Aliquippa coach Sherman McBride has seen a number of talented players work their way through his system. In fact, the school has produced four first-round NFL draft picks. McBride can't be certain that Jonathan Baldwin (6-foot-6, 220 pounds) will have the same success, but he likes the character of his standout receiver.
"His father was a highly sought after player and he went to Pitt," McBride responded when asked about Baldwin. "Since he went through the recruiting process, I think it's made it a lot easier on Jonathan. He wants to be that next great player. He knows that God has blessed him. He has the work ethic. Not too many guys that have his ability and his size work as hard as he does. A lot of guys take it for granted and don't think they have to work hard. Jonathan isn't like that. He's the first guy on the field and he's the last guy off the field. Jonathan's father comes after practice and makes sure he does the extra sprints.
"He never takes a play off. He's the utility guy for our team. He's played free safety. The first game he played at safety, he intercepted a pass and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown. He's played defensive end. He's played linebacker, he's played tight end, he's played wide receiver, he's played flanker and we've lined him up in the backfield. He doesn't take a play off. He doesn't want to come out of the game. He wants to be the guy that springs the guy on a punt return or the kick-off.
"I think he gets more out of seeing our running backs go 60 or 70 yards after he makes a big block than he does his touchdowns," coach McBride explained. "It's the little things that separate him from everyone else. He wants to be the guy. He understands that he'll get his touchdowns, but he just does that extra for others. He's a team-first guy.
Baldwin and coach McBride were planning on making the trip to South Bend for the USC game, but a number of activities surrounding Aliquippa's senior night forced them to cancel their trip. Despite the last minute change, Jonathan does plan on rescheduling his visit to Notre Dame.
"I called coach Latina, and told him that we weren't going to make it," coach McBride said. "We have two more regular season games. Play-off games are played on Fridays and Saturdays so we won't know until the last minute if we'd be able to make a trip during the season. He told me just to let them know what we decide and that they'll work around our schedule."
Aliquippa will likely play deep into the play-offs, so it will be difficult for Baldwin to make any official visits until after the college football season.
"I haven't set any official visits up yet," Baldwin explained. " I'm just trying to focus on my season, that's what's important to me right now. I'm doing what I need to do with Aliquippa right now and then after the season I'll worry about recruiting. My high school season is that most important thing for me right now.
"We're 5-2, but we're a pretty strong team. I'm doing all right. I have about 26 catches, 470 yards, and six touchdowns. Most of the time teams will double-team me. They roll a safety over on me and use the monster underneath. Most of the time they play man on me, with a safety over the top to help out.
"My catches have been limited, but I don't really care," he said. "It's not a big thing to me as long as we win. If we're not wining we'll have to find another way to get me the ball, but as long as we're winning I don't care how much I get the ball.
"If they're double-teaming me then someone else is going to be open and we can get the ball to them. We have other receivers on the team that can get it done. Whatever it takes to win that's what you need to do. If the other team has three guys on me it doesn't make sense to try to get me the ball. I just want to do what it takes to win. When it's a big game though, and we need a big play, I know they'll come to me and I'll get the job done.
Although Baldwin wants to focus on his season and his studies, there are a lot of coaches that are highly interested in what his college decision will be."It's still wide open" Baldwin said of his recruitment. "The main schools are Notre Dame, Michigan, Pitt, Florida, Miami, and USC. I've talked to coach Loeffler at Michigan, coach Latina at Notre Dame, coach Mullen from Florida, also coach Mosley from Miami and coach LaSala from Pitt about taking a visit, but all of my visits will be after my season. My decision will probably be on signing day."