Junior college quarterback Jake Waters (Council Bluffs, Iowa/Iowa Western C.C.) never gave up hope.
When he graduated alongside 43 other students from a private high school, he didn't hold a single offer -- FBS or FCS -- so he headed down the road to the local community college. After a medical redshirt and one season under his belt, he earned an offer from top-ranked FCS school North Dakota State.
That still wasn't good enough.
"I felt if I came back one more year year and played pretty good, I could have some opportunities to get some better looks," Waters said.
Waters figured right. Two weeks ago, the 6-foot-2 quarterback delivered this season's film to coaches across the country. Since that time, he's received four offers -- N.C. State, Akron, Florida Atlantic, Kansas State -- and his coach has been forced to constantly monitor his voicemail.
"It's funny how his recruitment has kind of snow-balled," Iowa Western coach Scott Strohmeier said. "He's played at such a high level -- completing 71 percent of his balls, throwing 18 touchdowns to three interceptions -- and he hasn't even played a full game this year."
Strohmeier has fielded calls from several coaching staffs, including Penn State. The coach said a member of the PSU staff now plans to attend an Iowa Western practice during its bye week and seems very interested in the prospect.
After third-string QB Paul Jones left the team for personal reasons a week ago, the Nittany Lions find themselves in need of another signal-caller. And Waters seemed more than receptive to the visit.
"Penn State's one of the most storied programs in the nation, and playing for them would be an honor -- and for them to be interested in me is an honor," Waters said. "I'm not scared of the sanctions."
The 215-pound Waters, who has two more years of eligibility remaining, said he's also spoken with Auburn, Toledo and Fresno State. He just started receiving offers, so he's not yet comfortable listing favorites. He said he was just grateful for all the interest.
Three years ago, at Saint Albert High School, Waters never posed for photos or tried on different college hats on national signing day. He never attended a football camp and never sent out film. He was a recruiting secret who decided to join a community college whose football program had just begun the year before.
Strohmeier said he never missed a practice, never showed up late for a workout and was pulled early from every game this season because Iowa Western had dominated so much with Waters under center. Waters' "worst" game came against perennial power Trinity Valley. He completed just 60 percent of his passes, threw for 218 yards -- 70 yards below his average -- and came away with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
"I knew he was going to be a really good quarterback," Strohmeier said. "A lot of people counted him out because ... well ... I don't know why to be honest with you. He just played a small level of high school. He's a guy that kind of got overlooked by some four-year schools."
Some colleges are lining up to be first to offer the balanced quarterback. When Waters received a written offer from N.C. State less than a week ago, he was slightly confused. He never spoke with a coach from the Wolfpack, so he called Strohmeier to make sure this wasn't some odd prank.
Strohmeier never heard from them either. So he called up the staff.
"They said it was real," Waters said with a laugh. "It was out of the blue. They told me they saw my film, and they really liked it. And they had a spot."
Waters isn't sure who else might offer him or what teams might come calling. But he said he's enjoying his recruiting process now -- which is in stark contrast from 2010 when even the smallest FCS schools never sent a letter.
"In high school, I played summer baseball so I didn't hit the camp circuit or anything like that," he said. "And I really didn't have a highlight tape, so that's probably a big reason I didn't get recruited.
"When I came here, it was the first time I could just focus solely on football. And with the coaches having so many connections and stuff, it's gone from there."