The list of outstanding linebackers at Gilman School is long. But the list of Gilman linebackers in major college programs is short.
"We've had some good linebackers, traditionally, but a lot of them were real good high school football players. They didn't project in college," Gilman coach Sherm Bristow said last week.
Jamal Cox is hoping to change that.
At 6 feet 2, 221 pounds, with 4.65-second speed in the 40-yard -- and endorsements from Street & Smith's and Super Prep, Cox probably will earn a scholarship to a Division I-A school.
"In terms of size and speed numbers, he's probably our best legitimate Division I college prospect," Bristow said.
Anyone familiar with Gilman will ask about Leon Newsome, a first-team All-Metro pick in 1987 who turned down several major college programs to attend Princeton. Newsome is now a lineman.
Cox has heard the talk about his potential. He has seen the mail from several schools. He's read what the magazines have to say about him. But none of it has fazed him.
"I honestly don't believe it means anything," he said. "They are going by my junior year, the first year I played linebacker. I don't see how all these magazines can say this and that. If I don't come out this year and play football, none of that means anything. They say this and that, but I can't believe it until I prove it to myself."
Cox made a believer of many a year ago by leading Gilman with 95 tackles, eight for lost yardage. He also had three interceptions, two deflections and one sack. As a fullback, he gained 194 yards on 34 carries and scored three touchdowns, but so far only Boston College has shown much interest in Cox as a fullback.
"Offense is something I do," said Cox. "Defense is something I love doing."
So much so that he has become a student of the game. He is a coach on the field for defensive coordinator Nick Schloeder.
"He's our defensive quarterback," said Schloeder. "For high school, we play a relatively complicated defense. We change it all the time. We change it on the fly [at the line of scrimmage] many times. He does that very, very well."
Cox is a three-sport standout who has been involved in a championship game in every sport except football. He has started for the varsity basketball team at forward since the middle of his sophomore season and has been a starting outfielder for the baseball team the past two years.
Last May, the baseball team won the Maryland Scholastic Association B Conference title, and in March the basketball team lost in the B Conference championship game.
"I want a football championship," Cox said. "Not a co-championship [with Mount St. Joseph], like we won when I was a freshman . It's been awhile since Gilman has won one alone."
All four Gilman linebackers remain from a defense that allowed just 8.3 points a game last season -- Cox, Josh Miller, Mike Weinfeld and Victor Carter-Bey.
"I'm sort of the defensive leader, but we're all there for each other," Cox said.
They are the heart of a defense that is Gilman's strength and has led the team to a 2-0 start in the A Conference after losing its opener to nationally ranked DeMatha, 31-12.
"When I came here, that was when Leon [Newsome] was a great player. I heard all about him," said Cox. "I kind of knew about the tradition here, and I always wanted to be a linebacker. They had a couple of other guys I had heard about, and I wanted to be one of those they would talk about years later."