named an all-state selection on the varsity squad in his freshman year.
"I didn't even know what all-state was," he said.
His academic coursework improved, too, thanks in part to mentor Pat Hawthorne, who helped him not only with schoolwork, but with things he had on his mind about life.
"We were able to talk about a lot of different things," he said. "She really took me under her wing."
This academic year, Chestnut carries a 3.5 grade-point average. He currently has an offer list in the double digits, including Penn State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Rutgers, Michigan, Michigan State, Temple, Boston College, Virginia, Maryland and Syracuse, among others.
He plans an unofficial visit to Penn State this week. Most programs are recruiting him as a cornerback, but some want him as a slot receiver.
He's his own Polamalu
Chestnut's teammate, athlete Maika Polamalu, is the cousin of Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu, and while that's a positive thing, it's not always a fair thing.
"His biggest problem is that because of his name, people expect him to play like Troy," Pennypacker said. "He's not Troy. He's Maika."
The 6-foot, 190-pounder also is a prospect without a true position. He was one of three 1,000-yard rushers for Pottsgrove this past season at running back, but multiple colleges believe he's a better defensive prospect.
Polamalu's father, Al, played on Penn State's 1986 national championship team, and the Nittany Lions have issued a verbal offer. UCLA and South Carolina also are showing interest and he plans unofficial visits to both schools, along with Michigan, in the near future.
Greene has a chance
A third prospect at Pottsgrove, fullback/linebacker Kayvon Greene, has great upside on the defensive side of the ball. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder is getting attention from Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Temple and Villanova.
More at George Washington
Last year, George Washington High School in Philadelphia produced standout defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and head coach Ron Cohen & Co. have multiple young players to keep an eye on during the next two recruiting cycles.
Brandon Chudnoff, LB/DE, Class of 2011
The 6-2, 230-pound jumbo athlete also saw time at tight end. He plans to play more linebacker (which may be his natural position) on defense this coming season than defensive end. Pittsburgh, Temple and North Carolina are showing interest.
Joseph Clayborne, WR/ATH, Class of 2011
The 6-4 athlete has an excellent frame and could see his stock rise if he has a big senior season. He was injured last season and is looking to have a big year. If that happens, he could emerge as a true sleeper prospect.
Daquan Cooper, DB/WR, Class of 2011
Cooper had three interceptions a season ago and is drawing early attention from Duke and Cincinnati.
Tyree Jefferson, CB, Class of 2011
Jefferson is the younger brother of South Carolina safety Chris Culliver and is getting looks from a number of schools. He projects best as a cornerback in college.
Justin Moody, DE, Class of 2013
The 6-4 prospect already has excellent size and a great frame. He has long arms and good athleticism for his age. His coaches are high on his potential.
Michael Moronese, ATH, Class of 2011
He is getting looks from a number of Ivy League programs, including Princeton, Harvard and Brown. He projects as a fullback or linebacker in college.
English Peay, CB/RB/KR, Class of 2011
He is getting looks from Connecticut, North Carolina, Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Louisville. He said Tuesday he enjoys playing special teams.
Jalil Stokes, DB/WR, Class of 2011
He is another receiver that has a chance. Stokes is a move-in from New Jersey who has good size (6-1, 170 pounds) and could make some things happen this year.
Nate Smith, DB/WR, Class of 2012
He is expected to be heavily recruited during the next recruiting cycle. High school coaches in the Philadelphia area have raved about his versatility and ability.
Tyrone Smith, OL, Class of 2013
He is a player that the George Washington coaches are high on for the future.
Harris is a rising star
There is no question that Class of 2012 running back Drew Harris (Downingtown, Pa./East) is one of the most talented players in Pennsylvania for the next recruiting cycle. He could be in the tradition of Kevin Jones (Detroit Lions) or LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia Eagles) in terms of great backs that have come from the Keystone State.
Last season the 6-1, 195-pounder rushed for 2,025 yards on 306 carries. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds and has been timed as fast as 10.89 seconds in the 100-meter dash.
Harris has visited several programs, including Oklahoma, and plans to head up to Michigan and Penn State soon. He likes Southern California and a number of other programs as well.
It's very early, but Harris is one to keep an eye on and is potentially special. Multiple high school coaches in the Philadelphia area were buzzing about his ability.
Talent in Tampa
The Elite Scouting Combine on Saturday at Jefferson High School in Tampa, Fla., will feature many of the area's top prospects for the 2011 and 2012 classes: wide receiver Ja'Juan Story (Brooksville, Fla./Nature Coast), offensive tackle Zach DeBell (Tarpon Springs, Fla./Tarpon Springs) and receiver Andre Davis (Tampa, Fla./Jefferson), as well as Class of 2012 prospects running back Matt Jones (Seffner, Fla./Armwood) and linebacker/defensive end Dante Fowler (Saint Petersburg, Fla./Catholic).
Colorado is the first offer for offensive tackle Tyler Johnstone (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton). It was not a huge surprise that Thomas O'Reilly (Marietta, Ga./Pope) committed to Auburn. First, the Tigers tend to do a very good job in Cobb County, Ga., and second, when O'Reilly gave an interview a few weeks back it seemed he was leaning toward Auburn. Illinois assistant Ron West, who was on staff at Clemson under Tommy Bowden, got the Illini in the mix and landed safety Zeph Grimes (Bamberg, S.C./Bamberg-Erhardt). West recruited Bamberg for the Tigers when they signed defensive linemen Rick Sapp (Class of 2006) and the nation's No. 1 overall prospect, DaQuan Bowers (Class of 2008) during his tenure with the Tigers. North Carolina and Cincinnati both offered linebacker Kent Turene (Lauderdale Lakes, Fla./Boyd Anderson) this week. He's an underrated player out of South Florida who should be getting more offers soon.
JC Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.