Charlotte Latin kicker Paul Griggs has always taken his future into his own hands. Or, actually, on his own foot.
In sixth grade, he knew he wanted to kick at Holy Trinity Middle School, even though almost nobody in the area kicked at that age.
Going into 11th grade, he knew he needed to transfer from Charlotte Catholic to Charlotte Latin if he wanted a shot at playing for a Division I college.
This summer, 17-year-old Griggs verbally committed to play football for Purdue after his second visit there. Griggs had offers from other schools but saw an opportunity at Purdue and seized it.
"It had everything that we were looking for in a school in terms of academics and athletics," said Griggs. "It's really what me and my parents have determined is the best opportunity for me to take the next step to the NFL, if that's what I want to do at the end of my college career."
Playing college football is something Griggs has dreamed about for years, since he first picked up a football the summer before sixth grade.
He walked up to the middle school football coach that fall and told him he intended to be a kicker.
"We don't kick in middle school," the coach responded.
Griggs gave it a shot anyway. He started slowly, learning how to kick extra points and moving up to field goals by eighth grade.
After middle school, he went to Charlotte Catholic for two years but quickly realized he would be sitting behind kicker Jesse Roy, who was a year older.
Griggs convinced his parents to let him transfer to Charlotte Latin, emphasizing the opportunity to kick and Latin's academic reputation. Eventually his mother, Julie, came around.
"The junior-year season is very important in the recruiting process," said Julie Griggs. "If he hadn't been kicking in 11th grade I'm not sure he'd be committed to play football for a D1 college. He wouldn't have film and the game time."
The 6-foot, 195-pound Griggs quickly took advantage of the opportunity at Latin. He once kicked a 48-yard field goal, a school record.
Griggs said he's even knocked through a 65-yarder in practice.
Griggs has worked with private kicking coach Dan Orner since seventh grade. Orner said he was hesitant to work with someone so young but saw something different in Griggs.
"From the get-go, he was just a special case," said Orner. "He's always been so driven and wanting to learn and master his craft."
Orner said he foresees Griggs becoming successful in college, and possibly in the NFL, if things work out. He has the calm attitude a kicker needs to compete at a higher level, Orner said.
"I think one of the things that kind of sets him apart is that he never gets too high and never gets too low," said Orner. "He always keeps an even keel and is always searching for the next opportunity to perform. If he continues to stay hungry and humble, there will be great things ahead of him."
Griggs said he feels relieved the recruiting process has ended.
"I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to know where I was going before the season and to have a decision made pretty early," said Griggs.
"As far as team goals go, I definitely want to have a winning season. I want to get to the state championship again and win it this time.
"In terms of personal achievements and stuff like that, really, I just kind of let it fall into place."