Lake Wales' Gervon Dexter ranks as the third best defensive tackle in the nation and the seventh best football player in the state of Florida at any position.

Gervon Dexter grew to 6 feet 6 inches and arrived at the jarring realization he was too short.

The Lake Wales senior lineman was entertaining thoughts of becoming an NBA basketball star one day when a funny thing happened on the way to the renowned rims — he stopped growing.

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Dexter played Little League football during his youth and then suddenly hit a growth spurt and sprouted to 6-6, which enticed him to ditch football and stick to attaining accolades on the basketball court.

“I thought I would keep growing to 6-8 or 6-9. Then I stopped growing and started spreading," Dexter said. "I really didn’t have a future in basketball being 6-6 with everyone being 6-10, so I made the change. My father told me I have a future on the football field."

There was just one slight problem, when Dexter returned to the gridiron he found out he wasn’t in Little League anymore, and promptly got his clock cleaned tangling with more experienced and polished players.

“I was in the wrong stance coming off the ball," he said. "I wasn’t going to give it up. I just kept working and working.”

And he did.

Flashing forward to present day, Dexter is now listed as a four-star recruit by 247Sports Composite and ranks as the third best defensive tackle in the nation. He is also considered the seventh best football player in the state at any position. He checks in at No. 2 on The Ledger’s Super 16 countdown.

He committed to Florida but claims more than 45 Division I offers, including Louisiana State, Alabama, Michigan, Georgia, Clemson, Oklahoma, Florida State and Miami.

“Florida is close to home and my mother likes to watch me play. With her situation right now she can’t really jump up and go to other states. It is right there, just two hours away,” said Dexter, who was one of three players from Polk invited to the prestigious Nike Opening Finals this summer at the Ford Center in Frisco, Texas.

“The Opening was good experience. The Opening Regional was actually a good experience, too. There were some of the best linemen in the state, so making it out of the state was big for me. Then I got to go against some of the best linemen in the country at nationals."

Facing the elite of the elite in Texas became another jarring experience for Dexter. It created a technique polishing to-do list he is now attacking. But he didn’t walk away from the Opening Finals searching for a third sport. In fact, he dominated against many of the nation’s best talents.

He also embraced the one-on-one drills with former NFL outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, and in the individual elimination competition with the other linemen, he made the final cut.

“There were 20 of us and at the end of the day, you are competing to make the final five. I made the final five and that was a good experience,” he said. “Seeing everybody who is on the same level as you is different because around here, you are the big dog, and then you go over there and everybody is the same.”

Dexter also faced challenges in the classroom, but manning up, he faced them head-on just like one of the well-touted opposing linemen and pancake blocked them into yesterday’s news.

“I am goofy. I like to play at lot. In the ninth grade, I was academically ineligible. People don’t know that. That drove me to get my GPA up. I had to bust my butt,” said Gervon, proving he is both coachable on the field and in other areas of life.

His senior season goals include winning a state championship, which would be Lake Wales’ first football state championship.

“It bothers us, because being second is just the (last) to lose,” he said.

And Dexter doesn’t like to lose.

Bill Kemp can be reached at Bill.Kemp@theledger.com; follow him on Twitter @BillKempSports