Switch to football works in 2014 LB's favor

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- AJ Hotchkins grew up playing basketball.

He wanted to use hoops to play his way into a Division I scholarship. However, two years into his high school career, he wasn’t getting the interest he wanted.

Seeing his 6-foot, 230-pound frame, the Tigard (Ore.) coaching staff asked him to try football. He put pads on for the first time as a junior and played his way into Division I interest.

“I was in love with basketball and I wasn’t getting recruited that much, so I just figured I would try out for football,” Hotchkins said. “That’s been going pretty well for me.”

It didn’t take the linebacker long to figure out he had found a fit on the football field.

“I just love contact,” he said. “And I like to compete, so it’s just kind of natural for me.”

He picked up the game quickly, but has to make up for lost time. He trains six days a week and spends time working with the Barton Football Academy, testing his skills against some of the top prospects in Oregon and Washington.

During a recent elite event at Bothell (Wash.) Cedar Park Christian, Hotchkins found himself in one-on-one matchups with 2014 running back Devante Downs (Mountlake Terrace, Wash./Mountlake Terrace).

Downs, who has Pac-12 offers from Washington, Utah and Arizona State, provided a good test for Hotchkins.

“I feel like I’ve picked it up pretty good,” Hotchkins said. “I still have little things I can work on, technique stuff and, once I pick up on that, I’ll be a much better football player next year.”

In addition to improving his technique, he also spends a lot of time working on his speed. The more he plays, the loftier his goals become.

“I would like to play in an All-American game or a big bowl game,” Hotchkins said. “I would like to be a multiple-offer kid, too, so I can have options on where I want to go.”

Hotchkins has yet to land a scholarship offer, but he has drawn interest from Oregon State, Washington, Iowa and BYU, among others.

While he doesn’t have any early favorites, he is interested in the Huskies and would like to learn more about the program.

“I like being close to home,” Hotchkins said. “I don’t really know much about the school, but being local is definitely an important thing for me.”

With his background in basketball, Hotchkins is an impressive athlete. He easily passes the eye test. All he needs now is the experience.