Convention and ordinary are two adjectives you’ll almost never hear when discussing the recruitment of Avonte Maddox. Not because Maddox isn’t an immensely talented player with a bright future in the college game, or because or some undisclosed off-field issue, or anything else that might make a recruitment’s courtship rocky or otherwise unconventional.
It’s because he doesn’t even know what his favorite sport is. For Maddox, the baseball diamond is just as much of an athletic home as is the gridiron, and the funny thing is, he plays it off as standard operating procedure.
“I like football and baseball the same,” Maddox said flatly.
Division I coaches are willing to chance Maddox’s vacillating sporting loyalties. The 5’9’’ 165-pound athlete from Detroit has become a known entity among BCS schools for his speed, explosiveness and versatility. Most recently, he shined at the Adidas Invitational Showcase, held at Grand Valley State University, where Maddox flashed elite athleticism and burst on both sides of the ball.
If he decides to cast his lot with Northwestern, where he visited this weekend to tour the football facilities, meet with coaches and enjoy spring practice, Maddox knows what position he sees himself playing.
“They were showing me tape and they have this little guy,” Maddox said. “He was small but he was tough. That’s how they said I could be used.”
The reference, needless to say, is to Venric Mark, one of the Big Ten’s leading rushers last season and one of the best kick/punt returners in the country. Maddox’s affinity for Mark’s game goes beyond mere physical similarities.
At Martin Luther King High School, Maddox lines up at running back and slot receiver (as well as cornerback) in a spread offense, which he claims uses many of the same concepts as Northwestern’s spread attack.
“They’re a lot alike,” he said in comparing his high school’s offense to the Wildcats’.
But the way Maddox sees it, whatever school he decides on will be just as inviting off the field as on it. That includes baseball, campus life and, most of all, academics.
“At Northwestern, it’s not just about football,” he said. “Academics are important.”
The next few months of Maddox’s recruitment will not follow the traditional mold. Coaches will contact his high school coaches, and he’ll continue to draw interest from high-level BCS schools, but Maddox plans to spend the spring focusing in baseball.
Ideally, his school of choice will offer him the opportunity to play both sports. Maddox already raised the possibility with coach Pat Fitzgerald, who met the idea with open arms.
“He asked me what position I play,” Maddox said in recounting his conversation with Fitzgerald about baseball. “When I said shortstop, he told me that was good because they have soft hands.”
At this point Maddox has had no contact with Northwestern baseball coaches, but he did acknowledge the Wildcats currently stand as one of his top three schools, along with West Virginia and Michigan State.
Any momentum towards a decision will likely wait until his senior season, in part because he would like the opportunity to get his name out to Division I baseball programs. Maddox did commit to returning to Northwestern for a workout in front of coaches this summer, and he’s eager to speak with baseball coaches on campus.
“It’s something I would like to do,” he said.
The interest is there. Now it’s up to Maddox to calibrate his two-sport priorities and emphasis on academics to fit a program that offers the best student-athlete experience possible.