Wednesday, January 30, 2013

High School Football: ESPN's Thirty-Years of #1 Recruits!!!

ESPN's #1 HS Recruits: Class of 1984-2013

Written by: ESPN The Magazine & Prospect-Central

When Jay Berwanger, the first Heisman winner, was a high school star in Dubuque, Iowa, in the 1930s, all the college football powers wanted him. But Berwanger picked the University of Chicago based on its business program. The business of recruiting has come a long way since then. Starting in the mid-1980s, with the advent of influential recruiting publications, prep stars from across the country have gone from local heroes to national celebrities whose games are dissected down to the smallest detail. Ultimately, one senior is named the best of the blue chips each year.

ESPN The Magazine wanted to know what it truly means to be the top recruit. So we tracked down every No. 1 player of the past 28-years, based on SuperPrep magazine rankings from 1986 to 2005 (provided by publisher Allen Wallace) and ESPN's Scouts Inc. ratings afterward. Prospect-Central added recruits from 1984-85. For some, the honor led to stardom and Super Bowl rings. For others, it brought massive pressure and football flameouts. But as more than one No. 1 recruit told us, it's a title that can never be taken away. Original Article.

Robert Nkemdiche - 2013

DE, Grayson High School (Ga.)
College: Ole Miss
Now: 2011 HS Junior of the Year; two-time HS All-American; decommitted from Clemson in November of 2012; committed to Ole Miss in February of 2013.
"A lot of my coaches help me stay humble. I practice being humble also. Some people try to be humble, but I practice being humble. A lot of it has to do with my spirituality. Because of my Christianity, I want to glorify god. It's hard to live up to such high expectations, but the bottom line is I just want to go out and play the best football possible."

Mario Edwards, Jr. - 2012

DE, Billy Ryan High School (Texas)
College: Florida State
Now: Son of former NFL player Mario Edwards; 2011 HS Defensive Player of the Year; redshirted freshman year with the Seminoles in 2012.
"When I was ranked the top recruit in high school, that definitely showed me hard work pays off. I never liked to brag about rankings though, and usually just let my play on the field do the talking. There's a lot of pressure that comes with being the No. 1 recruit, but I felt like I handled my business on the field and off it."

Jadeveon Clowney - 2011

DE, Rock Hill High School (S.C.)
College: South Carolina
Now: 2012 Consensus All-American; 2012 Heisman Trophy Runner-Up; projected as the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
"Being ranked No. 1 was a goal I set years ago. People look at you, and you get all of this attention. I get hit up by fans on Facebook and Twitter all the time. I don't know about the legacy of being the No. 1 high school player in the country, but I do know some of those guys turned out to be busts. I'm trying to make sure that's not going to be me."

Ronald Powell - 2010

Athlete, Rancho Verde High School (Calif.)
College: Florida
Now: Recovering from ACL surgery; scheduled to return to the Gators for redshirt junior year in 2013.

"I definitely didn't handle the hype as well as I should have. Right off the bat in high school, I had people saying I was going to the NFL someday. I started getting cocky. Plus, my parents had split up, and I was going back and forth between them and I was just mad all the time. I stopped caring what other people thought of me, as a player or a person. I started talking back and cussing at my teachers, getting into fights. That's when all the talk about being No. 1 went away. Word had gotten out: I had an attitude and I would be too hard to deal with. But I had a group of people who decided they weren't going to let me blow it. Teachers, coaches and the players ahead of me in school all started calling me out, reminding me about the chance I was wasting. They got me into counseling and taught me that just having talent isn't enough. You still have to work hard in class, at practice and in the weight room. And you have to treat others with respect. You don't get to be a jerk just because you can play football."

Matt Barkley - 2009

QB, Mater Dei High School (Calif.)
College: USC
Now: Battled an injury plagued senior year with the Trojans; projected as a first round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
"Being No. 1 really didn't have any impact on me until a couple years ago, when we were hit with the NCAA sanctions. Before, we were thinking national championship. Suddenly, it sank in: We're not going to a bowl, and a bunch of guys might transfer. I noticed pretty quickly that people were wondering what I was going to do. They were looking to me because I was No. 1. I immediately let everybody know where my home is. Then I started telling that to our recruits. I won't know the ripple effects of my actions until later on, but I'm sure there was an effect. Because every recruit who has visited USC knew, the No. 1 guy is a Trojan."

Da'Quan Bowers - 2008

DE, Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School (S.C.)
College: Clemson
NFL Draft: No. 51 pick (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) in 2011.
Now: Tore Achilles tendon in May of 2012; played first game with Bucs in October of 2012.
"I went through this for the second time, with all the NFL draft hype. But that time it was totally different. As the No. 1 recruit in high school, I was in charge. I got to choose where I would go. Going into the draft, I had no control. And the hype was so much bigger. Instead of some guy writing about me on his website, it was Mel Kiper talking about me on SportsCenter."

Joe McKnight - 2007

RB, John Curtis Christian High School (La.)
College: USC
NFL Draft: No. 112 pick (New York Jets) in 2010.
Now: Backup running back/return specialist with the Jets.
"Huh? I thought I was No. 2, behind Jimmy Clausen. Wow, I always thought of myself as No. 2, and that bothered me coming out of high school. I'm so excited right now. You made my day. I can't wait to read this."

Myron Rolle - 2006

DB, The Hun School of Princeton (N.J.)
College: Florida State
NFL Draft: No. 207 pick (Tennessee Titans) in 2010.
Now: Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad member in 2012; recently chosen the 2nd smartest professional athlete by Sporting News.
"When I first heard, I was in my dorm room at boarding school. My roommate burst through the door and said, 'Myron, you are the No. 1 player in the country!' I immediately called my parents. I remember my father saying, 'At this point, Myron, you are a known individual, so every time you step onto the field you have to perform at a premium. There can never be a day where you are less than your best.' I took that to heart, but I will admit, that night we celebrated and I didn't have to do any homework."

Eugene Monroe - 2005

OT, Plainfield High School (N.J.)
College: Virginia
NFL Draft: No. 8 pick (Jacksonville Jaguars) in 2009.
Now: Starting left tackle for the Jags.
"Being ranked No. 1 didn't mean a thing to me, but it did to my mother and the rest of my family and friends. You should have heard the way they said it, with such pride. My brother, Scott, walked around town telling everyone his brother was No. 1 in the nation. Seeing my family and friends enjoy it -- that was the best part."

Ted Ginn, Jr. - 2004

DB, Glenville High School (Ohio)
College: Ohio State
NFL Draft: No. 9 pick (Miami Dolphins) in 2007.
Now: Wide receiver/return specialist for the San Francisco 49ers; playing Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.
"I remember playing in the high school U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, and me and Adrian Peterson did an interview afterward. We were both up for MVP, and we both felt like the No. 1 guy. I cherished all of that stuff -- the games, traveling all over the place. It's something most kids don't ever get to experience."

Kyle Wright - 2003

QB, Montey Vista High School (Calif.)
College: Miami
NFL Draft: Undrafted.
Now: Works for a medical company that sells spinal implants.
"It's definitely something I can tell my kids about someday: 'Once upon a time, I was a pretty decent football player.' But in the end, football didn't work out for me. I'd worn down the cartilage in my knees to the point where it couldn't be replaced. So I had to make the transition to the real world."

Vince Young - 2002

QB, Madison High School (Texas)
College: Texas
NFL Draft: No. 3 pick (Tennessee Titans) in 2006.
Now: Free agent; 2006 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year; two-time Pro Bowler.
"I was scared. I didn't know how to handle it and didn't have a father figure around. I was always quiet, so when my high school coach, Ray Seals, realized I could be an elite athlete, he put me in a speech class. He knew I was going to be in front of cameras. I just wanted to be able to talk to this one girl, Candice Johnson. Guess what? I'm still with her."

Kevin Jones - 2001

RB, Cardinal O'Hara High School (Pa.)
College: Virginia Tech
NFL Draft: No. 30 pick (Detroit Lions) in 2004.
Now: Free agent; returned to Virginia Tech to study industrial design.
"If you're a blue-chipper from Pennsylvania, you go to Penn State. But I've always been a little contrary. On the day of my press conference, I still hadn't decided between Virginia Tech and PSU. As I sat down in front of everybody, I had both jerseys with me. I pulled the Penn State jersey out of a bag and said, "I will ... not be attending Penn State." Then I ripped off my sweater and had a Mike Vick jersey on underneath. The entire room was flabbergasted. Afterward, I got plenty of hate mail, lots of it racial. People weren't afraid to use the N-word."

D.J. Williams - 2000

LB, De La Salle High School (Calif.)
College: Miami
NFL Draft: No. 17 pick (Denver Broncos) in 2004.
Now: 2009 Pro Bowl alternate; owns four 100-tackle seasons; suspended 9 games in 2012 for failing a mandatory drug test.
"I didn't like the whole recruiting process. I'd get embarrassed when people would interview me or talk about me. I'll never forget when John Madden, who was from the area and had seen me play, spoke at our team banquet. During his speech, he said I was probably the only high schooler he'd ever seen who could have gone right to the pros. That was the worst thing anyone could've said, because then that was on me."

Anquan Boldin - 1999

Athlete, Pahokee High School (Fla.)
College: Florida State
NFL Draft: No. 54 pick (Arizona Cardinals) in 2003.
Now: Ravens WR; fastest to 600 receptions in NFL history; playing San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
"I found out I was No. 1 when someone told me. Nowadays, kids look themselves up on a weekly basis, and if they don't think they're ranked high enough, they're pissed. High school football is supposed to be football in its purest form, where kids really love the game. But you have these kids putting pressure on themselves because they want to be No. 1, or ranked in the top five. I'm glad I grew up when I did."

David Givens - 1998

WR, Humble High School (Texas)
College: Notre Dame
NFL Draft: No. 253 pick (New England Patriots) in 2002.
Now: NFL analyst for NESN.
"A few days after I verbaled to Notre Dame over Texas, I went on a local sports radio show. Earl Campbell was on the show that day, and he and the hosts said they wanted me to stay in Texas. I told them that Notre Dame was my favorite team growing up. And when I got to South Bend, I knew I'd made the right decision."

Randy Fasani - 1997

QB, Del Oro High School (Calif.)
College: Stanford
NFL Draft: No. 137 pick (Carolina Panthers) in 2002.
Now: Field sales rep at Sierra Gold Nurseries in Yuba City, California.
"At Stanford's QB camp the summer after my sophomore year, Tyrone Willingham offered me my first unofficial full ride. Then after I tore my ACL as a junior, the Stanford coaches were there when I woke up from surgery. Stanford was my No. 1 well before I was No. 1. But then the letters started coming in, handwritten notes from coaches at Texas, Colorado, all of the Pac-10. Big-time coaches showed up on campus. That made it tough to decide. My parents went to Cal, but they recommended I stick with Stanford because I would get a better education."

Tim Couch - 1996

QB, Leslie County High School (Ky.)
College: Kentucky
NFL Draft: No. 1 pick (Cleveland Browns) in 1999.
Now: College football analyst for Fox Sports South.
"During recruiting, the Kentucky coaches told me they could change their option offense for me. I was the No. 1 recruit, so I believed they would. They didn't. I learned that coaches will tell you a lot of stuff to get you to sign, but once they have you on campus, they've got you. That's why you can't make decisions based on what they're saying. I planned to transfer at the end of my freshman year. But then Hal Mumme came in as coach and installed a system that was right for me. In the end, it all worked out at Kentucky."

Shaun Alexander - 1995

RB, Boone County High School (Ky.)
College: Alabama
NFL Draft: No. 19 pick (Seattle Seahawks) in 2000.
Now: Rushed for over 10,000 yards; NFL's 2000 All-Decade Team.
"I just tried to have fun with all the attention. I used to get about 30 letters a day from coaches. I would sit at my desk and throw each one over my left shoulder. If a letter landed in the trash can, that's where it stayed. If a letter hit the floor, I picked it up and opened it."

Hines Ward - 1994

QB, Forest Park High School (Ga.)
College: Georgia
NFL Draft: No. 92 pick (Steelers) in 1998.
Now: Two-time Super Bowl champ; Steelers all-time leader in receptions, yards and TD's; studio analyst for NBC's Football Night in America.
"I wanted to play quarterback bad at Georgia, but even more than that I wanted to play right away. When my coaches told me I'd have to sit behind QB Eric Zeier, they encouraged me to play wideout. I've been there ever since. People say receivers are divas, but that's not me. The Steelers don't pay me extra to take out a linebacker. That's just who I am. And when I hear that I've been voted the dirtiest player in the NFL, I take it as a compliment."

Ron Powlus - 1993

QB, Berwick High School (Pa.)
College: Notre Dame
NFL Draft: Undrafted.
Now: QB's coach at Akron.
"At Berwick, we ended my senior season as the nation's No. 1 team, and I was the No. 1 player. Bill Clinton invited the team to the White House and presented us with a plaque. Then Beano Cook predicted on TV that I'd win two Heisman Trophies. In the moment, it was flattering. But then you realize you have to live with a crazy statement like that."

Amani Toomer - 1992

WR, De La Salle High School (Calif.)
College: Michigan
NFL Draft: No. 34 pick (New York Giants) in 1996.
Now: Giants analyst for WWOR TV in NYC.
"Being a top recruit is both a gift and a curse. On the plus side, you get more opportunities than an ordinary recruit to play right away. But upperclassmen were a little jealous because I was getting more attention. Good thing I played on the outside: It's much less physical than being a linebacker or lineman, so I could prove myself with my speed and athletic ability. My teammates saw I could compete at a high level, and they immediately respected that."

Marquette Smith - 1991

RB, Lake Howell High School (Fla.)
College: Florida State (transferred to Central Florida)
NFL Draft: No. 142 pick (Carolina Panthers) in 1996.
Now: Head coach for Fayetteville of the Southern Indoor Football League.
"When I woke up every morning, there would be a line of rental cars down the street. Recruiters. I'd sneak out the backyard and jump over the fence just so I could get to school without any drama."

Chris Weinke - 1990

QB, Cretin-Derham Hall High School (Minn.)
College: Florida State
NFL Draft: No. 106 pick (Carolina Panthers) in 2001.
Now: Director of IMG Madden Football Academy.
"Football or baseball? That was the big question for me. It had always been my dream to play in the majors, and the Blue Jays drafted me in the second round in 1990. I was still negotiating with Toronto when I left for FSU. But then I was sitting in my dorm room feeling like the chance to play baseball might not come again. I called Coach Bowden and told him I was leaving. It was the toughest decision of my life. I played six years in the minors, two in Triple-A. Then after the 1996 season, I went to the FSU-Clemson football game and thought, Maybe I'll get to the major leagues, maybe I won't. But if I wait any longer, I'll never have the chance to play college football. I went home, packed up my stuff and re-enrolled at Florida State. I went through adversity, but in tough times I could always remember what it was like to be named the No. 1 guy."

Terry Kirby - 1989

RB, Tabb High School (Va.)
College: Virginia
NFL Draft: No. 78 pick (Miami Dolphins) in 1993.
Now: Founder of Touchdowns4Life, a charter school in Tamarac, Florida.
"I had a lot of people who kept me grounded. I try to do that now when I work with young football players. I tell them that they can have absolutely no regrets. Because I have none. How many people in America can say they did exactly what they wanted to do?"

Xavier Crawford - 1988

RB, Trezevant High School (Tenn.)
College: Memphis State
NFL Draft: Undrafted.
Now: In June of 2012, Crawford was sentenced to 37-years in prison on rape charges.
"People followed me around like I was famous. But my very first practice at Memphis was traumatic. My teammates hit me out of bounds, trying to hurt me. They scratched up my car, leaving notes that said, "We don't need you here." They trashed my dorm room, lit the door on fire. My coach, Charlie Bailey, had a team meeting and basically told the guys that if they had a problem with me, they would have a problem with him. On campus, being the No. 1 recruit was exhilarating. I was having dinner with the president of the university and the governor of Tennessee. But pretty soon I realized my circle consisted of nothing but football fans and rich, prestigious people. No one cared about me as a person; all they cared about was what they could get out of me. I had thousands of fans but no friends, and that's an awful way for a kid to feel. I still have dreams about hearing 80,000 fans screaming my name, though. Then I wake up in jail."

Ricky Watters - 1987

RB, Bishop McDevitt High School (Pa.)
College: Notre Dame
NFL Draft: No. 45 pick (San Francisco 49ers) in 1991.
Now: Five-time Pro Bowler; rushed for over 10,000 yards; won Super Bowl XXIX with the 49ers; currently a motivational speaker.
"I almost lost my mind. Everyone started treating me differently. Restaurants I couldn't afford were throwing free food at me. Chicks who were untouchable were all of a sudden very touchable. Boosters were offering me cars. As the No. 1 guy, I got treated really well on recruiting trips. When I visited Tennessee, they already had a jersey with my name and number on it. At Florida, they had these beautiful girls called Gator Getters who were assigned to help land the top recruits. Back home, the city of Harrisburg held a Ricky Watters Day, with a parade. They had me in a convertible, and the mayor was there. Lou Holtz came down too. I remember thinking, This is the life. My mom saw everything that was happening and laid down the law: I was going either to Notre Dame or West Point."

Jeff George - 1986

QB, Warren Central High School (Ind.)
College: Purdue (transferred to Illinois)
NFL Draft: No. 1 pick (Indianapolis Colts) in 1990.
Now: Played for seven different NFL franchises; Currently runs a foundation that fights breast cancer.
As the No. 1 player, everyone knows about you, and you have to live up to that expectation. My advice to kids today is: Don't put extra pressure on yourself, because you're only as good as your supporting cast. Looking back on it, high school was the most fun time in my career -- just playing football and trying to be the best you can be."

David Schnell - 1985

QB, Elkhart Central High School (Ind.)
College: Indiana
NFL Draft: Signed free agent contract (Buffalo Billis) in 1990.
Now: Passed away from cancer in May of 2011.
"He had the work ethic that the great ones have if they truly want to succeed at the next level. He had God given size and strength, yet he didn't rest on his laurels. Even though David was the number one high school football recruit, he didn't think it was a given that he would play in the NFL. He got his education in college." - Bill Mallory, Indiana University Head Football Coach.

Hart Lee Dykes - 1984

WR, Bay City High School (Texas)
College: Oklahoma State
NFL Draft: No. 16 pick (New England Patriots) in 1989.
Now: Owns a trucking company in Sugar Land, Texas; major advocate for charities such as the Jimmy Fund and Autism Awareness.
"Whenever there's a wide receiver that comes through Oklahoma State, everyone starts calling me, (asking) What do I think? Yet, Oklahoma State has never recognized me. That era, they don't want to mention it, they don't want to accept me for who I am, and give me the recognition I deserve. Everyone else thinks I'm one of the best receivers to come through there. It's like the scandal in my recruitment overshadows my performance on the field. I don't think that's right. I think I should be judged as a football player, a student-athlete. My performance on the field spoke for itself."

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