Everyone has that friend (or friends) who peaked in high school. They were Mr. Big Stuff on campus, the star of the football team, and had all of the girls fawning over him. Then, for whatever reason, things just began to go downhill after graduating and he became a bum as an adult, or at the very least, irrelevant.
Athletes are no different and many of them were on top of the world as 17 or 18-year-olds. Some flamed out in college just due to their skills not being able to translate to the next level. Some made it to the pros but by then it was clear that they reached that point on name recognition alone rather than actual ability. Others had problems off the field and could have become stars in the professional ranks if they had their heads on straight. No matter the reason, it’s safe to say that who you are and what you are as a teenager has little bearing to who you will be as an adult.
We’ll take a look at the football players who had this kind of life and career progression. It’s kind of like having P.E. in first hour: you reach the high point of your day in the first period, but after it’s over you have nothing to look forward to for the rest of the day. These five-star recruits reached their high point in high school which is what made them five-star recruits. Yet, either college, the NFL, or life in general just ate them up and they weren’t able to reproduce the same results later in their football careers. Here are 15 five-star recruits who never made it in the NFL.
15 Jimmy Clausen
Thanks to both of his older brothers being starting quarterbacks in the SEC, Clausen had notoriety before he could legally drive. His play in high school also gained him acclaim as he went 42-0 as a starter at Oaks Christian in Los Angeles. Sports Illustrated dubbed him “The Kid with the Golden Arm” and he was the top overall recruit in the Class of 2007. Unlike his brothers, Clausen headed to the Midwest instead of the South and enrolled at Notre Dame. He steadily improved during his three years in South Bend and by his junior season he posted a 28:4 touchdown to interception ratio. Clausen would be drafted in the second round in the 2010 draft by the Panthers but replaced as the team’s starting QB by 2011 when Cam Newton arrived.
He didn’t throw a regular season pass over the next three years while backing up Newton and closed out his career in 2015 after short stints with the Bears and Ravens. The top overall recruit of the Class of 2007 threw all of 7 TDs in his NFL career.
14 Dorial Green-Beckham
This was the Beckham who was supposed to be the NFL’s best receiver by 2017. DGB was a man amongst men in Springfield, MO as he left high school as the nation’s all-time leader in receiving yards. The number 3 overall player in the Class of 2012 stayed close to home and enrolled at Missouri. During his freshman season Green-Beckham had 28 receptions but also was arrested and suspended for drug possession. In his sophomore year, Green-Beckham led the SEC with 12 receiving touchdowns but was dismissed after the season for breaking into a woman’s apartment and pushing her down a flight of stairs. He then transferred to Oklahoma and sat out the 2014 season due to transfer rules.
Having not played a game in over a year, DGB declared for the 2015 NFL Draft and was selected in the second round by the Titans. He had a solid rookie year with 549 receiving yards but concerns over his character and work ethic caused Tennessee to trade him for a backup O-lineman. DGB barely played in Philly even though they had the league’s worst receiving core last year and he was released after the season.
13 Derrick Williams
Not to be confused with the basketball-Derrick Williams who could easily appear on the NBA version of this list. The football-Derrick Williams was from Washington DC and was rated as both the top junior and the top senior in his high school class. LaVar Arrington even gave him the nickname of Jesus Shuttlesworth because he was such a high recruit like Ray Allen’s character in He Got Game. Williams then followed Arrington and went to Penn State where he played both running back and wide receiver during his four years there. He had a decent college career but certainly didn’t meet the expectations of being the top player in his class. He scored 9 receiving TDs, 8 rushing TDs and 5 return TDs in State College.
Williams’ downhill slide continued when he was drafted by the Lions in the 2009 NFL Draft as he had all of nine catches in his brief pro career. He now works in the medical device sales business in the DMV area.
12 Melvin Alaeze
Even the most diehard of college and NFL fans would struggle to recall Melvin Alaeze even though he was the top-ranked defensive player in the Class of 2005. Alaeze was a defensive end who signed with Maryland but did not qualify academically so he was sent to a boarding school for a year. When 2006 came around Alaeze was arrested and was found to be in violating of the terms of his financial aid. He was released from his Maryland scholarship and ended up at Illinois. But after playing just one game, he was suspended and his scholarship was revoked, again.
Things would only get worse from there as on Christmas Eve 2006, Alaeze committed armed robbery and shot a man. He was charged with first-degree attempted murder but was eventually convicted of only first-degree assault. That still got him an eight year prison sentence in a jail that is just 30 minutes from where he should have been playing in College Park, Maryland.
11 Karlos Williams
Williams was a three-sport, two-way athlete in high school in Central Florida. He played basketball, football and ran track while playing both safety and running back on the gridiron. He was the eights best player in the Class of 2011 and went to Florida State as a safety but left the school as a running back. He played safety his first two years at FSU and then transitioned to the offensive side of the ball for his last two years. It proved to be a bad move as he was an average running back and wasn’t drafted until the fifth round in 2015. After a solid rookie year in which he tied an NFL record by scoring in each of his first six games, Williams was released by the Bills for showing up to training camp in 2016 overweight. He claimed the weight gain was due to his pregnant wife also gaining weight but Buffalo didn’t buy that excuse. He was later suspended 4 games for violating the substance abuse policy and after signing with Pittsburgh where his brother, Vince, plays; Karlos was then suspended 1 year for another violation of the substance abuse policy.
10 Ray Drew
While ordained minister Reggie White was known as the Minister of Defense, Ray Drew’s nickname rivals that of the Hall of Famer. Drew was nicknamed the Pastor of Disaster due to the disruptive nature of the religious defensive end. He was the second-ranked defensive end in his class and only trailed Jadeveon Clowney. But Drew didn’t really fit in with Georgia’s 3-4 defense and didn’t start a game in his first two years in Athens. After a decent junior year, he took a step back as a senior with just one sack. It seems as though you could accidentally get more than one sack in a season by Drew’s college career ended on a whimper.
The former five-star recruit went undrafted in 2015 but was given opportunities to prove himself by four different NFL teams. However, each of the four released him before he could even play in a regular season game. He headed up north to Canada and signed with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL in 2016 with hopes of getting one more shot at the NFL.
9 Sergio Kindle
No state takes high school football more seriously than Texas and there was no bigger high school football star than Dallas’s Sergio Kindle. In 2005 he became the only player in Texas to be named All-State for both offense and defense and he was the second-ranked defensive player in the Class of 2006, trailing only Gerald McCoy. He stayed in-state and went to the University of Texas where he played linebacker and defensive end and was named an All-American as a senior. He was drafted by the Ravens in the second round but before he played a snap he fell down a flight of stairs and fractured his skull. He didn’t play a game as a rookie and saw action in just 3 games over the next 2 years with Baltimore. His NFL career ended in 2012 with 1 career tackle.
Kindle also had off-field incidents as he was arrested for a DWI while at Texas (and underaged) and then popped for a DUI while with the Ravens. With his football career now over, Kindle is a car salesman in the Austin area.
8 Johnathan Gray
It’s not hyperbole to say that Gray is in the discussion for being the greatest high school running back of all-time. At Aledo High School in the Dallas area, Gray broke both the single-season and career touchdown mark, not just for Texas, but for all high school players. He was the first junior to ever win ESPN’s Mr. Football USA award and then became the first two-time winner as a senior. He won three straight state championships in high school and graduated first all-time in touchdowns and second all-time in points scored. Gray stayed close to home and went to the University of Texas but failed to live up to expectations with his play. Gray ran for 2,610 yards in four years in Texas which is a figure he topped in each of his last three years in high school.
He also struggled with injuries as he tore his Achilles’ tendon twice including just months before the 2016 NFL Draft. After sitting out all of the 2016 season, Gray received an invite to the New York Giants’ rookie minicamp. Although he looked to be healthy, he apparently did not impress enough as he wasn’t signed and brought to training camp. He remains a street free agent.
7 Ronald Powell
The number one player in the Class of 2010, Powell was an electric pass rusher who also dabbled as a tight end. He was the star in a game full of stars as he was the MVP of the US Army All-American Bowl and the LA native decided to switch coasts and signed with the University of Florida. He played strictly linebacker at Florida and became a starter in his sophomore year. However, what was supposed to be a breakout junior year turned into a disaster as he tore his ACL twice – once during the Spring Game and then again while rehabbing. After medical redshirting in 2012, he then posted four sacks as a redshirt junior in 2013.
Instead of sticking around another year to improve his stock, Powell declared for the 2014 NFL Draft and was taken in the fifth round by the Saints. He played 14 games (on special teams) as a rookie and finished the season with 2 tackles. He was then waived by New Orleans in 2015, signed to the Bears practice squad in 2016 and signed by the Seahawks in 2017. However, he did not see time in a regular season game in either location and was waived by Seattle in August 2017.
6 Matt Barkley
Barkley went to the legendary Mater Dei High School in Los Angeles which also produced Heisman winner Matt Leinart and Heisman finalist Colt Brennan. He was the first freshman QB to start at the school in over 20 years and Barkley even called his own plays later in his high school career. ESPN ranked him as the number one overall player in the Class of 2009 and Mel Kiper Jr. even proclaimed that Barkley would be the number one pick in the 2012 NFL Draft before he had even taken a college snap. Barkley would go on to have a good but not great college career at USC but did leave school as the Pac-12’s all-time leader in touchdown passes.
Barkley stayed all 4 years at USC which meant he wasn’t in the 2012 draft but by the time the 2013 draft came around, the book was out on Barkley. He lacked the arm strength to be a starting QB in the NFL and was drafted in the fourth round by the Eagles. He spent two years with clipboard duty in Philly and then another in Arizona before getting his first chance as a starter with the Bears in 2016. He responded with 8 TDs and 14 INTs but showed enough to warrant a two-year, $4 million contract from the 49ers to be their backup quarterback.
5 Kyle Prater
The Chicago native was the top receiver in the class of 2010 and the number three prospect overall. At 6’5” 225 lbs. he was built like an H-back but had quickness to line up outside. After leading his high school to their first ever playoff win, Prater headed west to USC. That move ended up being nothing more than a waste of time as he redshirted his first year and caught just one pass while missing most of the season due to injury in his second year. He then decided to transfer and went back home to the Chicago area as he joined Northwestern. He combined for 19 catches over his first two years and then had a “breakout” season in 2014 with 51 catches.
In five years in college, Prater scored just 2 touchdowns. After going undrafted in the 2015 season, Prater signed a free agent deal with the Saints but has not taken the field for an NFL game.
4 Michael Dyer
Remember Dyer? He was the Cam Newton’s running mate at Auburn and was the MVP of the BCS Championship Game in 2011. But before that, Dyer was the top-ranked running back in the Class of 2010. As a true freshman in 2010, he broke Bo Jackson’s record for most rushing yards by an Auburn freshman and capped off his year with that BCS Championship. After an All-SEC 2011 season, he was suspended indefinitely by Auburn and ended up transferring to Arkansas State. But before playing a game there, he was kicked off the team after being pulled over with a gun and drugs in his vehicle. (The police officer who pulled him over was also fired for trying to destroy the evidence). Dyer was then off to Arkansas Baptist College where he didn’t play but did get his associate’s degree. Finally, Dyer then transferred to Louisville where he played two years and was a 24-year-old senior in 2014.
He wasn’t drafted, was signed by the Raiders, and was cut during preseason. He then had a cup of coffee in the CFL and is currently playing for the Texas Revolution which is an indoor team for the Champions Indoor Football league.
3 Bryce Brown
In high school in Kansas, Brown was drawing comparisons to Adrian Peterson and Rivals gave him the top overall spot in their Class of 2009 rankings making him the first RB since Peterson to receive that honor. He signed with Tennessee and was part of a two-man rotation in the backfield during his freshman year. However, after Lane Kiffin left UT for USC after Brown’s freshman season, the running back left as well and ended up back home at Kansas State University. The new Tennessee coach didn’t release Brown from his scholarship which meant the running back had to pay his own way at KSU. After sitting out the entire 2010 season due to transfer rules, Brown played in all of 2 games in the 2011 season before leaving the team.
After 104 college carries and 0 starts, he declared for the 2012 NFL Draft and was taken by the Eagles in the seventh round. He was a backup to LeSean McCoy for two years in Philly then played seven games with the Bills in 2014. After playing three games for the Seahawks in 2015, Brown hasn’t played an NFL snap since then. His brother is former Ravens linebacker, Arthur Brown, who was also a five-star recruit and is also currently out of the NFL.
2 Trent Richardson
Richardson’s stellar high school career, alone, would have drawn comparisons to all-time greats but with the fact that he went to the same high school as Emmitt Smith; it was no surprise that T-Rich was compared to the NFL rushing king. Richardson was the sixth overall player in the class of 2009 and joined Nick Saban’s crew at Alabama. After backing up Mark Ingram in his first two seasons, Richardson became a starter as a junior and responded with a better statistical season than even Ingram had the year he won the Heisman.
Richardson went third overall to the Browns and would become one of the biggest busts in NFL history. After being traded by the Browns, Richardson would be cut by three more NFL teams and finished his career with just two 100-yard rushing games. To make matters worse, Richardson was arrested for domestic violence in 2017 and it appears his last NFL game will have come at the age of 24.
1 Fred Rouse
Rouse was a wide receiver in the Class of 2005 who was as good as he was cocky. He was better than his high school teammate, Antonio Cromartie, and once said that he could make the jump from high school to the NFL. That didn’t happen but Rouse did make the jump from college to college. He played one season at FSU but was kicked off the team for failed drug tests and for breaking into a teammate’s apartment. He then went to UTEP but played just one year with them before leaving due to disagreements with the coaches about playing time. Next up was Texas Southern but he never played a down there because of a paperwork mishap. In 2008 he was sent to jail for violating his probation but received one last chance when he ended up at NAIA school, Concordia, in Alabama.
His college career, which started in 2005, finally ended at Concordia in 2010 and, unsurprisingly, NFL scouts weren’t knocking down his door. He spent a couple of years in the now-defunct United Football League and CFL and last played in 2014.