By last fall, Taco Charlton's growth from a Division I first-team all-state honoree as a senior at Pickerington High School Central in 2012 into one of the best players in the Big Ten Conference was complete.
The question of his readiness for the biggest step in his football career was something he was asked time and again in the days leading up to the NFL draft.
On April 27, the University of Michigan standout defensive end who made first-team all-Big Ten last season found out he'll get to prove just how far he's come, as he was selected in the first round by the Dallas Cowboys with the 28th pick.
Charlton was one of five players from central Ohio to be selected during the three-day, seven-round draft in Philadelphia.
"Every team wants to know what your mindset is," Charlton said. "How are you going to adjust? How will you deal with the circumstances? It comes with the territory."
The 6-foot-6, 277-pound Charlton, who was 14th in the nation in sacks last season with 9.5, is being looked at as an outside end rusher for the Cowboys. He was the sixth defensive end taken in the draft.
The other players from central Ohio to be selected were Big Walnut graduate and Ashland tight end Adam Shaheen (second round by the Chicago Bears, 45th overall), Groveport graduate and Illinois defensive end Dawuane Smoot (third round by the Jacksonville Jaguars, 68th overall), Pickerington North graduate and Ohio State center Pat Elflein (third round by the Minnesota Vikings, 70th overall) and Pickerington North graduate and Michigan tight end Jake Butt (fifth round by the Denver Broncos, 145th overall).
During the hours after the draft was completed, Walnut Ridge graduate and Wisconsin wide receiver Rob Wheelwright signed with the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent and Watterson graduate and Ohio State special teams player Craig Fada was offered a tryout by the Houston Texans.
The Bears pulled off what most draft experts considered a surprise by trading up one spot in the first round to take Mentor graduate and North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with the No. 2 pick.
In the second round, Chicago traded down nine spots to help regain some of the picks it lost in the Trubisky trade and selected Shaheen even though he played for a Division II program.
Shaheen (6-6, 278) was a standout basketball player and wide receiver for Big Walnut who added nearly 70 pounds of muscle during his time at Ashland.
After having 57 catches for 867 yards (15.2 average) and 16 touchdowns last season, Shaheen was invited to Indianapolis for the NFL combine and saw his stock continue to rise.
"It's been unlike any other process," Shaheen said. "They want to know how you're going to adjust when you're from a small school like I am. But definitely just my size and athleticism and my speed for my size, people really like that part of me. I knew the knock on me is that I played Division II football, so I just tried to show that it doesn't matter."
Illinois went just 18-31 and had three coaches during Smoot's time with the Fighting Illini, but his athleticism helped him stand out.
Smoot (6-3, 264) started the final 24 games of his college career and made third-team all-Big Ten last season after recording 56 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and five sacks.
He ranks sixth in Illinois history with 38.5 career tackles for loss and eighth with 16.5 career sacks.
"I feel like I'm going to be a pass rusher, and I take a lot of pride in my first step," Smoot said. "That's what separates me from most players. I came out (of high school) as a two-star or three-star athlete, so I always feel like I have something to prove. I never thought I was going to get to this point, but I always had this big of determination."
The final two players with central Ohio roots picked in the draft played together at Pickerington North before being opponents in college.
Elflein (6-3, 303) redshirted with the Buckeyes in 2012 and started just one game in 2013 but developed into a first-team All-American by his senior season last fall, when he also won the Rimington Award as the nation's top center.
He was first-team all-Big Ten each of his final three seasons, splitting time between left guard and right guard in 2014 and starting at right guard in 2015.
"It's been a lot of fun," Elflein said. "I've just tried to stress that I was lightly recruited but that I worked my way up to winning the Rimington Award. I definitely have some gifts, but I went to Arizona and trained with (former Ohio State offensive lineman) LeCharles Bentley and he's helped me get better."
Butt (6-5, 246) earned the John Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end last season and started 37 games for Michigan, leaving the program as its record-holder in career receptions (138) and receiving yards (1,646) at his position.
Still, Butt tore his right ACL during Michigan's 33-32 loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30 and underwent surgery Jan. 10. The injury likely played a big factor in why he landed in the fifth round instead of going much earlier.
He reportedly held a $2 million loss-of-value insurance policy that is expected to pay him $543,000 based on how far he slipped past the second round.
"The rehab has gone great," Butt said. "I feel really great. I could be cleared as early as July 10 or as late as Oct. 10. I think everyone kind of knows who I am as a player, and I'm proud of the work I've put in."
Wheelwright (6-3, 211) started 10 games for Wisconsin as a senior last fall, finishing with 34 catches for 448 yards.
Fada (6-1, 225), who helped Watterson win the 2010 Division III state title, originally walked on at Ohio State before earning a scholarship as a senior.
Listed as a linebacker, Fada saw most of his playing time with the Buckeyes on special teams.
Another player from central Ohio with an official draft page on NFL.com is Bexley graduate and Air Force Academy wide receiver Jalen Robinette.
Robinette (6-3, 220) had 35 catches for 959 yards (27.4 average) and six touchdowns as a senior last fall and was projected to go late in the draft.
However, on the first day of the draft, Air Force Academy administrators were informed that graduates would not be allowed to pursue professional sports until after they served two years of active duty.
That was in contrast to a year ago when the Department of Defense revised its policy to allow service academy graduates to apply for the ready reserve so they could sign with professional sports teams. According to a story in the Denver Post published April 29, the decision to not approve deferral requests was made by the U.S. Air Force command leadership.
Robinette remains determined to play in the NFL, tweeting April 29, "You're out of your mind if you think I'm gonna let someone else hang up my cleats. Momma raised me better than that."