Top 20 Elite Athletes Who Weren't Noticed in High School

It was big news when it was reported leading up to the game that neither the Seattle Seahawks nor the New England Patriots would be starting any five-star recruits at Super Bowl 49. While the perception had by casual football fans may be that the two best teams in the National Football League would naturally have rosters filled with athletes who were elite all the way back in their high school days, that is often not the case. It is, in fact, routinely reported that only percent of the players who feature in the highest division of college football were, out of high school, deemed to be five-star recruits.

Some of the greatest athletes of their times had “it” at an early age. We knew when he was dunking a basketball against over-matched high school opponents that LeBron James was, once he entered the National Basketball Association, going to be special, and he has lived up to every expectation had for him. Sidney Crosby was seen as hockey royalty and “The Next One” years before he first held up a jersey of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Pro scouts and coaches attend high school and even middle school sporting events in the hopes of finding the next James or the next Crosby.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the athletes who were either not noticed or not highly recruited coming out of high school. This includes a man who was part of one of the greatest one-two punches in the history of the NBA and two of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL. Either of those QBs could, at one point or another after high school, have given up on the game of football because they were not viewed to be elite players. Both men now serve as inspirational stories for younger athletes who find themselves struggling in high school or even in college.

20 Jordy Nelson

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

19 Brett Gardner

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

18 Clay Matthews III

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

17 Dan Girardi

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

16 Tony Romo

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

15 Michael Strahan

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

14 Victor Cruz

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

13 J.J. Watt

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

12 Jeff Bagwell


11 Paul George

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

10 Darrell Green


9 John Starks


8 Jimmy Graham

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

7 Dennis Rodman

via BigStockPhoto

6 Terrell Owens

5 Ryan Howard

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

4 Scottie Pippen

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

3 Kurt Warner

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

2 Aaron Rodgers

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

1 Tom Brady

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The story of how Tom Brady fell to the New England Patriots and the 199th pick of the 2000 NFL Draft has been told and retold on television shows and in articles. You may not know that Brady's difficulties go all the way back to his high school days. While he was recruited by the University of Michigan, Brady was hardly seen as being an elite quarterback worth starting right out of the gates. He was so low on the depth chart at Michigan at one point that he considered transferring. Brady instead stuck it out and eventually won the starting job, and just about every decision he has made since then has worked out rather well for him.

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Top 20 Elite Athletes Who Weren't Noticed in High School