Gaining an edge: D1-sized middle schooler paying the price to be great

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa. (KCRG) - Eighth grader Tono Cornell gets up at 5 AM every morning and drives from Vinton to Hiawatha to work out before school at Anvil Gym.

"I try to be a different athlete." Cornell said. "The morning worked out really well for me. I have that kind of work ethic to try to get into the gym."

"If you are not putting in extra work by the time you were 11 or 12. You are handicapping yourself in the long run." said Anvil gym owner Ken McClelland.

Cornell is only a middle schooler but he's already the size of a division one football player at 6'2 240. Even though he can dominate his classmates on the field, his size can also be a burden.

"Just the expectations that are placed on him. Everywhere he goes, everybody has things they expect from him. I think that can be a heavy load sometimes." said Tono's father Dave.

Those expectations got Tono in a little bit trouble trying to show how much he could lift at his middle school gym and hurting his back.

"I was in a hole where I hurt my back at my school gym I decided to get help from a chiropractor and he recommended Ken." Cornell said.

"When you have a kid that wants to do everything he can, you want to give them every advantage you possibly can." McClelland said.

Cornell will start high school next year at Independence. It will be a big jump in competition but with the help of McClelland he will be ready.

"The fact that I'm getting better every day, that really changes things and encourages me to be better every single day." Cornell said. "I just want to be prepared for high school as much as possible, try to work hard and see where God really takes me."

"He's got the potential to be a monster. The last kid that I worked with along these lines was David Parry, who ended up at Stanford and then the NFL." McClelland said.