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March 9, 2011

Pike learned game from NFL father

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It is a late evening for Edgewood (Ky.) Dixie Heights quarterback Zeke Pike and his family. Between basketball, school and constant phone calls from college recruiters, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound junior has little time to relax. Much less make a decision as important as choosing a college.

But with a rare Tuesday evening free, the Pike family headed to the local Applebee's to discuss the future of the talented passer. With more than 30 offers, this is a daunting task.

Pike's father, Mark Pike, has tried to stay as involved as possible in helping his son choose a college.

"It's really the first time we've had free in quite a while," Mark Pike said. "He's got to narrow it down to like a top 10 or something real soon here after basketball season. Once we kind of put our heads together I think we're going to have a pretty similar list.

"As soon as basketball is over, we're going to see schools over spring practice. Everybody's spring practices are pretty much at the same time so it's hard to get that sorted out. We're trying to get to places we haven't seen before. It's a lot different this time. It's not the same thing I did at all."

Mark has been through the process himself. He was a standout defensive end in high school before going on to play at Georgia Tech and in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills for 13 seasons. It is not the same, though.

With early recruiting being the norm, Zeke starting receiving scholarship offers as a sophomore in high school. Despite still being in the middle of their junior year, many of his peers already committed to colleges.

"In a way, it was a little surprising when I got my first offer," Zeke said. "I expected to get some attention but I didn't expect there to be so many (offers). Purdue was actually the first school to say they were offering me. It was kind of shocking but I just had to be humble about it. People had told me that once you get that first one, especially at that young of an age, you are going to get a lot of them. It's all been a bit of a whirlwind though. It's something I tried to prepare myself for."

Mark sees no resemblance between his experience and that of his son.

"I graduated in 1982," he said. "It was totally different than it is now. I really didn't start getting recruited at all by the bigger schools until the start of my senior year. I've told Zeke this before but I really don't remember much about it, which tells you it wasn't anything like today. I got a few letters and things like that, but it wasn't hectic in any way.

"I'm kind of going through the process with him, too. I'm glad I'm getting the opportunity to do that but it's so different. I didn't decide until after my senior year. I didn't make a decision until signing day. I don't remember all the mail. I don't remember all the phone calls or anything like this has been."

While his father waited until February of his senior year to decide to attend Georgia Tech, Zeke doesn't see himself holding out that long. To keep up this same pace, with the phone calls, emails, campus visits and the like would be near impossible.

I didn't decide until after my senior year. I didn't make a decision until signing day. I don't remember all the mail. I don't remember all the phone calls or anything like this has been.
- Zeke Pike's father and former NFL player, Mark Pike, on his son's extensive recruitment
"I'm hoping to get it over with at the beginning of my senior season or somewhere around there," he said. "It's really just going to be whenever my heart feels right. I can't imagine waiting until signing day like my dad did. That just seems so foreign nowadays. It's exciting but it can wear on you a bit at times too."

As for his development as a player, Zeke was seemingly born with a football in his hand. He grew up with the game, having a chance to learn from stars such as Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith and Andre Reed.

"I grew up in the locker room, on the field and just kind of hanging out with him every day," Zeke said. "I was always on the field for practice and running around the locker room during games. When they were lifting I was always involved with it and knew all the guys.

"I was always wanting to follow in my dad's footsteps. Being a kid you always want to do what he does. It was different because I was young and didn't realize that I was talking to Hall of Fame quarterbacks or Hall of Fame receivers. I had a chance to see how they did things, though. I didn't realize it was a learning experience at the time but it definitely was."

And, soon, he has his own chance to shine on the big stage: Pike has been selected to quarterback the East squad in the 2012 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

"I've watched it every year growing up," Pike said of the all-star game. "I always thought, 'Wow, these are the greatest players in the country.' They always became the top guys in college football, too. I was really excited to have the opportunity to play in the game. I was really fortunate and blessed. I remember watching (Tim) Tebow and thinking, 'Wow, I wish that could be me one day.' "

For now, though, father and son are just trying to enjoy their late dinner and figure out the next step.



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