Last Friday, a national high school recruiting website sent a videographer to Charlotte to film Providence Day’s team playing Bishop Sullivan (Va.).
The idea was, mainly, to get footage of a Bishop Sullivan team that has about 20 Division I recruits, including four-star defensive tackle Bryon Gaddy, a Tennessee recruit; receiver Tahj Capehart, who has committed to Virginia Tech; and running back Khalan Laborn, a Florida State recruit whom Rivals.com ranks No. 5 overall at his position nationally.
When the reporter returned, he kept talking about Providence Day freshman Porter Rooks, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound receiver.
“He said Porter Rooks was the third-best player on the field, which is saying something considering he’s only a freshman,” Adam Friedman, Rivals.com’s Mid-Atlantic recruiting analyst, told the Observer on Wednesday. “He’s a phenomenal college prospect right now and he’s only going to get better.”
Laborn rushed for 210 yards and five touchdowns in Bishop Sullivan’s easy 51-9 win at Providence Day. Rooks – whose brother Patrick was a basketball star at Charlotte Christian and later played at Clemson – had a big game, too.
Porter Rooks, 15, had 50 yards receiving and rushed 12 times for 150 yards. Providence Day coach Adam Hastings said that game is just a sign of things to come for Rooks, who got an offer from Louisville during the eighth grade and is being recruited by schools such as Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina and Southern California.
“When you’re that young, the ceiling is hard to find,” Hastings said. “We have some secrets here that aren’t going to be secrets very long. (Defensive lineman) Elijiah (Brown) is one of them and he’s beginning to blossom. I believe we have five Division I players in our program at least.”
Among those are two other promising freshmen: 6-5, 235-pound defensive end/tight end Jacolbe Cowan has 37 tackles this season and three sacks. Also, 6-1, 175-pound freshman receiver/defensive back Muhsin Muhammad III – son of the former Carolina Panther – is getting ACC and SEC recruiting attention.
Along with Rooks, they give Hastings a strong core to build around. Rooks’ 466 yards receiving rank first in North Carolina and fourth nationally among freshmen, according to MaxPreps, a national stat service. His 32 catches are first among N.C. freshmen and third nationally.
“I’m doing as much as I can to contribute to the team,” said Rooks, whose team has a bye this week before playing at rival Charlotte Country Day on Oct. 21. “Whatever coach wants me to do, I’m happy to do. I’m chasing four state championship rings.”
In middle school, Rooks was part of a 400-meter national champion club team. He ran for 1,085 yards and 15 touchdowns in five middle school games at Holy Trinity, a Catholic private school near uptown Charlotte. Now, as a high school freshman, he said the media and college attention have come on quickly, but he’s enjoying it. He’s taken unofficial visits to Clemson and North Carolina and is planning visits to Louisville and Tennessee soon.
“It’s blowing up pretty good,” he said of his recruitment. “I didn’t think it would happen this quickly, but I just kept working and hoping that one day it would come.”
Hastings marvels that for a player so heavily recruited and so talented, Rooks has no ego.
“He’s in here every morning to lift,” Hastings said. “He’s really a hard worker and a good guy in the classroom and locker room. We try to teach our players about playing for each other and being a team.
“Porter has really embraced that. For a player that could possibly say, ‘You know what, I have these stats and I have this ability,’ and make it all about me, he’s the first one to go run and high five (senior running back) Gabe (Montgomery) or to support a guy after a big play. He’s embodied the personality we want all of our players to have, making it about somebody else and not yourself.”
Langston Wertz Jr.: 704-358-5133; @langstonwertzjr