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IMEC in the News (Cincinnati Enquirer)

Eighth-grader already making a name for himself

Mi’Quan Grace is like a lot of eighth-grade student athletes, he loves football, he runs track for his middle school and he has big plans for his high school career. What sets him apart from most other kids his age is that he has already received two Division I football scholarship offers.

Yes, the 13-year-old Grace holds DI offers from the University of Kentucky and the University of Cincinnati, and several more colleges have started showing interest in the defensive back. All before he has played a down of high school football.

“I was kind of surprised,” Grace said of UK offering him.

Kentucky offered the eighth-grader in February and Cincinnati followed suit in March. At 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, Grace played football this past season for Ohio Valley Elite. He attends Winton Woods Middle School and plans on playing defensive back at Winton Woods High School.

Along with UK and UC he is also receiving interest from the likes of Kent State, Ohio, Ohio State, Clemson, West Virginia and Michigan State. He plans on attending camps at Ohio State, Michigan State, West Virginia and Clemson this summer. On April 16, he attended Kentucky’s spring game where he was the youngest invited recruit.

“We had a great time, they really showed him a lot of love down there,” Mi’Quan’s father, Michael Grace said of the trip to Lexington. “ … For them to take interest in him so young is very nice.”

To some, offering a middle-school student a collegiate athletic scholarship might sound odd, but in reality it is slowly becoming more and more common. Currently, 247Sports.com lists 33 players in the Class of 2020 that the site deems worth tracking. Of those 33, seven (including Grace) currently hold DI scholarship offers. Drew Pyne, a quarterback from New Canaan, Connecticut, has already been offered by Florida State, South Alabama and South Carolina.

In the world of big-time college recruiting, programs are always trying to land the best possible talent and for some that means looking ahead several years down the road.

“In this area a lot of schools are competing with the major schools and sometimes, if you don’t jump early you never get a chance to jump,” said George Brown, the CEO and President of IMEC National Recruiting Magazine. “Once they see that (Grace) has a little talent on him, that he can move well, he has great hips and he has a whole future ahead of him – schools will offer early, so they can get a head start on recruiting. … It’s about building relationships and I think these schools want to build a good relationship with him real early.”

Along with his magazine, Brown runs the IMEC Training Complex in Lockland. He has been working with Grace since the prospect was in grade school. A veteran of recruiting, Brown has helped hundreds of local kids – in various sports – reach the DI level. Brown’s youngest son, George Brown Jr., currently plays offensive line at LSU and his nephew, Spencer Ware, currently for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Grace has attended camps all over the Midwest, and for the last two years he has been going to camps that almost exclusively feature high school kids. An Ohio University satellite camp in Mason is where he caught the eyes of OU staffers, and where his recruitment started in earnest.

Grace says that coaches and scouts like his foot work and his technique when guarding wide outs. But when it comes to players his age, a good bit of recruitment comes with some prognosticating – Grace is expected to be about 6-feet by the time he’s a senior.

“I’ve been working on getting out of my breaks faster,” Grace said. “It’s what coaches tell me to work on.”

His willingness to work is apparent, he trains at IMEC nearly every day. Collegiate coaches have remarked on his work ethic but it is just one of many things he will need to continue to focus on before Signing Day 2020.

“He definitely has a good future and as long as he’s training four or five times a week he will be playing Division I somewhere,” Brown said. “ … He has great foot work, great speed and great determination. He also has his parents behind him to keep him focused.

“As long as he does what he has to do, he has the talent, he has to follow it up with the rest, especially school work. He just needs to keep up the same pace.”