The hardest part of learning how to play football for Merrillville senior Anton Redmon wasn't deciphering the playbook or learning what his routes were.
No, the most difficult part for Redmon was learning how to get dressed.
"Putting the stuff on," Redmon said with a smile. "I remember the first day I put all my butt pads on in the wrong side and I walked out and everyone was just laughing at me."
No one is laughing now as Redmon has emerged as one of the Pirates' top receivers entering tonight's Class 5A Sectional 1 semifinal against Times No. 1 Valparaiso.
He's already made game-winning catches against Crown Point and Chesterton.
"It's really pretty crazy if you think about it, he never played the game before and he's learning routes and he's learning how to block and he's learning a lot of the things that takes kids years and years to learn," Merrillville coach Zac Wells said. "But it's a tribute to his work ethic."
Growing up, Redmon wasn't allowed to play football because his mother didn't want him to get hurt. During middle school and his first three years of high school, Redmon watched as childhood friend and Merrillville's star running back Denzel Pierce strapped on the shoulder pads every fall.
For years, Pierce tried to recruit his 6-foot, 178-pound friend to join football but he couldn't lure Redmon off the hardwood.
He was finally successful this summer.
The two spent their vacation on the fields at Merrillville Intermediate School, where Pierce taught Redmon the routes he'd later run.
Merrillville coach Zac Wells first saw Redmon during summer workouts and knew the basketball reserve had raw talent but wasn't sure how he'd adjust to the intricacies of football.
"We knew there was potential but you just don't know how quickly that potential is going to develop," Wells said. "You're cautiously optimistic.
"He just was in competition with other guys to get playing time and just started to emerge as the kid to beat there."
Redmon, who said he watched just one Super Bowl before taking up football, has surprised Wells with not only his ability to learn the routes and the playbook, but, and maybe most importantly, with his ability to block.
Besides his athletic prowess, Redmon's best quality, Wells said, is his hands.
"He just makes a lot of really nice catches," Wells said. "That's a big thing."
Don't get Redmon wrong though, the playbook is still difficult to learn.
"It's the hardest thing," he said. "First off, it's harder than school. There's so many formations, plays.
"When I first got here and I saw the plays, I was like, 'Huh?'"
Wells has watched Redmon develop twice as much as anyone else. He sees him during practices and games and then again on film as he grades his players' performances and the coach still gets impressed.
"You almost wonder what could've happened had he strapped on the pads two years earlier," Wells said. "You just see steady improvement from the beginning of the year to the end of the year and when you take into consideration that he has not been playing the game, it's pretty amazing. You just don't get a lot of kids who are able to pick it up as quickly as he."