Frank Herron is a fantastic college football prospect. Maybe he could have been even better, but sometimes kids have to be taught a lesson.
Herron's mother, Wanlisha Hawkins, held her son out of athletics when he was in ninth grade. Grades were a concern and a serious future in athletics wasn't yet a consideration, so mom took a stand. It worked. Frank is more serious about academics.
Still, the family will wonder just how good he could be if he had played more.
"Seeing him now, yes, I wonder where he would be if he had played his eighth grade year," Hawkins said. "When he came over from middle school, I felt like he didn't take a lot of things seriously. I wanted to make sure he was serious about his work and not just on football. Part of me regretted it but I did it."
Herron also admitted that he wonders what another year of seasoning could have produced. The family probably shouldn't fret it. Herron is now a 6-foot-5, 235-pound athlete who could play linebacker, defensive end or even grow into a defensive tackle in college. The junior has 19 scholarship offers.
Moreover, he now knows school work comes first and that attitude isn't fading anytime soon.
"I used to come to the games and watch and I wanted to be out there so bad," Herron said. "It makes me stay on my grades. I stuck with it."
The latest school to come calling is LSU, which offered Herron a scholarship this month.
"I'm wide open but the LSU offer, I was very, very excited," Herron said. "A big time program like that doesn't come around very often. LSU has produced great defensive ends."
During his absence, Herron stuck with his workouts as best he could. He's still a bit lean, sporting more of basketball body than a football one, but he did push-ups and sit-ups every night before bed to try to offset his lack of time in the weight room.
That desire wasn't always there. Herron was more into video games than football or basketball, his first love in sports. His brother pushed him to compete in sixth grade. Little league coaches soon followed suit. Even basketball coaches told him his future was in football.
Before long, Herron was doing the extra work and taking his new endeavors seriously. His mom still remembers his crying after middle school losses. The drive continued when he entered Memphis (Tenn.) Central and finally joined the team as a sophomore.
"Going to high school, you can't be soft," Herron said. "These guys have been doing it for three years and they're hungry. If you want to play, you've got to take somebody's spot and I was willing to take somebody's spot."
"He has a motor," Central coach Rodney Saulsberry said. "He plays hard. He still has a lot to learn on the field but the fact that he plays hard and is extremely mobile gives him opportunities. He displays that mean streak at times on the field. Off the field he doesn't. He's a very jubilant kid."
Herron has been to several schools that have offered him, including Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Mississippi State. He's also planning to visit Clemson, Auburn, Ohio State and LSU for the Tigers' spring game.
"I want to play and got to get that diploma," he said. "I want to grow as a player."