Identified by opponents as No. 8 during his freshman season at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles, Kayvon Thibodeaux must now grow accustomed to a new numerical designation moving forward.
Thibodeaux is rated No. 1 overall among 2019 college football recruits in the top-100 rankings released Wednesday by 247Sports. It's the site's first attempt at sorting through a vast collection of rising sophomores, providing an early glimpse of elite athletes who are still 30 months away from their national signing day.
"I knew people were watching," Thibodeaux told Bleacher Report. "But I had no idea things would turn out like this."
Suddenly sitting atop this initial list of promising young prospects, the defensive end admits it's an enviable position.
"This is honestly amazing because I know there are a lot of other people who want to be in this spot," he said. "I can't take it for granted."
Thibodeaux, who doesn't turn 16 years old until December, stands 6'5", 220 pounds a few weeks shy of his second high school season. Despite his limited varsity experience, expectations will be immense when he hits the field this fall.
"I already understand I'll never make everybody happy or do everything some people expect me to do, so I can't try to please everyone," Thibodeaux said. "I just have to play my heart out and see where that takes me."
Initial conversations with this Southern California wunderkind create an impression he pairs his expansive physical frame with a wise-beyond-his-years mentality. Thibodeaux understands the long-lasting impact that upcoming success could have on the Dorsey High School community.
"What makes me feel really good is knowing my guys are going to get shine too," he said. "When college coaches come here, my teammates will have a chance to get some love. It's a great situation for them, myself, my family and the school."
Collegiate staffs are already intrigued.
Thibodeaux secured his first scholarship offers May 14 when Utah and Montana State extended opportunities. Washington State and nearby USC have since joined a recruitment that should eventually include dozens of universities across America.
Thibodeaux has never followed college football closely, so he enters this process with an open mind. Regardless of his destination three years from now, he's excited about the end result.
"Going to college for higher learning has always been a milestone for me. To know that education will be free is an amazing feeling," Thibodeaux said.
Coaches will covet his attitude and stature. He can also count on the wisdom of former NFL defensive back Charles Mincy, who serves as head coach at Dorsey High School.
"He's showed me the ropes," Thibodeaux said. "He told me what I need to know about the whole recruiting game and the things that are going to happen during these next few years. Now I can say I'm not as naive when it comes to offers and the entire situation."
Mincy will implement his standout sophomore in a variety of roles this season, according to Thibodeaux. After primarily playing out of a three-point stance last fall, he anticipates he'll take reps at outside linebacker and tight end.
Thibodeaux, who hasn't played on offense since his Pop Warner days, has raised his ambitions on both sides of the football. He has set his personal goals for 2016 at 30 sacks and 10 touchdowns.
"Three sacks per game," Thibodeaux said.
That output would be on par with his freshman performance. He secured nine sacks in three playoff games following a promotion to varsity, per Barton Simmons of 247Sports.
Thibodeaux, who also participates in basketball and track, doesn't waver in his believe that he can rack up 30 sacks.
"I'm confident in my craft and know what I can do," he said.
His approach includes far more than sheer strength and athleticism (Thibodeaux reports a 40-yard dash in the 4.7-second range). He's invested in details.
"I love the weight room, but it's not just the weight room," Thibodeaux said. "Technique is 100 percent important. I focus a lot on my feet and my hands. My main attribute is speed, so when I put that together with technique it can be unstoppable."
For fundamental reference, he focuses on one of the NFL's most dominant defenders—Houston Texans lineman J.J. Watt.
"He's not just a big guy; he's more skilled than people think," Thibodeaux said. "He's really strong but also uses his hands a lot. He's able to get around any type of offensive lineman. He can do it all, and that's what I want to be known for as a player."
Despite early accolades that go largely unrivaled among high school underclassmen, he's convinced of one thing above all.
"I know I'm not the best," Thibodeaux said. "That's the mindset I carry with me 100 percent of the time."
Anointed the No. 1 player in a class of several thousands, don't expect him to bask in the hype. Thibodeaux plans to stay busy justifying it.
"Once you think you know everything, you can become oblivious to advice from other people," he said. "You'll never hear me say I'm better than everyone else. I can still learn anything from anybody."
Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings.
Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.