Maurice Ways is receiving some invaluable help from the unlikeliest of sources: a Spartan.
With just one more semester at Beverly Hills (Mich.) Detroit Country Day before he graduates, Ways is putting in some serious work to make sure he is as ready as possible to join the Wolverines as a freshman in 2014.
Part of Ways' offseason workout regimen has been collaborating with Michigan State fifth-year senior wide receiver Bennie Fowler, a Detroit Country Day alumnus.
The two began working out together last summer, and Ways is grateful for the lessons he has been able to glean from a seasoned collegiate veteran.
"He is helping me get right for college," Ways said. "He shows me the workouts they do at the college level, footwork drills, techniques and hand-eye coordination stuff. All the meticulous things it takes to be a receiver in college. He helps out a lot.
"Of course, through the whole recruiting process, he was talking to me about State and everything. He is my big brother before anything. He understands why I chose Michigan, and he is just helping me become a better receiver."
But Ways is currently putting in a lot more work than his sporadic meetups with Fowler.
Right now, he is catching about 400 passes a week from a JUGS machine, on top of regular sessions with fellow Detroit Country Day senior Tyler Wiegers, a four-star quarterback committed to Iowa and workouts with DCD coach Dan MacLean.
"I am trying to get stronger," Ways said. "I'm not necessarily trying to get bigger or gain weight, just get physically stronger. And I am constantly working on becoming a better route runner and catcher, to become a better overall receiver. I want to be more fluid in my route running.
"I have a lot of guys I can work with to get better, and I will continue to do that this semester."
Ways, 6-3, 192, is a three-star prospect ranked the No. 58 wide receiver nationally and the No. 6 player in the state of Michigan by Rivals.com.
And he is fueled by the realization of his dream to play for the Wolverines. When he was seven years old, Ways' father took him to The Big House to witness his first college football game in person.
He saw the Wolverines topped Ohio State, 35-21, in the 100th edition of The Game that day, a game that included a 64-yard touchdown catch from Ways' all-time favorite Michigan player, Braylon Edwards.
"After that experience, I told my dad, 'I want to play here one day,'" Ways recalled. "He said, 'Go get your dream,' and that is what I have been doing since my freshman year. When I got the opportunity to be offered, I knew right away that Michigan was where I wanted to go, because a lot of dreams don't come true, but mine did. I want to be that next great wide receiver to wear No. 1 and keep that tradition going for the guys who come in behind me.
"Basketball was my first love. As I kept improving in football, my dad would tell me, 'You're a football player. You're a football player.' I told him, 'I love basketball,' and he said, 'I understand that, but football is going to be your way to college and your ticket in life.' I never believed him.
"After my junior year, I started to get offers. Once the Michigan offer came in, he just said, 'Your dream came true, son.' He was so proud. He told me, 'You're one in a million, because you worked for your dream and you took it.' He said, 'This shows that hard work pays off.' He believes in me so much. He's excited about my future and he can't wait to see what I do at Michigan."
Ways is not content with just slipping on a maize-and-blue uniform. He wants to make a big impact during his time in Ann Arbor.
And he draws inspiration from fifth-year senior Jeremy Gallon, the undersized wideout who broke Michigan's single-season program record with 1,373 receiving yards this year.
"Jeremy Gallon is maybe 5-8 with pads on, but he's just a hard worker," Ways said. "He knows that the only thing that can stop him from being great is himself. That's how I kind of compare myself to Jeremy, because I am an under-the-radar guy. I have a chip on my shoulder, and it makes me work that much harder, just like he did. I know I just have to keep working hard, and that's something you can learn by watching Gallon play. Just keep working, and it will show."