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Fantastic 5 make for no-lose choice

Armwood High senior offensive tackle Mike Pearson (6-7, 285) was recently named to the USA Today Super 25 team. He was named the nation's best offensive-line prospect by SuperPrep magazine, a recruiting publication. Pearson also carries a 4.1 grade-point average. In the second installment of the Times' look at his recruiting experience, Pearson shares his thoughts with staff writer Joey Johnston.

Florida, Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio State and Tennessee.

My final five.

I'll probably start my official visits in December, after our season at Armwood, and that's when my decision will become a lot more clear. Florida is leading, of course, and it always will because it is only two hours up the road. Location is a big factor. But I'm not selling anybody short. I'm going to study each school and decide the best place for me.

Notre Dame and Miami were on the list, but I decided to narrow it to five schools. Those coaches said they understood. If I change my mind, they said to call them back. I mean, there are hundreds of other kids they can recruit instead of me. I knew deep down in my heart that it wasn't going to be Notre Dame or Miami, so why lead them on?

Florida's offensive line coach (Jimmy Ray Stephens) visited our school a few weeks ago, and I decided to have a little fun with him. He came in to where I was lifting weights, and I had on an Ohio State T-shirt. He just gave me this look, like, "What are you doing to me?" But I just laughed. I was just teasing him.

This whole process is only going to happen once, so I'm determined to have fun and enjoy myself. We had this pep rally before we played Jefferson in September. I was introduced and I walked out and did the Gator Chomp for everybody. They seemed to enjoy it. I didn't hear anybody booing. I may or may not go to Florida, but I just decided to have some fun before the student body.

When Coach Stephens was here, I found out some good news. Florida is going to offer a scholarship to my teammate (offensive tackle Ken "Shaq" Dawson) if he passes his (SAT) test. That's a big compliment to our school, I think, that a powerhouse like Florida is after two offensive linemen from the same school.

I think it says a lot about Coach (Sean) Callahan and the assistants, about how much they push us and promote us. They made a highlight film of Shaq and I during the spring and that has really helped us get noticed. We appreciate them so much.

Shaq has his decision, and I have mine. I don't think we'll consult each other too much. If we end up at the same place, that's fine. We're friends and we're not afraid of competition. In high school, we have really pushed each other, and that's been a benefit.

There are only two games remaining in our season (Armwood is 4-4) and it's disappointing that we won't be going back to the state playoffs. We've had some bad breaks. We played a great game against Robinson, then lost it on one play when this kid (Desmond Allison) ran 90 yards with a missed field goal. We tried to tackle him, but he was gone.

That's typical of our season. We've had some good moments, but we're always killing ourselves with turnovers and penalties. Durant handed us our butts (34-18), but the other games were all about missed opportunities. Now we just want to finish it out as strong as we possibly can.

It seems like teams have been gunning for us this year because we've been pretty successful in recent years. I know they've paid close attention to me. You just have to always keep up your intensity and do your job. Even if you see a guy in front of you not as big or strong, you still have to stay mentally prepared. In college, the guys will always be as good or better than you. Mentally, you can't slack off. So whether the guy I'm blocking is 5-6 or 6-4, my goal doesn't change. I still try to put him on his back.

It's funny, but the season has kind of blown by quickly. Sometimes, when you're losing, it drags. But even with our tough times, I've enjoyed playing on this team. I'll miss the guys when I go to college. I just want to enjoy every single moment of high school while it's still here.

Besides football, I've got some other goals this year. I've got straight A's, even in Physics Honors and Pre-Calculus. I'm right around the top 30 in my class. That would put me in the Honor Court for graduation. You get to wear a different color robe. It's a big thing and that's probably my biggest goal as a senior.

So I've still got lots of things ahead this year. When I take those visits, I pretty much know they'll all be great football schools. I'll spend most of my time studying the academic side and what kind of pre-med programs they all offer. That could be the biggest factor in my decision.

I've got five great schools on my list. No matter what, I can't lose.

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