Taking a Look Back at Some of East Texas’ Top Football Recruits Over the Last 10 Years
With one week to go before National Signing Day, it only seems fitting to take a stroll down memory lane and look back at some of the top East Texas recruits over the last 10 years.
Some went on to become college All-Americans in college, others won national titles. And a select few have gone on to enjoy stellar NFL careers.
In fact, a trio of East Texans will be represented in this Sunday's Super Bowl -- San Francisco 49ers running backs Kendall Hunter (John Tyler) and LaMichael James (Liberty-Eylau) and Baltimore Ravens defensive back Chris Johnson (Pine Tree).
Highlighting the 2003 signing class is quarterback Matt Flynn, who before leading LSU to the 2007 national title and becoming a respected backup in the NFL was guiding the Tyler Lee Red Raiders deep into the playoffs.
Flynn led Lee to the Class 5A Division I state semifinals in his senior season. It was the first time since 1991 that the Red Raiders advanced past the second round of the playoffs.
Others quarterbacks may have been rated higher coming out of high school, but Flynn bided his time and spent one season as LSU's starting QB. And what a year it was.
In his final season of eligibility, Flynn led the Tigers to a 38-24 win over Ohio State in the BCS national championship game.
Flynn was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL Draft and spent four seasons backing up all-pro Aaron Rodgers, winning a Super Bowl ring after the 2010 season. He signed a free-agent contract with Seattle last offseason, backing up rookie Russell Wilson in 2012.
Other notable names from 2003 include former Texas A&M offensive lineman Jorrie Adams (Jasper), ex-Texas A&M linebacker Justin Warren (Tyler Lee), former Texas defensive lineman Tim Crowder (John Tyler) and Texas A&M defensive lineman Joseph "Red" Bryant (Jasper).
There was no bigger name in the 2004 recruiting class than Adrian Peterson.
Colleges from all around the country flocked to Palestine his junior and senior season to get a glimpse at who some were calling the most talented East Texas running back since Earl Campbell.
Peterson announced his decision to attend Oklahoma, and immediately made an impact with the Sooners. He set the NCAA freshman record by running for 1,925 yards, eventually finishing as runner-up for the Heisman Trophy.
After two more productive seasons, Peterson made the jump to the NFL. He was the seventh overall pick to the Minnesota Vikings in the 2007 draft.
As a rookie, Peterson set an NFL record by rushing for 296 yards in a game against San Diego. And just this past season, he finished just nine yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's record for rushing yards in a season.
Other big-time recruits from 2004 included former Texas receiver Nate Jones (Texas High), ex-North Texas running back Jamario Thomas (Spring Hill) and Florida tight end Tate Casey (Longview).
Malcolm Kelly was a star at Longview High School, then went on to become one of the most prolific receivers in Oklahoma history.
At OU, Kelly led the Sooners in catches and receiving yards as a true freshman. As a sophomore, he led the team in receptions, yards and touchdown catches and earned MVP honors in the Big 12 championship game.
After another strong season as a junior, Kelly departed for the NFL. The Washington Redskins selected Kelly in the second round of the 2008 draft.
However, injuries kept the Longview native from establishing himself in the pros.
Other big names from 2005 included Green Bay Packers tight end and Texas-ex Jermichael Finley (Diboll), former Texas A&M fullback Jorvorskie Lane (Lufkin), ex-Oklahoma receiver Manuel Johnson (Gilmer), LSU offensive lineman Ciron Black (Tyler Lee) and former Texas Tech offensive lineman Brandon Carter (Spring Hill).
Just a year after Kelly attracted a lot of attention to Longview, Lobos running back Vondrell McGee was doing the same.
McGee eventually signed with Texas, and had a productive career with the Longhorns.
Defensive end Eddie Jones, a native of Kilgore, was also a big recruit for Texas. He had helped lead the Bulldogs to a state championship the year before. Another Kilgore defensive lineman was getting attention as well, Wayne Daniels, who signed with TCU.
Tight end Britt Mitchell, who inked with Texas, gave Kilgore three big-time recruits in the '06 signing class.
This was one of the biggest East Texas recruiting classes in recent memory.
Texas High quarterback Ryan Mallett, now a backup to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, was perhaps the biggest. He signed with Michigan on National Signing Day, but eventually transferred to Arkansas where he finished off a solid college career. He drafted in the third round of the 2011 NFL draft.
Dez Bryant may go down as the best from 2007 when it's all said and done. After torching East Texas DBs and a member of the Lufkin Panthers, Bryant went on to enjoy big-time success at Oklahoma State. He then became a first-round pick by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2010 NFL Draft, and is coming off the best season of his three-year career.
Gilmer's Curtis Brown went to star at cornerback for Texas before being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011.
Meanwhile Kendall Hunter, who broke Earl Campbell's career rushing record at John Tyler, went on to become of the top backs in the country at Oklahoma State. He was picked in the fourth round of the 2011 draft by San Francisco.
Other big names from 2007 included ex-Texas offensive lineman Michael Huey (Kilgore), former Tennessee and Louisiana Tech running back Lennon Creer (Tatum), ex-Texas and Tulsa quarterback G.J. Kinne (Gilmer) and current Oakland Raiders receiver Denarius Moore, who starred at Tennessee after a brilliant high school career in Tatum.
Several Texas colleges passed up the chance to offer Liberty-Eylau running back LaMichael James. What a mistake that turned out to be.
James flourished in Oregon's uptempo offense. He was the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 2009, led the nation in both rushing yards and TDs in 2010, and led the Ducks to a Rose Bowl win after the 2011 season. He was eventually taken by the San Francisco 49ers in the second round of the '11 draft.
Another big name from 2008 was Pittsburg athlete Kendall Wright, who could do it all in high school -- football, basketball and track. He ultimately decided on football and become one of the most electrifying receivers in the country at Baylor. During quarterback Robert Griffin III's Heisman Trophy campaign in 2011, Wright led the team with 108 catches for 1,633 yards and 14 touchdowns. He became a first-round pick of the Tennessee Titans in last spring's draft.
Some other notables from 2008 include ex-Oklahoma running back Jermie Calhoun (Van) and former Texas offensive lineman David Snow (Gilmer).
Despite putting gaudy numbers for three years at Chapel Hill High School, running back Matthew Tucker was under the recruiting radar.
Once his senior season was complete, Tucker got an offer from TCU and soon became a big part of the Horned Frogs' ascension to national prominence.
Tucker played as a true freshman in 2009 when TCU went to its first-ever BCS bowl game, the 2010 Fiesta Bowl against Boise State. The next year he helped the Frogs to a perfect season, capped by a victory over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
He just completed his senior season at TCU, and will finish third on the school's career rushing touchdown list with 33.
Some other big names from the 2009 recruiting class include Oklahoma defensive lineman Jamarkus McFarland (Lufkin) and ex-Sulphur Springs quarterback Tyrik Rollison, who signed with Auburn before returning to the area in 2011 at Tyler Junior College.
It was a big year for East Texas recruits and the University of Texas. Five area players signed with the Longhorns, including Cayuga running back Traylon Shead, who set a state record for most career rushing touchdowns.
Shead ultimately transferred to Navarro College and will attend SMU next season.
Other East Texans choosing to play for Texas that year were Daingerfield receiver Chris Jones (transferred to Navarro), John Tyler defensive lineman Ashton Dorsey, Lufkin cornerback Carrington Byndom and Sulphur Springs' Bryant Jackson.
There was no doubt about it. Whitehouse receiver Trey Metoyer was going to be a star.
Metoyer finished just six receptions shy of breaking Jordan Shipley's state record for career receptions after a massive three-year high school career at Whitehouse.
However, the five-star standout was unable to qualify for Oklahoma out of high school and had to spend a season at Hargrave Military Academy Virginia before eventually enrolling at OU. He ended his first year with Sooners with 17 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown.
There was also a trio of Texas signees that are already making an impact with the Longhorns -- linebackers Steve Edmond (Daingerfield) and Kendall Thompson (Carthage) and offensive lineman Josh Cochran (Hallsville).
While some of these players have yet to show what they can do at the next level, if the past is indication, last year's signing class should begin to break through in the coming years.
Here's a look at some of the big-name recruits from last year.
- Kendall Sanders, ATH, Athens -- signed with Texas
- John Michael McGee, OL, Texas High -- signed with Oklahoma
- Ed Pope, ATH, Carthage -- signed with Texas A&M
- Reginald Davis, ATH, Tenaha -- signed with Texas Tech
- Dalton Santos, LB, Van -- signed with Texas
- Eric Davis, DE, John Tyler -- signed with Oklahoma State
- Jalen Overstreet, ATH, Tatum -- signed with Texas