At 6’4”, 275 pounds entering his freshman year of high school, Tyree St. Louis was anything but your typical ninth-grader.
While most young athletes that size might be labeled a "freak," St. Louis—who wasn’t allowed to play football because he was too big for youth leagues—admittedly looked more like Sherman Klump from The Nutty Professor than a stud offensive line recruit.
Three years later, St. Louis—who now checks in at 6’6”, 300 pounds—heads into his senior season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, with 19 scholarship offers from schools such as Florida, Miami, USC, Ole Miss and Tennessee.
St. Louis laughs as he recalls the first time he ever stepped on a football field to practice in full pads.
"The very first drill I did, they put me at offensive line, and I had to hold a bag," St. Louis said. "We had chutes, and I had to hold the bag in that drill. I didn’t understand how to hold it or what I was supposed to do. The guys came through the chutes and hit the bag, and I fell straight down three times in a row. It was awful."
The first two years of his prep career were spent at Tampa Bay Tech High School, and there were plenty of bumps in the road mainly due to his lack of familiarity with the game.
He struggled with basic technique issues, such as balance and leverage. Additionally, his frame—while impressive from a physical standpoint—was largely unrefined when compared with other players who had been playing the sport for at least a few years.
St. Louis had worn glasses his entire life and made the decision to switch to goggles when he started playing. That choice, he admits, was "by far the worst decision I have ever made in my entire football career."
But his biggest adjustment came in learning the toughness that is required to play along the offensive line. While his previous education about playing left tackle came mainly from watching the movie The Blind Side, it took a while for him to adjust to life in the trenches.
"I wasn’t a naturally aggressive person," St. Louis said. "That’s what my coaches were trying to teach me while I was kind of learning the game. So when coaches would tell me to 'be more aggressive,' I didn’t really understand what that meant, or how to actually do it and apply that on the field."
Although his first offer came from Arkansas State as a ninth-grader, his transformation into one of the nation’s top left tackle prospects came during his junior year—his first at IMG Academy.
He reshaped his body, polished his technique and developed the mean streak necessary to become a dominant offensive lineman.
"At Tech, my highlights were mostly plays where I would hit a guy and fall on him," St. Louis said. "Now during my junior season, I will knock a guy down and run across the field to get a crack-back block. There’s a big difference in my skill level and my understanding of the game itself and the responsibilities of my position."
Now, with his growing pains behind him, St. Louis is starting to blow up on the recruiting scene. According to Johnny Esfeller of IMG Academy, St. Louis was honored as the MVP of the offensive line group at the Rivals Camp Series in Orlando in March.
Three-star offensive lineman Tyree St. Louis gave observers reason to consider him for a fourth star with a strong performance, as he picked up OL MVP honors after butting heads with some serious talent along the defensive line.
Additionally, in the newest rankings released by Rivals earlier this week, St. Louis was tagged as one of the biggest risers emerging from the post-spring circuit and now checks in as the No. 162 player in the 2015 class.
But St. Louis hasn’t lost sight of how far he’s come since those first padded practices three years ago.
"Right now, I’m just trying to soak all of this in and enjoy it," St. Louis said. "Once you get to college, it’s a job. So for my senior year, I just want to enjoy playing with my teammates and raise my game to another level."
Sanjay Kirpalani is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.