In April, Blake Sharp went to Atlanta on a mission.
The rising senior knew college football coaches don't often go to small schools like Heritage Academy looking to sign players.
So the 6-foot-4, 250-pound lineman packed a work ethic that has been sharpened by toiling on his family's farm and was determined to make an impression.
Sharp accomplished his goal.
Sharp's performance at the Under Armour High School Training Camp/Combine earned him a spot later this week at the All-Madden Camp in Bradenton, Fla. The invitation-only camp, which will be Friday through Sunday, will feature players who were selected from camps/combines in 16 cities and all prior 2011 IMG Academy football program camps.
Following the camp, and before the start of this high school football season, the IMG Academy football program will release its 2011 IMG All-Madden Team made up of 28 athletes selected based on their on-field and classroom performance.
"I figured it would help me with the recruiting process and all of that good stuff," Sharp said of his reasoning for attending the initial camp. "It helped me get my name out there more."
Like many players, Sharp has been busy in the offseason. He attended a football camp in June at Mississippi State camp, and he planned to attend another football camp this weekend with teammate Brandon Bell at the University of Mississippi.
Those trips are designed to hone skills and to allow players to showcase their skills to college coaches. Sharp knows his invitation to Florida will be just as valuable of an opportunity as he hopes to earn a scholarship offer to play football in college.
Sharp, who has a grade-point average well over 3.0, hasn't received a scholarship offer, but he has received correspondence from MSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, LSU, Arkansas State, Stanford, UCLA, and several other smaller schools. He said he would like to stay close to home so his family would be able to watch him play.
Wherever he goes, Sharp is confident his work ethic will allow him to succeed. Growing up on a farm and helping to raise bucking bulls has helped keep him in shape and has disciplined him for battles in the trenches. He also credits his mother and father for raising him to respect hard work and not to shy away from it.
"Being born and raised on a ranch, I know everything about hard work," Sharp said. "I put the same effort I put into my work on the farm into what I did at the camp and just did what I had to do. I was aggressive, and I think it showed them something. I just gave it my all and put out the effort."
Heritage Academy football coach Brad Butler has come to enjoy Sharp's work ethic. Sharp has been a fixture in the starting lineup on the offensive and defensive lines since he was a sophomore.
"He always has worked hard not only with us, but also with things he does in the summer," Butler said. "He stays pretty busy with his farming, and he stays in pretty good shape. He always has been a hard worker."
Butler expects to use Sharp in multiple positions this season. He said the camp was a great way for Sharp to compete against some of the best players in the Southeast. He hopes it will give him a taste of the next level and will motivate him to be the player and leader the Patriots need.
Sharp gained confidence from the initial camp and said he is prepared to do even better later this week. After all, it's hard to be intimidated by another football player when you spend most of your days pitching bundles of hay and running with bulls. Sharp hopes all of that work will put him in position to attract the attention of a college coach and to earn a chance to play at the next level.
"I love to train," Sharp said. "I would love for a chance to be pushed by good coaches."