If you've ever been on a diet, you know how frustrating it is to step on a scale in the morning and see that you haven't lost an ounce.
But Jake Lemming is frustrated because he can't gain an ounce. He eats all day long...protein shakes, steak, chicken, ham, turkey, eggs. You name it, he eats it. But Lemont's 5-foot-9, 160-pound junior defensive back can't gain any weight.
Why is it so frustrating? Because Lemming knows--and Lemont coach Eric Michaelsen, college coaches and recruiting analysts tell him--that if he can boost his weight to 175 without losing any of his 4.49 speed, he can realize his dream of being a Division I football player.
"It motivates me to get bigger and better," he said. "I'll eat anything to help me gain weight. I eat all day. I eat after 6 at night so I'll gain weight. But I'm stuck at 160. I can't get past it. I work really hard to perfect my game but nothing is coming out of it, no scholarship offers. My goal is to weight 170 to 175 before the season begins."
Lemming, who went from 140 pounds to 160 in five months after his junior season, is doing everything he can to gain 10 to 15 more pounds. He consumes a protein shake, oat meal and eggs in the morning, two big turkey, ham and salami sandwiches for lunch and steak or chicken for dinner.
He consumes protein shakes designed for gaining weight--milk, ice cream, strawberries, bananas, Whey protein. "I weigh myself every morning. But it's usually the same every day. I can't make a big jump. When I wake up, I think about eating more and more, at school and at home, any food that will help me to gain weight," he said.
And it wouldn't help if he changed his name. No, the fact that recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network is his uncle has no bearing on whether he makes it or not.
His father Terry is a celebrity of sorts, too. As commander of the North Region of the Illinois State Police, he was vice-chairman of transportation for world dignitaries who attended the NATO Summit in Chicago and in charge of 700 state policemen who were assigned to provide protection at the two-day event.
"Sometimes I wish my name was different so I can make a name for myself," Jake said. "I want to show I did it myself so nobody thinks I'm getting a break from my uncle."
Tom Lemming feels the same way. Last year, Jake was the most productive defensive back in the state, intercepting nine passes for 12-1 team that lost to Peoria Richwoods 34-31 in double overtime in the semifinals of the Class 6A playoff. He is ranked among the top 30 players in the class of 2013 in the Chicago area.
"It has been difficult to talk about him because people think because he is my nephew I'm just trying to build him up to be something he isn't," Tom Lemming said. "I told him I didn't want to talk about him or invite him to photo shoots until he earned it. But he had a better season than any defensive back in the state. He earned it.
"What he does is he outworks everyone. He has great football instincts. He is exceptionally quick to the ball. And he is confident. He understands leverage. He is a sure tackler. Realistically, he has Division I skills but he doesn't yet have Division I weight. If he can get up to 175, he will be a Division I player.
"But he has no offers. He must gain weight and strength. He must gain 15 more pounds. He played against some top wide receivers in the junior combine at Phoenix last January and did very well. If his name wasn't Lemming, I wouldn't have a problem. He is one of those kids you cheer for because he works so hard at improving his game."
Jake has been invited to attend several junior days...at Illinois, Indiana, Boston College, Tulsa and Northern Illinois. All are interested but waiting to see if he will tip the scales at 170 or more. To get more exposure, he will return kicks and punts next season, adding another dimension to his game.
"I tell college coaches that size shouldn't be a big factor in deciding how good a football player really is," he said. "It's all about heart and how bad you want it. When you're my size, nobody watches you. You have to work hard to get better every day and hope that someone will take a chance on you."
Tom Lemming often talks about two pint-sized football players who made it big in the NFL, Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders and wide receiver Don Beebe, but Jake prefers to single out two under-sized defensive backs who have made big reputations for themselves.
LSU's Tyrann Mathieu, a 5-foot-10, 175-pounder, was a Heisman Trophy finalist as a sophomore. Jim Leonhard, a 5-foot-8, 188-pounder was a walk-on at Wisconsin, became a two-time All-Big Ten selection, led the nation in interceptions and currently is a free agent in the NFL after playing with the Bills, Ravens and Jets.
"It proves it can be done," Jake said. "I'm motivated to make it."
He knows he could be in demand. He also is open to an appointment to Army, Navy or Air Force. Some schools project him as a safety, others as a cornerback. His uncle has often told him that cornerback is the toughest position to recruit on defense.
"I like both positions," Jake said. "You hit more and tackle more at safety. But as a cornerback, there is no better feeling than locking down a receiver and taking him out of the game. I feel like I should be able to do it. Someone should take a shot at me.
"I'll play anywhere for anybody. I prefer Division I. That's my goal. I set standards high for myself."