Lovejoy High School, located in the heart of Collin County, Texas, has its share of college football recruits. Among those in the 2016 class are 3-star wide receiver Aaron Fuller and 3-star quarterback Bowman Sells, who are committed to Washington and Houston, respectively.
When college coaches visited the school during the spring, they were pleasantly surprised to see a linebacker making play after play in practice. The intrigue only heightened when coaches found out the linebacker was only a freshman preparing for his sophomore season.
It was easy to like this linebacker. Now, imagine shaking the hands of the athlete and then doing a double-take after hearing his name.
"Hi, I'm Bumper Pool," he said.
2018 inside linebacker Bumper Pool has a name that instantly is considered one of the best football names in college football recruiting. Bumper James Morris Pool, as his father indicated, is his full name. At 6'2" and 215 pounds, Pool is an inside linebacker for Lovejoy who has let his game speak louder than his name this season.
"The name causes you not to forget him," Lovejoy head coach Ryan Cox said. "Once you see him play, you'll never doubt his ability."
'It's a football name'
Growing up in Allen, Texas, Pool used to answer a lot of questions about his name. He remembers having teachers assume he was being a class clown when they asked him his first name.
"They always thought I was the kid messing around in class," he said. "I would tell them, 'No, that's my real name,' but they never believed me at first. Whenever I'd go out, and I'm around people I don't know, I'd get it a lot.
"The people I'm around, they don't ask anymore. I know a lot of my friends, when they first met me, will tell their parents, 'I met a kid named Bumper.'"
It's a first name Pool said he never gets tired of explaining. Pool's father, Jeff, said the name was a vision he had while in high school.
Never mind the fact that the first and last name equated to the billiards game with the bumpers in the middle of the table and by the pockets.
"I always said if I had a son, his first name would be Bumper," Jeff Pool said. "It kind of fit as a football name, and when his grandparents were OK with that, I knew we had something."
"I don't get tired of it," Bumper added. "It's a football name. It's a conversation starter, too."
After watching him on the field, it's easy to see why Pool's first name quickly becomes secondary to those interested in him. Pool has been a varsity player since his freshman season. He started 10 of 11 games as a freshman for Cox.
Pool didn't start his first game but was in for Lovejoy's second series. He's been a mainstay ever since.
"We kind of had an idea about him coming out of eighth grade that he could be somebody who will help us out," Cox said. "Going into his freshman year, he didn't have spring football, but he still was able to do what we asked him to by the start of the season and showed us that he could play up."
Congratulations to our Defensive Player of the Week @LovejoyFootball Soph. LB @bumperpool10! http://t.co/SELKFcuLo8 http://t.co/vWUBxLTrdS10/12/2015, 4:19:43 AM
No age requirement for playmaking
Oct. 9 proved to be the breakout game for Pool. Against McKinney North High School, Pool led Lovejoy's defense to a win, finishing with a career-high 19 tackles, three of which went for a loss. He also was named Defensive Player of the Week by the Dallas Morning News.
Credit some of his success to his work ethic and overall IQ of the game. Since first playing tackle football at 6, Pool has seen time all over the field, whether it was linebacker, quarterback, defensive end, tight end or running back. He's done it all, and no matter the age, he was always studying his positions.
"He's always loved football," Jeff Pool said. "He was a kid who'd be dressed with his helmet on sitting in the car ready for practice. He was ready to do whatever."
In addition to having a solid work ethic, Pool was a child who wasn't accustomed to losing games. Playing as a child, he suited up for the Allen Hurricanes, a team he said won 59 consecutive games.
Pool plays with a level of confidence that makes him an intriguing player all around the Lovejoy locker room. Despite being 16, he's a leader among all the players.
"Here's a kid who, as young as he is, he's able to command respect of the upperclassmen," Cox said. "It's because of what he does on and off the field. He's still a sophomore, and sophomores make mistakes on the field, but playing at his level—you don't always see in any kid in high school."
Through seven games, Pool has 92 tackles, including 47 unassisted and 11 behind the line of scrimmage. He also has three sacks, four pass breakups, four forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
In short, he's everywhere on the football field—and colleges have been taking notice.
I had a great visit in Arkansas this weekend #woopig http://t.co/scK3u4JPQC9/8/2015, 1:00:02 AM
Recruiting on deck, and expectations high
Recruiting recently became a discussion topic with Pool, but it's nothing that he's taking seriously at the moment.
He has early interest from Arkansas, Baylor, Tulsa and SMU, and he's also received correspondence from Boston College. Pool took an unofficial visit to Baylor last weekend.
"It's super early, so I'm still keeping everything open," he said. "The coaches love my size and say they can't wait to see what I do in the future.
"They also love the name, of course."
Pool is expected to add weight to his frame, which would make him a college-ready inside linebacker from the eye test alone. If Pool remains the same size in the next couple of years, don't be surprised if he's moved to the outside linebacker spot because of his quickness and reaction time. He's already a solid tackler and is expected to get even better as he matures.
Jeff Pool said his son's primary objective is to maintain his focus not only on the field but also in the classroom. The opportunities to be successful will be there as long as he keeps his goals in mind.
"His mom and I talk to him all the time about it: Keep enjoying what you're doing, and keep making good decisions," Jeff Pool said. "A lot of kids his age start looking ahead too early. They want to live in the now instead of looking to their futures. There's no doubt that if he keeps doing what he's doing, he'll have every opportunity he wants."
And if all goes as planned, Bumper Pool will be more than just a unique name on the college football circuit.
"I still remember coaches seeing him do the things he does in practice," Cox said. "They asked who he was, and then their jaws dropped when I told them he was just going to be a sophomore.
"Then, when you tell them his name is Bumper Pool...that's going to stick with them."
Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles.