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Thursday, August 1, 2013
Wilkins hoped for different future

By Jared Shanker

Football was a second option for Christian Wilkins. The ESPN Junior 300 defensive tackle out of Suffield (Conn.) Academy with offers from Florida State, Ohio State and Stanford would have preferred a nobler path protecting the streets.

“It’s kind of funny, I wanted to be a Power Ranger,” says Wilkins, who at 6-foot-4 and 295 pounds, would have had little problem restoring peace as possibly the Green Ranger.

Despite tipping the scales at nearly 300 pounds, Wilkins, ranked No. 107 nationally, has a résumé with several prerequisites for a superhero ninja.

Since the seventh grade, Wilkins has been able to cartwheel into a back flip. He can dunk jumping off both feet -- quite a bit harder than leaping off one foot with a running start. He takes his elite athleticism and unbridled energy to the water, too. A double front flip is light work for Wilkins, who with a running start off the diving board can pull off a gainer -- a running back flip without much of a jump.

“You got to be confident, that’s how you do it,” Wilkins says.

A dozen colleges have fallen in love with that athleticism and offered Wilkins, who doubles as the big man on one of New England’s top basketball teams. Suffield Academy coach Drew Gamere stood in awe the summer before Wilkins’ freshman season. At 6-foot-3 and about 280 pounds at the time, Gamere watched Wilkins, who he calls the most talented player he’s ever coached, unveil a back flip from just standing flat footed.

“He has great athleticism for his size,” Gamere said. “I forget he’s 300 pounds all the time.”

Wilkins’ physical talent makes him an elite college prospect but he refines his raw ability with a drive unparalleled on the team. As a 6-foot-3 freshman joining a team that was 24-2 the previous three seasons, he immediately became a leader on the team. Gamere said Wilkins had his growing pains like every freshman, but he worked through them quickly and made an instant impact.

“He’s got everything because he’s a great talent but his work ethic is unbelievable,” Gamere said. “It’s great coaching the kid. He’s got everything you want in terms of a coachable player.”

That stems from Wilkins’ competitive streak. He hates to lose, hardly accepts it as an outcome. Since enrolling at Suffield Academy, Wilkins has lost only once and has won two Super Bowls -- one of five postseason bowl games played among New England’s prep schools.

He considers himself a cerebral player on the field, and he will take the same approach to his recruitment. Twelve schools have offered Wilkins, however, he has only visited a few select schools. He likes what he has heard from Boston College, Connecticut and Florida State and wants to visit Ohio State and Stanford whenever he has an opportunity. Gamere admits it will be tough getting Wilkins transportation to visit schools unofficially, as colleges cannot pick up the tab on an official visit until the fall of Wilkins’ senior year.

Nothing along the lines of a favorite has emerged for Wilkins, who has only dipped his toe into the recruiting waters thus far. He has outlined at least a few key criteria he is looking for in a future school, though.

“From an academic standpoint, Boston College and Stanford, they have great academics,” Wilkins said. “And Stanford has been successful and Ohio State has been very successful. Florida State is getting a lot of guys to the pros.”

Of course Florida State can only play the NFL card if Wilkins’ Power Rangers hopes are dashed.