As long as he can remember, Jeremy Hollingsworth has dreamed about playing big-time college football.
And he appeared to be on that path, developing into one of the top players in the entire state of Colorado.
But early on along the recruiting trail, Hollingsworth just wasn't receiving the level of attention that he had hoped for. Despite leading the entire state in rushing yards during last year's regular season, he still wasn't getting mentioned as one of the top recruits in the area.
Frankly, that's more often the case than not for up-and-coming football players. Like Hollingsworth, who will be a senior tailback at Skyline this fall, the latter portion of many promising players' prep careers becomes all about doing whatever it takes to impress recruiters and carve out an opportunity at the next level.
Playing at Niwot and Skyline, Hollingsworth, for example, hasn't come up in high-profile, highly-recruited programs. So he spent the offseason toiling away at camp after camp, trying to show what he has to offer at schools like South Dakota, South Dakota State, Wyoming, Colorado, Colorado School of Mines, and others.
Coaches have told him he needs to be faster, so Hollingsworth has ramped up his efforts in track and field, and has spent nearly all of his free time doing individual speed work and route-tree receiving workouts to deepen his skill set.
Not one of the select few capable of punching his own ticket to a school of his choosing but definitely deserving of an opportunity, Hollingsworth's recruitment process has begun to pick up steam. But he has definitely had to grind to make it happen.
"The biggest thing I heard from coaches this offseason is that I have to work on my speed," Hollingsworth said. "I've been working a lot on hip flexibility, mobility and just speed work in general. It's been a really busy offseason but it's about just continuing to work hard to improve as much as I can and show schools that I can be what they need me to be."
Hollingsworth ran for 1,913 yards and 31 touchdowns in 11 games as a junior and has offers from a number of RMAC and Ivy League schools. He has put an impressive junior season on paper and done everything he can in order to increase his prospect stock, and the 5-foot-10, 205-pound back is now counting on a big senior season to give him a late boost.
With Skyline football looking to follow up on a 2017 season in which the Falcons reached the postseason for the first time since 1999, Hollingsworth finally has a chance to just quiet his mind, focus on playing football and let the chips fall where they may come springtime.
"I'm really at the point where coaches are looking to see what this upcoming season brings," Hollingsworth said. "That will determine if another offer comes or if it doesn't. So there's some extra pressure there, but I'm really looking at it like I'm just going to have fun with it since it's my last season. If I'm stressing over recruiting and things like that, it's not going to go well."
The BoCoPreps.com area hasn't really ever been considered a hotbed for football that's teeming with top-tier recruits and attracts college football staffs from all around. But this year, there are a few top-tier players from up north who are turning some heads.
"College coaches that recruit Colorado are going to go to the Valor Christians and the bigger schools in the Denver Metro area," BuffStampede.com publisher Adam Munsterteiger said. "Now, recruiting is also a copycat thing and when there is a player in an area that gets an early Power Five offer, then there's a rumbling of a kid up in the Boulder area and other schools start to come around and start looking."
That player is Fairview quarterback Aidan Atkinson, the fourth-ranked recruit in Colorado's class of 2020 according to Rivals.com.
Atkinson, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound pro-style quarterback who passed for 3,405 yards and 23 touchdowns in Fairview's pass-friendly system last season, has plenty of scholarship offers on the table already from Division-I schools including South Carolina, Ole Miss, Colorado, Boise State and Colorado State. With the body type, personality and skill set that are coveted at the next level, the junior is sure to garner even more attention if he can follow up last year's production with another strong season this fall.
"A lot of schools have reached out and said that they'd like to get me out to a game and stuff like that," Atkinson said. "I've got a good list of offers so far but if you don't work hard and keep getting better, if you're just satisfied with what you've got, it doesn't mean anything. I'm really focusing on getting ready for the season and I think this year we have all the pieces to go win a state championship.
"Coach (Tom) McCartney hasn't won a state championship in the 26 years that he's been at Fairview and I think this team could be the one to do it. We played really well in the quarterfinals against that Pomona team that won state last season and we all saw what it took to win state."
The area's top football recruit since Fairview's Carlo Kemp went to Michigan after graduating in 2015, Atkinson might not even be the top prospect on his team when it's all said and done. Knights sophomore defensive end Brayden Wood already has offers from Syracuse, Texas Tech and Colorado State.
The area's top recruits aren't just at Fairview either.
Holy Family's senior tight end Kyle Helbig, who played quarterback because of an injury to starter Stone Samaras last season, is a three-star recruit with a half dozen Division-I offers. Broomfield's senior quarterback Steven Croell holds an offer from Division II powerhouse CSU-Pueblo and Eagles teammate Ryan Capasso is getting plenty of looks at linebacker.
The list goes on and nearly every program in the BoCoPreps.com area will produce at least one player who will go on to play at some level in college.
One local player whose recruiting stock has skyrocketed in recent years is Erie's senior running back and safety Noah Roper, who led all of Colorado with 2,631 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns while helping the Tigers reach the Class 3A title game last season. Roper has a pair of Division-I offers from Northern Colorado and Air Force, as well as offers from CSU-Pueblo and Colorado School of Mines.
Like both Hollingsworth and Atkinson, Roper is narrowing his focus to performing on the field as opening week of the 2018 campaign begins to peek over the horizon.
"The recruiting will take care of itself if I just focus on playing well and trying to help my team win," Roper, who doesn't yet know what position he'll play at the next level, said. "Our expectation is to win state, especially after what we did last year. It's nothing less than that. The bar is set there and that's definitely what everyone is expecting."
Though it remains to be seen where all the local prospects end up, there's no doubt that there's a future for many of them at the next level. It should be fun to watch each collegiate football hopeful in the BoCoPreps.com area put his best foot forward this fall.