It might sound strange now, looking at 6-7, 272-pound Lukayus McNeil, to hear that he wasn't planning to play high school football as a freshman at Decatur Central.
Three years later, McNeil is a three-sport success story and one of the top offensive line prospects in the Midwest.
"When I was a freshman, I couldn't even get in a stance," McNeil said. "I had a lot of coaches and other players helping me. Now I just want to see how far I can go. I want to see if I can make it to the next level and make it to the top."
McNeil, a state champion in the shot put and an excellent forward on the basketball team, will have his choice of any number of college football programs, with offers from North Carolina State, Oklahoma, Indiana, Michigan State, Iowa, Virginia Tech and Purdue, among others.
Credit Decatur Central coach Justin Dixson with helping to get McNeil on the track to where is he is now. Dixson was in his second year at Decatur Central in 2009 when McNeil was a freshman roaming the hallways.
Dixson met with nearly all of the boys, but knew a school the size of Decatur Central couldn't afford to miss having an athlete like McNeil on its teams.
"You see his frame, his length, his athleticism, it's obvious," Dixson said. "Once we got him out here, he fell in love with it. If you look at him now, he looks like a man. But can you imagine what he'll look like in five years?"
That thought is one that has McNeil dreaming of playing in the NFL some day. It's farfetched for any high school athlete to have those aspirations; there just aren't that many spots available.
But as a 6-7 offensive tackle with good mobility and athleticism, McNeil is a more realistic dreamer than others.
"The only thing I'm really looking forward to is just trying to make myself better," he said. "If my coaches keep pushing me and I keep working and pushing myself, I think I can do it."
Unlike the pressure other athletes might feel at larger schools to focus on just one sport, McNeil has never felt that at Decatur Central. Football is clearly his future and there's a possibility he could get paid some day to play it.
But McNeil has also been able to thrive in basketball and track and field, establishing himself as the increasingly rare three-sport star.
"No. 1, it helps our school because we need the best athletes in our school doing multiple things," Dixson said. "We want kids to compete. That's the thing about Lukayus. He loves to compete; he loves to play. Regardless of what it is, that's the biggest thing that translates from basketball and track to football."
McNeil has 18 scholarship offers, the most recent coming last week from Michigan State, Oklahoma and San Diego State. He'll likely take an official visit to North Carolina State the first weekend of September and probably will visit Virginia Tech, Iowa, Oklahoma and Indiana sometime this fall on either official or unofficial visits (he's already visited Indiana, Louisville and Michigan State).
McNeil is clear on what he's looking for: a family.
"I'm looking for a good school like (Decatur Central)," he said. "We get along like a family. I'm not going to get in too much detail, but I didn't grow up with a real strong family. I'm going to look for a school where I feel like I'm at home all the time, like I do here."
To hear McNeil say that, Decatur Central has to feel like it's won already. And the season hasn't even started.