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February 23, 2006

The transformer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Back in 6th grade Jayson Palmgren was anything but a budding football star.

"I used to be really fat," Palmgren said. "When I was in middle school, I was 5-foot-11 and really big. I played football, but I really wasn't that good. I just didn't like to run a whole lot because I was so big."

Nature eventually took its course and that chubby sixth grader is now one of the hottest offensive line recruits in the entire nation.

Palmgren, a 6-foot-4, 285-pound offensive guard from Kansas City (Mo.) North Kansas City, blossomed physically and has matured into a bulldozer of a run blocker that has earned early scholarship offers from Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State. He has been invited to Norte Dame's spring game and Miami's junior day.

Now all of a sudden Palmgren has a different outlook on his future.

"I didn't think I would get any offers, especially this early," Palmgren said. "Then I got the offer from Iowa first, and I was kind of shocked. I didn't think they could offer you this early, but now it's all starting to sink in. I'm going to have a chance to play football for a long time, and that's really cool."

North Kansas City coach Chad Valadez thinks Palmgren is a special player and well deserving of the early national attention he's receiving.

"I have been coaching high school football for 13 years, and without a doubt he is the most physical run blocker that I've been around," Valadez said. "When he gets on a guy, he finished. When you talk to the college coaches, that ability to finish is the one thing that they love right off the bat. Jayson's a great finisher. He doesn't just stay at one level. He moves his feet and gets up field.

"To me, what separates Division I athletes from everybody else is the ability to move in space and how they control their body. For big man that's 6-foot-4 and 285, to be able to get to a safety, a linebacker or a defensive back like he does is a rare quality for a high school offensive lineman."

Palmgren is only getting better with more experience.

"We really saw for the first time this season that he has this nastiness," Valadez said. "He decided he's going to line up and just go out there and kick your (butt). He's still real young and turns 17 in April. He won't even be near his potential until he's 19 or 20, and when he does, watch out.

"What he's got, we just take advantage of. He has a great motor. He continues to play hard play in and play out. I think he's just now scratching the surface on how talented he can be."

Palmgren has been blown away by all of the early attention he's received. His eyes lit up on Wednesday when Valadez told him that an offer from Kansas is in the mail and that K-State should also be offering him shortly.

He's already been to Missouri and Iowa for junior day events, and he's hoping his parents will take him to other upcoming events like the NIKE Training Camp and several summer camp stops across the country.

"Coach has done a great job of helping me with all this attention," Palmgren said. "He's done a great job of getting my name out there. He says once people watch the tape they'll see what type of player I am. I guess they're really liking what they see, and now that I've got my first offers, I think more should start to come in.

"I'm going to take all five visits, I think. At this point, that's the plan."

Even though he's getting national attention from places as far away as Miami and Notre Dame, local programs like Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri are going to have a strong shot at landing him. He admits he grew up a K-State fan, and his former teammate Tarrell Corby is at Missouri now.

"He calls me a lot and tells me to go to Missouri," Palmgren said. "It would be nice to go to college with somebody you know. I grew up a K-State fan. I lived in Kansas until the end of sixth grade. I lived in Kansas City, Kan. But at this point, I want to wait until the end of my senior season. We have a lot of goals we want to accomplish next year."

Those goals include winning district and making a run for a state championship, which is something that hasn't been done in a while at North Kansas City. The Hornets have produced quality Division I prospects in the past, but both Valadez and Palmgren feel they have the tools next season to make a legit run deep in the state playoffs.

"We have a good core of seniors," Valadez said. "Plus, our district schedule should set us up pretty favorably. We're going to rely heavily on Jayson, though. What he's got, we'll just take advantage of."

Talk like that makes Palmgren blush. Those are words he never thought he'd hear back when he was in middle school.

"Back in middle school, I really didn't like football a lot," he said. "I guess it was probably because I wasn't very good. Then in the eighth grade things started to get earlier. It was like a light switched on, and I started to grow and I started to get better and better.

"I'm not that fat kid anymore."


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