Josh Sweat's shy side


Josh Sweat has collected a lot of nicknames over the past few months.

After recording 94 tackles as a junior at Oscar Smith High School, Sweat was labeled as "The Freak" by opposing high school coaches in the Chesapeake, Virginia, area. Sweat earned the nickname "Clowney Jr." after the 6-foot-4½, 240-pound defensive end dominated at The Opening with a jaw-dropping 4.46-second time in the 40-yard dash, a 4.2 shuttle and a 39-inch vertical leap. He added another title to the list Monday when he climbed three spots in the ESPN 300 to become the No. 1 recruit in the country.

But those who know him best say another moniker is more appropriate.

"Shy guy," Oscar Smith coach Richard Morgan said. "Josh just wants to go out and play football, help his team win and be the best player he can. He's shies away from the attention."

Yes, as dominating as Sweat is on his highlight tape blowing past three would-be blockers on his way to one of his 31 tackles for a loss or pushing a helpless left tackle into the quarterback for one of his 22 sacks, he admits he is as equally unassuming and reserved away from the field.

"I wouldn't say I'm scared of the attention or scared of the spotlight," Sweat said. "I'm a little shy, yes, but I'm also just trying to do everything the right way. I just have to keep my focus on what's important. And right now, that's staying focused on my academics, my teammates, my family and not getting headlines on a bunch of websites. Being recruited like this shouldn't be a job. You shouldn't have to be serious all the time or live your life off of what some coach or a fan tells you."

Those type of comments makes Sweat's recruitment unlike any former No. 1 prospect in the country. In a world where fans and college coaches have grown accustomed to minute-by-minute updates on top prospects, especially those who are the best in the country, Sweat steers clear of the noise.

"I want to be a normal high school kid while I can," Sweat said.

Want a read on where he might be thinking about heading to college? Good luck because Sweat doesn't have a Twitter or Facebook account. He scoffs at the suggestion that reporters have already figured out which schools will make his top list.

"He doesn't need the Twitter, social media and the hype and all the other stuff that so many other kids require these days," Morgan said. "He just does his business. He's very unique in that way, and it's very refreshing as a coach. More kids should get back to being like him. If they did, all of our jobs would go a lot easier.

"I would say Josh should almost put out a pamphlet or a book on how to handle the recruiting process, and other kids should just follow it. He's been very accessible to all the college coaches. He's been very open in communication with them. He's given every one a fair chance. He's had no preconceived notions of where he's going. He isn't listening to bad advice from people with ulterior motives. He's just kind of staying the course and trying to figure out where he best fits in."

One thing that Sweat doesn't shy away from, though, is the comparison to Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL draft. Sweat joins Clowney, Florida State's Mario Edwards Jr. and Ole Miss' Robert Nkemdiche as the only defensive ends to hold the top spot in the ESPN 300, but it's Clowney whom Sweat idolizes and tries to pattern his game after.

"When I was in eighth grade, I watched Clowney's highlight tape every day," Sweat said. "I was like 'Man, I don't know how he's doing it.' I didn't start in ninth and 10th grade, but I kept watching the video as motivation. Then in my first year starting, I did some big things just like Clowney. So to follow in his footsteps means a lot."

Morgan said the resemblance is not just flattering, it's also fitting.

"They're about the same size, have the same type of athleticism, and they even have the same dreads," Morgan said. "Josh's numbers compare very well to what [Clowney] did at the combine. And they're both are so explosive on the field. It's almost an automatic comparison."

But that's where the comparison ends. Sweat said he understands what it means to be the nation's top-ranked prospect and the pressures that come with that, but he also has learned a lot by watching how past top-ranked prospects handled the recruiting process over the past few years. He has seen some of the mistakes they've made -- committing too early before decommitting or taking other official visits after making an initial decision -- and he plans to avoid them by sticking with what's worked so far.

"When you are compared to one of the best college football players in the last 25 years, it puts a big weight on your shoulder," Sweat said. "If something goes wrong with me or if I don't come out and dominate from day one, I'll fall pretty big and people will make a big deal out of it. That's a lot of pressure to put on a kid that's not even started his senior year in high school.

"That's a big reason why I've kept a lot of this to myself, my coaches and my family. If I lean on those that love and care for me the most, then they'll always have my back, no matter what happens. So being a shy guy is a good thing if you ask me."