Turn on film of West Lafayette, Ind., defensive end George Karlaftis and you might immediately question whether he is only in his sophomore year of high school. The way he dominates opponents at such a young age is impressive, but there is one person not satisfied: George, himself.
“I am currently trying to gain 15-20 pounds in the next six weeks,” Karlaftis said. “I am trying to gain some muscle because I’m not strong yet… or, I could get way stronger.”
Strongside defensive end
The “not strong yet,” line is going to be a hard sell for the opponents Karlaftis pushed around all last season. At 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, Karlaftis looked like a man amongst boys, despite being one of the youngest players on the field. He finished the season with 13 sacks among his 113 total tackles.
Football is in Karlaftis’ blood – his father played for the Miami Hurricanes in the early 1990’s – but it was not his first sport. Born in Greece, where he showed early talent in water polo, Karlaftis did not pick up the game of football until he moved to the United States almost three years ago. And since American football was not on television often in Greece, his exposure to the sport was limited.
“All I knew is that when Miami played FSU, we watched that game and we hate FSU,” Karlaftis recalled.
Karlaftis has acclimated to the sport in short order, and college coaches are starting to find him. In-state schools Indiana and Purdue were the first to offer, and SMU – where his uncle is on staff as an athletic trainer – has since joined that offer list. More programs are picking up their interest this off-season.
“Now that I am getting recruited I am not going to just pick a school based off what I grew up watching,” he said. “I am going to pick a school I can play at early, that has great facilities, a great coaching staff and great academics. That would be the perfect school for me.”
Karlaftis’ father’s alma mater, Miami, has also started to show interest and told the legacy recruit they see him bulking up and being an athletic defensive tackle. Karlaftis’ father passed away a few years back, but the affinity for Miami remains.
“I’m hoping to get (more) from them,” Karlaftis said. “That would be really special for me.”
The next offer, though, could come from Notre Dame, where Karlaftis plans to visit on April 1. Assistant coach Mike Elston has told the rising junior they project him as a J.J. Watt-type: someone who can move around the front seven and attack from a variety of positions.
Ohio State is also picking up its interest, with offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson throwing out the possibility of utilizing Karlaftis in a tight end role.
The options are already many for Karlaftis, and the floodgates have not even opened yet. With the Spring Evaluation Period starting mid-April, Karlaftis could quickly become one of the most popular 2019 prospects in the entire Midwest.