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Top 10 Prep Football Factories in NFL History

Shaun Church
DeSean Jackson

The most devoted NFL fans can rattle off the names of a majority of the players on their favorite teams; the freaks among the most devoted can tell you where those players played their college ball.

But how many of you freaks can recite where your favorite NFL players went to high school?

This piece highlights the 10 best high schools in terms of cranking out NFL talent. Is it subjective? No. We came up with a Powerhouse Score that has many different factors, including total NFL players, total active players, All-Pro members, Pro Bowl members, first-round picks and Hall of Famers.

The rarer accomplishments—like enshrinement in Canton—are weighted more heavily to reward programs for producing top talent.

Hundreds of high schools were put through the formula to have a Powerhouse Score spit out. Did your school make the cut?

Let’s dig in to the top 10 prep football factories in NFL history.

10. McKinley Bulldogs (Canton, OH)

Marion Motley SN

Cleveland.com — Running back Marion Motley

Active: 1

Total: 30

Powerhouse Score: 29.3

Perhaps it is fitting that we begin with McKinley. After all, the Bulldogs play their home games at Hall of Fame Field in Canton, Ohio, the location of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and host of the first preseason game in all but two years since 1962.

McKinley’s one active pro is New Orleans Saints wide receiver Joe Morgan, who joined the organization after going undrafted out of tiny Walsh University in North Canton in 2011. One Bulldog alum did make it back to Canton after his playing days were over: former Cleveland Browns fullback Marion Motley (1946-1955).

The two-time All-Pro back played nine years, leading the league in yards twice and ranks third all-time with an average of 5.7 yards per carry. In his eight seasons with the Browns, his team won the championship five times—this was long before the Super Bowl era.

Motley retired in 1955 as the third-leading rusher in league history, with 4,720 yards in nine seasons.

Other Notable Alumni: Butch Gibson, OL, 1930-34; Ray Ellis, SS, 1981-87; Mike Doss, SS, 2003-08.

9. John Tyler Lions (Tyler, TX)

NFL.com — Running back Kendall Hunter

NFL.com — Running back Kendall Hunter

Active: 3

Total: 21

Powerhouse Score: 30.5

Somewhat surprisingly, John Tyler High is the only Texas school in the top 10. The state does have three in the top 15, however (Waco High, No. 12; Ball High, No. 15). The Lions have a rich football heritage that dates back to the 1930s, but the NFL talent didn’t show up until the 40s.

You may remember seeing John Tyler High featured on YouTube in one of the most remarkable endings to a football game in the sport’s history. In 1994, the Lions were in the playoffs against Plano East when this happened.

Currently donning NFL jerseys are running back Kendall Hunter, safety Aaron Ross and receiver/cornerback Teddy Williams.

Like McKinley, John Tyler also has a Hall of Fame back among its alumni. Those from East Texas know him as The Tyler Rose; Everyone else calls him Earl Campbell (1978-1985).

He had an astonishing combination of speed, power and nimbleness that seemed impossible for a 5’11”, 230-pound back. Campbell finished his illustrious nine-year career eighth in rushing yards (9,407) and seventh in touchdowns (74).

He led the league in rushing each of his first three seasons. At the time, Campbell’s 5,081 yards over that three-year span were the most in NFL history, passing Walter Payton’s mark of 3,921. It now is second to Eric Dickerson’s 5,147 yards.

Other Notable Alumni: Bill Johnson, OC, 1948-56; Ronnie Lee, TE/OL, 1979-92; Gary Baxter, CB, 2001-06.

8. Pine Bluff Zebras (Pine Bluff, Ark.)

Atlanta.CBSLocal.com — Hall of Fame tackle Willie Roaf

Atlanta.CBSLocal.com — Hall of Fame tackle Willie Roaf

Active: 1

Total: 16

Powerhouse Score: 30.5

Please ignore the fact that Pine Bluff’s mascot name is a slang term for “referee.” It’s possible the Zebras hear enough of that joke on Friday nights in the fall.

In terms of sheer numbers, Pine Bluff tied for last among top-10 finishers in total NFL players produced. The only active NFL player who attended Pine Bluff is tight end David Johnson, who has spent five seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Diego Chargers in a limited role.

But the immense concentration of talent led to a tie for eighth-best among the bunch. The tie-breaker?

Two Zebras own bronze busts in Canton.

First is offensive tackle Willie Roaf (1993-2005), perhaps the most dominant lineman of his era. He was a three-time first-team All-Pro and 11-time Pro Bowler for the Saints and Kansas City Chiefs. No matter the opponent, Roaf was a stalwart his entire 13-year career.

Then we get to unquestionably the greatest receiver of his respective era, Don Hutson (1935-1945). He is the original 1,000-yard receiver. No one had topped the mark until he did in 1942, when he set league records for receptions (74), yards (1,211) and touchdowns (17). His record for yards lasted until 1951; his mark for touchdowns stood for an astonishing 42 years.

Get this: Another Zebras great, the Cleveland Rams’ Jim Benton, was the second wideout to eclipse the 1,000-yard barrier, doing so with a 1,067-yard performance in 1945.

Other Notable Alumni: Monte Coleman, LB, 1979-94; Jackie Harris, TE, 1990-01; Mark Bradley, WR, 2005-09.

7. Ruston Bearcats (Ruston, La.)

USA Today Images — Defensive tackle Kyle Williams (95)

USA Today Images — Defensive tackle Kyle Williams (95)

Active: 1

Total: 16

Powerhouse Score: 31.0

The only currently active player from Rustin High is a pretty good one. He was just named one of the five best fifth-round picks of the past decade, in fact.

Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams went from a little-known 134th-overall pick in 2006 to a four-time Pro Bowler thanks to a tenacious lust for getting after ball-carriers. It’s the way of the Bearcats, apparently, as five of the 16 names to make it in the NFL have made at least one Pro Bowl—along with three All-Pro selections and a Hall of Famer.

That Canton-enshrined pro? Former Chargers and San Francisco 49ers defensive end Fred Dean. He is listed as having 28 career “official” sacks, though he played seven seasons before the NFL made the sack an officially kept statistic. From his Hall of Fame biography:

Dean’s quickness, speed and strength made him one of the league’s most feared pass rushers during his 141-game career. Although the sack did not become an official NFL statistic until 1982, if numbers tallied by the teams were included with his official sack count, Dean’s career sack total would stand near 100.

His 17.5 sacks in 1983 were the second-most ever officially recorded (Mark Gastineau had 19 that same season). The total is still the fifth-highest for a player at least 30 years old.

Other Notable Alumni: Bert Jones, QB, 1973-82; Michael Brooks, LB, 1987-96; Patrick Ramsey, QB, 2002-08.

6. Abraham Lincoln Mustangs (San Diego)

Marcus Allen SN

NFL.com — Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen

Active: 0

Total: 25

Powerhouse Score: 32.8

Currently coached by The Hulk’s son, Phil Ferrigno, Lincoln High doesn’t have any alumni currently in the NFL. But it does have plenty of history on Sundays. Like Rustin, Lincoln has five Pro Bowlers and three All-Pro players who call themselves former Mustangs.

Also like the Bearcats, the Mustangs have a Hall of Famer. Taken 10th overall in 1982 by the then-Los Angeles Raiders, running back Marcus Allen (1982-1997) left a lasting imprint on the league, carving up defenses for 12,243 yards rushing, another 5,411 receiving and 144 total touchdowns—the sixth-most in NFL history. His 17,654 yards from scrimmage are seventh all-time.

Allen was a two-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler during his first six years with the Raiders. He then made the Pro Bowl in 1993, his first of five seasons with the Chiefs.

He is the lone Hall of Famer to attend Lincoln High…for now. Another running back may join Allen in the near future.

Former Denver Broncos sixth-round pick Terrell Davis began his career on a tear rarely seen in NFL history. In his first four campaigns, he totaled 7,594 yards from scrimmage—third-most all-time (LaDainian Tomlinson, 7,921; Dickerson, 7,842).

But knee injuries derailed what could have been one of the best careers from a back in league history. Will he eventually make it to Canton?

Other Notable Alumni: Dave Grayson, DB, 1961-70; Dave Lewis, LB, 1977-83; Akili Smith, QB, 1999-02.

5. Susan Miller Dorsey Dons (Los Angeles)

USA Today Images — Safety Rahim Moore

USA Today Images — Safety Rahim Moore

Active: 6

Total: 32

Powerhouse Score: 33.0

No Hall of Famers for Dorsey High, but the Dons do have a healthy history of producing Sunday talent. Six alumni were on 53-man rosters in 2014, including Keith Browner, Jeremy Harris, Chris Matthews, Rahim Moore, Chris Owens and David Gettis. They are not superstars, but those six have made contributions in one form or another—we’re still trying to figure out what Moore was doing on the 70-yard, game-tying touchdown from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones in Denver’s 2013 playoff overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

The most recognizable name among the Dons’ alumni is former No. 1 overall pick, receiver Keyshawn Johnson. A former All-American out of USC, Johnson was a fireball on the field. He finished his 11-year career with 10,571 yards and 64 touchdowns. He made three Pro Bowl teams.

Of the schools broken down so far, Dorsey (4) has the most first-round picks.

Other Notable Alumni: Aaron Cox, WR, 1988-93; Chris Mims, DL, 1992-99; Na’il Diggs, LB, 2000-11.

4. St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Michael Irvin SN

NFL.com — Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin

Active: 11

Total: 23

Powerhouse Score: 37.5

Now we start getting to the juggernauts of the prep-football world. Of those in the top five, Aquinas High has the fewest total NFL alumni but by far the most active. For the sake of brevity, click the link above to see the full list of players, active included.

The most notable active players are safety Major Wright and offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert.

The Raiders also have a Hall of Famer to claim in Dallas Cowboys’ great Michael Irvin. The outspoken Irvin had his fair share of off-field issues, but between the lines, the receiver was among the best during his 12-year career. He is Aquinas’ only first-round pick, only Pro Bowler and only All-Pro in addition to being its only bronze-busted alum.

The Playmaker totaled 750 receptions, 11,904 yards and 65 touchdowns for the Cowboys—all franchise records at the time of his retirement.

Other Notable Alumni: Brian Piccolo, RB, 1966-69; Twan Russell, LB, 1997-03; James White, RB, 2014-Present.

3. Hargrave Military Academy Tigers (Chatham, Va.)

USA Today Images — Outside linebacker Quinton Coples (98)

USA Today Images — Outside linebacker Quinton Coples (98)

Active: 9

Total: 25

Powerhouse Score: 38.3

Hargrave has the second-most active players suiting up on Sundays, but its players have had more of an impact than those of Aquinas. With six first-round picks and two Pro Bowlers, it’s easy to see why the Tigers rank so highly on this list.

The best active players include cornerback Carlos Rogers, who has 17 career interceptions, and New York Jets former first-round pick, outside linebacker Quinton Coples, who has 16.5 sacks in his first three NFL seasons.

Hargrave does have a potential future Hall of Famer. A key to the “Greatest Show on Turf,” receiver Torry Holt was a rookie when the St. Louis Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV. From his second through ninth seasons, Holt recorded at least 81 receptions, 1,188 yards and four touchdowns every year.

His best campaign came in 2003, when he led the league with 117 receptions for 1,696 yards and 12 touchdowns. The one they call Big Game made the Pro Bowl seven times and was named a first-team All-Pro once.

Other Notable Alumni: Solomon Page, OL, 1999-03; Charles Grant, DE, 2002-09; Leonard Pope, TE, 2006-12.

2. Long Beach Polytechnic Jackrabbits (Long Beach, Calif.)

USA Today Images — Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey (99)

USA Today Images — Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey (99)

Active: 6

Total: 55

Powerhouse Score: 58.0

With by far the most NFL players, Long Beach Poly has put a football player on nearly every roster throughout the years. From end Jim Lawson and running back Don Hill in the 1920s to defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and receiver DeSean Jackson currently, the Jackrabbits have been represented in every decade the NFL has been around.

That is beyond impressive—it’s almost unbelievable.

Jackson is the best Poly alum currently in the NFL. He’s led the NFL in yards per catch twice, including last season with Washington. Plus, Jackson’s punt return ability early in his career was matched by few in the league. The former Cal-Berkeley standout took four punts back for a touchdown in his first three seasons—he led the NFL in 2009, averaging 15.2 yards per return.

Casey is a force as a pass-rusher, and tight end Marcedes Lewis has been a steady contributor for the Jacksonville Jaguars since being taken 28th overall in the 2006 draft.

Poly should probably be known as “Wideout Prep” with how many of its receivers have had success on Sunday. Five of them—Jackson, Stephone Page, Tony Hill, Gene Washington, Johnny Morris—combine to total 10 seasons of greater than 1,000 yards receiving.

Though they don’t have a Hall of Famer, it is a question of when, not if, it happens for the Jackrabbits. Three-time Super Bowl champion linebacker Willie McGinest was drafted by the New England Patriots fourth overall in 1994, and all he did was play 15 years and rack up 802 total tackles, 86 sacks, 16 forced fumbles, 17 fumbles recovered, five interceptions and four defensive touchdowns.

Other Notable Alumni: Bill Jessup, FL, 1951-60; Mark Carrier, FS, 1990-00; Omar Stoutmire, FS, 1997-07.

1. Fork Union Military Academy Blue Devils (Fork Union, Va.)

NFL.com — All-Pro running back Eddie George

NFL.com — All-Pro running back Eddie George

Active: 7

Total: 42

Powerhouse Score: 58.3

The second-most NFL players, the third-most active and far-and-away the most first-round picks (10) make Fork Union the choice for the top prep football factory in NFL history. Like three of its counterparts on the list, it doesn’t have a Hall of Famer, but at this point a Fork Union-produced bronze bust would be icing on the cake.

Among the active players are cornerback Kareem Jackson, offensive tackles Anthony Castonzo and Morgan Moses as well as offensive guard Russell Bodine—four solid players with bright futures ahead of them.

The most notable former Blue Devils star is Heisman-winning running back Eddie George, who spent eight seasons with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans and one final, disappointing season with the Dallas Cowboys before retiring.

George is the Titans’ all-time leading rusher. He surpassed Tyler High’s Campbell for that crown on Dec. 1, 2002, in a win over the New York Giants. It took George 17 games and 325 carries more to do it, but on his second tote of that Week 13 game, he surpassed The Tyler Rose.

Other Notable Alumni: Sonny Randle, WR, 1959-68; Vinny Testaverde, QB, 1987-07; Dexter Coakley, LB, 1997-06.

All stats gathered using tools provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com

Photo: USA Today Images