Kalan Ritchie was just a tall, skinny kid when he suited up as a ninth-grader for the Goose Creek High football team.
He showed potential with his aggressiveness in the spring of his freshman year. Still, Goose Creek coach Chuck Reedy recalls being unsure how the then 6-foot-5, 190-pound tight end would contribute even as his 10th-grade year started.
"He was so aggressive and physical, he ended up being a very important guy on our championship team that year," Reedy said.
These days, Ritchie is still tall - 6-foot-6. He has gained weight - 225 pounds and counting. And he is still known for his aggressiveness.
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"After ninth grade coming into 10th grade," he said, "I wanted to show that I could play and be something. I started working harder."
Ritchie worked his way to being a four-star prospect and the No. 224 prospect in the Rivals250 for the Class of 2014. He is the No. 17 overall tight end in the country, according to 247Composite - which factors in all rankings.
He committed to South Carolina as April came to a close and is one of two tight ends in the Gamecocks' recruiting class.
Ritchie impressed college coaches and recruiting analysts with his run-blocking skills.
"What's amazing is when you watch his film, he's got that long reach," said Keith Niebuhr, national analyst for 247Sports. "You see a guy with his frame and you think he's probably going to be a pass catching tight end, but he's a blocker. He's a fantastic inline blocker - a blocking machine really."
Ritchie as a 10th-grader faced off and did well against Wando defensive lineman and future Auburn signee Gimel President, Reedy said.
"He blocked him all night long and he was 190 pounds at that time," Reedy said. "I think President made one tackle. That was impressive. He's been very consistent in his blocking."
Goose Creek has used Ritchie mostly in blocking situations early in his senior year, and he's seen plenty of snaps as a defensive end. As a receiving target, Reedy says he is often a mismatch because of his size.
Ritchie caught four touchdowns as a junior. He said he could see himself developing into a mixture of last year's USC tight ends Justice Cunnigham and Rory Anderson.
"I can block really well and I'm starting to catch the ball even better," he said. "Putting it together, that's a great tight end to have."
Ritchie gave up playing basketball as a junior to focus on football and the weight room. He has shown an improved work ethic and is a good fit for South Carolina's offense, Reedy said.
"South Carolina has become a physical football team," Reedy said. "They've gotten to where they can run the football and they want to run the football, and he fits into that. Their tight ends catch a lot of balls, crossing routes, and he's used to doing that."
Ritchie has a frame that can handle 250 pounds or more. He's only going to get bigger, stronger and better, Reedy said.
"He's good already," Niebuhr said. "How good is he going to be when he adds 40 or 50 pounds of more muscle? He's already strong."