By Joseph Santoliquito

PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — Johncarlo Valentin is ready to go public with something not even some of his close friends may know. The massive 6-foot-5, 320-pound Imhotep Charter junior offensive guard has always been incredibly nimble on his feet.

So lissome, in fact, that he carried the nickname “Twinkle Toes” when he was younger. The 16-year-old Valentin played ice hockey up until a year ago, thanks to the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Association—and he also did something else for a few years in his youth.

“I used to take ballet, too—and I know some people might not believe that,” said Valentin, laughing. “I wasn’t running around in a tutu or anything like that, but I took ballet when I was around six to eight years old. I didn’t tell anybody about it, because I knew the other kids would make fun of me. But I’m comfortable admitting that now. I can look back on ballet and ice hockey, playing basketball, all of those things have helped me be so quick on my feet. With ice hockey and ballet, I don’t think I would be where I am now.”

Where is Valentin right now?

He’s among the best offensive linemen in the state. By next year, he’ll probably be one of the best—and most recruited—high school players in the country. He’s already received scholarship offers from Temple and Massachusetts and expect that number to grow exponentially over the next few years.

Valentin is the offensive line version of Sharrif Floyd, one of the area’s all-time great high school football players who went on to Florida and was a 2013 first-round draft choice of the Minnesota Vikings.

Valentin is large, strong and what sets him apart from other players his age are his feet. Any major college or pro scout will tell you that is the difference-maker between just being big and being able to do something with that size.

“Kids always saw me being older than I was, I was 200 pounds when I was 10,” Valentin said. “My little sister is almost my height and she’s 12. There were times I was picked on because I was always bigger than everyone else. I used to be called the ‘fat kid’ and I used to just laugh. I never showed weakness and I never let it get to me. I know the Herschel Walker story, where he was this fat kid growing up being picked up and he did all of these pushups to make himself a better athlete. I took my anger out that way. I never got bullied or anything major like that. But I could always move well for someone big. My mom used to tell me that I came out [at birth] dancing. In middle school, they used to call me ‘twinkle toes.’”

Valentin enters this season highly motivated. He started last year as a freshman on the Imhotep Charter team that reached the PIAA Class AA state finals and lost to South Fayette 41-0. Valentin walked off the field last December at Hershey Park Stadium with tears streaming down his face.

“I vowed that I’ll will never walk off a field like that again,” Valentin said with a deep tone of conviction in his voice. “We all had a bad game. We thought we could push that team around, and we underestimated them. If we would have come out strong in the mind, and everyone went to bed on time and stayed in their rooms, in my mind, it would have been a different game.”

He has a jovial, magnetic personality, a great self-deprecating sense of humor and he’s highly intelligent. About the only thing that could impede Johncarlo Valentin’s success is Johncarlo Valentin. Panthers’ coach Albie Crosby projects great things for him, beginning this year.

“I’m seeing a bigger picture now,” Valentin said. “I’m starting to realize certain things. I didn’t always think that way. I didn’t look at the future. Coach Albie tells me all of the time about my future being very wide open. I think I started to realize that right after the South Fayette game. I walked off that field feeling like I wasted a whole year. So many people told me that I have to be dominant, beginning this year, and it’s stuck in my head.”

Crosby beams when he hears Valentin’s name. He’s seen great growth in his starting offensive guard in a year’s time.

“I think the sky is the limit for John,” Crosby said. “John still has more maturing to do. I think this young man can be really special. Talent-wise, career-goal wise, he has it all. He comes from a great family who is very supportive. John is just starting to get how good he is. He has a lot of charisma. John has the mindset that he’s the toughest kid on the block.

“He reminds me a lot of Marques Slocum [who went to Michigan] when I was at West Catholic. John just turned 16 and we forget how young he really is. He is making strides with his maturity. We demand a lot from him. He has to work harder. He knows that. He’s only scratching the surface of his potential. The young man could be special, very, very special. By the time he graduates, he can be an Army All-American. The coaching staff believes in him. I know his teammates do. It’s all up to John how far he’ll go.”

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