Athletes who reach the highest levels of their sport usually exhibit incredible determination. Sam Madden showed it as a high school freshman.
Something was wrong with Madden's drive, however. It was misdirected and over the top. He was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder.
"It's funny. You can look at an athlete and say, "Oh, this guy is obsessed,"" said Dave Madden, Sam's father. "We've really learned what that means. That's been a journey unto itself.
"His freshman year of high school, before he was getting therapy and help, it was a bad year. It was a rough time. Now, he has a solid B average. He's doing well. He's really come a long way. I'm really looking forward to these coaches getting to spend time with him."
Medications have aided the 6-foot-7, 330-pound junior at Barnegat (NJ) High. Sam Madden has positioned himself to play major college football with 16 reported scholarship offers. Iowa, Miami, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, South Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Wisconsin have been among the schools that have stepped forward with an opportunity.
"We'd like to see South Carolina," Dave Madden said. "Alabama called (Wednesday) night. We're supposed to call them back on Sunday. They're very interested. Depending on how that conversation does, we might be heading down there this summer as well. There are other schools we're waiting to hear from."
The Maddens are taking their time with the process.
"We have a loose framework of let's see what offers come in and at the end of his junior year, he'll start looking at taking some trips; going to see some schools," Dave said "And then, of course, there will be official visits."
Despite college football name brands like Alabama, Miami and South Carolina being in the picture, Madden is open to all possibilities, Dave said.
"I told him not to have preconceived notions," Dave said. "It's fine to be excited about a school because of who they are but you don't want to decide before you've been there and met the people. It's about gathering up as much information as you can and making an intelligent decision. He's completely on board with that. He's enjoying the process."
Finding a school at which he's comfortable is especially important for Sam Madden, his father said. His compulsion plays in a somewhat controlled environment living at home with his parents who understand the illness. In college, he'll be dealing with roommates and coaches with whom he'll need to be comfortable and vice versa.
"Sam is really different from other kids," Dave said. "He doesn't go to parties. He doesn't go hang out with all of the other guys and fool around. He's built his focus on his plan for the future, which is football.
"Coaches love him because his work ethic is second to none. He just needs to realize that not everyone is as intense as him and he has to take a rest sometimes; come up for air."
Dave Madden's nephew, John Moffitt, played at Wisconsin and with the Seattle Seahawks. It familiarized the family with the Big Ten.
"I have not had much contact with Iowa, but I know Iowa with my nephew playing against them," Dave said. "I've watched their games. I've seen some great players come through there and they're a great school.
"If they contact our coach and asked me to call them, I would call them. In the next six to eight weeks, we're going to take a look at everything and reach out to some schools."
Dave Madden said that he and his son compiled a spread sheet from the NFL Draft. They plot each school's draft picks along the offensive line and who coached the position at their college. It's why Wisconsin and Iowa have become intriguing options.
"I told (Sam) that there might be a school that's not as big a name as an Alabama but specializes in the offensive line," Dave said. "Wisconsin is an O-Line factory. Iowa, same thing. They put absolutely great offensive linemen out of Iowa. We need to consider that. We're not just looking at the big names.
"Be open to being surprised. If you're a good enough player, you'll make it to the pros. Have your eyes open and not just listen to what they want you to hear."