Strength separates Haden from the pack

Josh Haden comes from a family of athletes. Everyone knows about his older brother, Florida Gator cornerback Joe Haden. Some people have already heard about two of his three younger brothers — Jordan (5-11,195 pounds) who is a rising sophomore wide receiver/safety and Jonathan, an 11-year-old running back/linebacker. But what most people don’t know about is Josh’s dad, Joe Jr.

Joe Jr. stared on the track team at Friendly High School in Fort Washington, Maryland, the same school his children attend. He won the state championship in the 400 meters as a senior in 1987. Joe Jr. continued on to Morgan State where he ran track, but then after college he became a competitive body builder. Nowadays Joe Jr. has three jobs; a professional trainer, the strength and conditioning coach for Friendly’s football team and a personal trainer for his boys.

Josh knows that without his dad’s training he would be nowhere close to where he is today.

“I think that if my father wasn’t a personal trainer than I wouldn’t be getting looked at by some of the same schools that are recruiting me right now, especially with me being kind of a smaller running back,” the 5-8-½, 190-pounder said. “Strength is what really gives me the upper hand at things like combines. A lot of people are fast, but it is hard to find someone who is fast and very strong at the same time, like me. I thank my father a lot for helping me with that.”

Because Joe is already at Florida the rumors have been flying that Josh is a lock to follow in his older brothers footsteps. However, according to Josh that isn’t as big of a factor as some might think.

“Joe going to Florida doesn’t have any influence on me going to Florida, because me going to Florida will happen if it is the best situation to me,” Josh said. “Joe going there doesn’t draw me to Florida, but him telling me good things about Florida definitely has an impact on me.”

The Gators, Boston College and Michigan are his top three schools. Josh has not visited Michigan or BC yet but he plans to do that this month. He talked about what appeals to him about each of his top three schools.

FLORIDA: “It is a great school and it has a great atmosphere. I already have a great relationship with the coaches with my brother already being there. I have already seen the school multiple times, I have been there for Friday Night Lights. It is just a really good school. The academics are great and the football team just won a national championship. The running back situation for them is also good for me.”

MICHIGAN: “It is a great running school and a great school in general. It is a big football school. They like small backs, like [current running back] Mike Hart, which is good for me. I am definitely going to go visit them this summer.”

BOSTON COLLEGE: “It is a great environment and I have a great relationship with Coach Day [the wide receivers coach]. He is the one who is recruiting me. They are running a zone running scheme this year, which is also great, and they have two senior backs. It would be a great opportunity for me to go in and work hard and get some time my freshman year.”

Josh said all three schools are recruiting him as a running back. However, if needed he would have no problem switching positions.

One of the most important factors to Josh is early playing time.

“It is really important to me, because what usually holds people back from playing as a true freshman is strength,” he said. “They aren’t ready strength wise for the college level and I definitely feel like I am ready for that. Especially with me going in early and getting that early experience as freshman I think that will really help me later on as a sophomore, junior and senior.”

In addition to early playing time, Josh also has several other things he will look for in a future home.

“Definitely the coaches and the atmosphere of the school,” he said. “Also, academics. The three schools in my top three all have great academics. When I go to take my visits to Boston College and Michigan I am looking for the realness in the coaches and just the school itself.”

As far as a timetable for his commitment, Josh said it will happen sooner rather than later.

“I will definitely announce before the season starts,” he said. “I want to decide early and have my mind made up.”

One thing that is uncertain is what the Haden family will do if Josh decides to join Joe in Gainesville. There have been rumors that the whole family would relocate to Florida to keep the family close together.

“My parents are really considering it,” Josh said. “But my father is a personal trainer and he has clients all around this area. So, they will have to talk that one through if they are really going to do that.”

One concern people have about Josh is his small stature. He said he hopes to go into college at 5-9, 195-200 pounds. If you add that with his 4.34 40-time and his 405-pound bench press you have NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson of the San Diego Chargers, a player that Haden puts on a pedestal.

“I love to compare myself to him,” he said. “He is just such a great back and he isn’t very big. I really look up to him.”

Last season, Josh had 900 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. He scored two more touchdowns on kick returns, two on pass receptions and he ran a fumble back for a score.

Josh shared the spotlight last season not only with Joe, The Washington Post All-Metro Offensive Player of the Year, but also with fellow junior and teammate Lamaar Thomas. Thomas is a big-time recruit as well and Josh talked about the possibility of the two of them being a packaged deal.

“We talk about going to school together,” Josh said. “Some of his top schools are some of my top schools. He really likes Boston College as well. I think he got offered from Florida as a wide receiver and we talked about that. I don’t know for sure what we are going to do because it is up to him and it is up to me.”

Josh hopes to major in Sports Management, which is a program that both Florida and Michigan have. He isn’t sure whether or not Boston College offers that major. Josh will enroll early at whichever school he decides on.