HUNTINGTON - Four years ago, when Aaron Dobson was finishing up an all-state career as a wide receiver at Class AAA state champion South Charleston, there wasn't much of a bidding war, if you will, for his services in college.
Despite Dobson's good size (now at 6-foot-3, 204 pounds), speed and obvious athletic skills, he caused little commotion among Division I bounty hunters.
In fact, his scholarship offer to play at Marshall was the only one he got from the big boys, along with a couple from former I-AAs Hofstra and Delaware and a bushel of interest from the West Virginia Conference.
But Dobson is turning out to be quite a catch for the Thundering Herd and perhaps a poster child for current West Virginia high school players seeking to land that elusive D-1 full ride.
After being thrown into the fire as a true freshman, he's already been Marshall's top receiver each of the past two seasons and is poised to make a run at All-Conference USA honors this year.
He and the rest of his Thundering Herd teammates start to get a leg up on those individual and team goals with the start of spring practice, which reached a second workout Thursday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
"Team goals come first,'' said Herd receivers coach Gerad Parker, "and I know A.D.'s got that direction, too, but individually the sky's the limit for him. If he does what we talk about and he stays driven and on fire - like a guy like Jerry Rice did - and if he works and sweats and earns what he gets and improves his game, the sky's the limit for him.
"I expect him to be all-conference and I expect him to have a chance to get national honors as well, as he knows that's what we expect of him. I believe that with all my heart that he's an NFL wideout. I do. I know that. Now how good and how long depends on what he does and how he works and what he continues to do with his future.''
Dobson's not only been catching a lot of balls for the Herd the past three years, he's also been catching a lot of attention for his highlight-reel plays.
"I've just got to build on that,'' Dobson said Thursday following practice. "I've just got to keep pushing forward. I made a couple great catches last year, and I want to make a couple more catches this year and build onto what I've already done.''
Parker, who's in his second year as receivers coach on Doc Holliday's staff, has started to expect the spectacular from Dobson. But Parker knows that for Dobson to continue his development, he's got to keep doing the little things right.
"He stays grounded, but I help him,'' Parker said. "It's my job to make him [that way] because he's got room and I tell him there's always something to improve on. He knows right now there's things we need him to improve on to get him ready for next year and the next level. And A.D. understands that. It's a continual process to make sure I find ways to push him. He's made me a better coach, and I want to find ways to make him get better for the future.''
One of the ways helping keep Dobson level-headed is taking on the responsibilities of a senior leader with all the young receiving prospects the Herd has on its roster.