On the football field, especially the last two years, senior Wayzata linebacker A.J. Tarpley has excelled at zeroing in on ball carriers and quarterbacks. After a state championship his junior year and a berth in the state tournament again during his senior year, Tarpley is focusing on a Division I football scholarship. As one of Minnesota's highest ranked prospects, it is not a matter of if he plays DI next year, but rather where he will play. As National Signing Day approaches, Tarpley is zeroing in on his college choice.
Tarpley's senior season was bitter sweet. After playing on a team that gave up next to nothing to opposing offenses, a second straight title was within reach of the Trojans.
"It was a good season," said Tarpley. "The team we had was great, but obviously it didn't turn out how we wanted it to turn out. We lost to a good team (Eden Prairie) who made it to the state championship. We have a lot of good guys who are coming back next year who will make another run."
Defense was obviously the teams calling card last year, but Tarpley felt the success they had came down to something else.
"Our defense was the strongest part of the team," said Tarpley, "but as the season went on we had a lot of different guys step up - seniors and juniors. You can tell there is going to be some talent on the team next year."
Tarpley was happy with his play and expanded role in his final high school season.
"I feel I played pretty well. I played a lot more offense this year which I was happy about. I had eight touchdowns and on the defensive side of the ball I made a lot of big plays."
Looking back on his senior season he feels he improved in a few key areas.
"I was able to read my keys faster and I was able to get off blocks."
In the offseason Tarpley will be training at Velocity to prepare for his college career. The college that has been number one on his list for some time has been Stanford. Just last weekend he visited the campus and met with coaches and staff.
Despite his near commitment to the Cardinal, a handful of other Division I schools have made Tarpley offers. Wyoming, Akron, North Dakota and Georgia Tech have all made official offers to the Wayzata linebacker.
Tarpley is hoping to make his official decision a week or so in front of the signing deadline.
The Stanford coaching staff has obviously been talking with him over the past few months. They have specifically talked about what they want to see Tarpley work on during the offseason.
"They liked what they saw when I sent them my film from this season, but they want to make sure that I get my body ready physically - get stronger and get faster. They want me to keep working on my technique getting ready for college football."
Tarpley's offseason goals are similar to the Cardinals'.
"The main thing is speed and then strength and conditioning, getting my body as fit as I can. Also I want to work on my hands. I want to get my hands faster to be able to fight off bigger blocks and the cut blocks I will see in college."
Tarpley knows he might be red shirted his first year, but hopes he can at least play some special teams as a freshman. One of the linebacker spots will most likely be his home in college, but Tarpley would be just fine moving to offense if that is where he will get on the field the fastest. Either way, one of a handful of major college programs will have Tarpley on the roster soon and then he can zero in on the next stage of his career - cracking a DI line up.