Every high school athlete dreams of someday being the star player of their team but not many athletes could have imagined they would be labeled the number one recruit out of their state. It’s a different story in high school, 17 or 18 year-old athletes are riding on their high horses and envision nothing but success in their futures. It is one thing to make it to the next level, but sustaining a position at that level is the biggest test these young athletes have been faced with all of their careers.
It’s common for high school students to imagine himself or herself someday advancing to the next level and competing against the most elite competition but sometimes these athletes set the bar a bit too high for themselves. There are so many variables that factor into success at the next level and in some cases, off-the-field issues, poor academics, hostile relationships with coaching staffs/front offices play a much larger factor to some players than others.
The expectations these players are asked to live up to after being labeled as a five-star high school football recruit are unlike any challenge these athletes have faced before. For some players, fear of progressing to a college or even professional level is non-existent but some athletes have certainly struggled more than others. “He peaked in high school,” or “his skill never translated to the next level” are just a couple of expressions that athletes never want to hear but unfortunately, for some, this is a reality. It’s time to take a look at 15 high school football players whose skills failed to translate to the professional level.
15. Jimmy Clausen – Flag Football Player?
The former NFL quarterback attended high school at Oaks Christian in Westlake Village, California and had about as much success as humanly possible, ending his high school career a flawless 42-0 over his four seasons at Oaks Christian. Clausen also led his team to their first ever Division III state title when they defeated Cardinal Newman High School.
Coming out of high school, there was much speculation surrounding Jimmy Clausen, which was mostly due to the fact that his high school team featured 11 players that eventually played in the NCAA Division I Bowl Subdivision teams.
Clausen played his college football at Notre Dame and went on to throw for 8,148 yards and 60 touchdowns over his three years as a starter. Clausen elected to declare for the 2010 NFL Draft. After failing in Carolina, Clausen played for the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens and threw for just 2,530 yards including seven touchdowns and an unsightly 14 interceptions. In his final game as a pro, Clausen was benched for Ryan Mallett in a divisional matchup against the Pittsburg Steelers.
14. Willie Williams – Former UFL Player
Williams attended Thomson High School in Thomson, Georgia where he played football all four years and was labeled as the top-rated high school linebacker in the Class of 2004. The defensive tackle was a bit of a journeyman in college as he attended Georgia Military College for two years, followed by a brief stint at Hutchinson Community College and then finally transferring to Louisville where he posted some NFL-like stats.
The defensive tackle was signed by the St. Louis Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2008 but was waived the following year and then signed to the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad The Eagles announced they were releasing Williams in September, 2009, just a few months after being signed.
Following his release, Williams garnered attention from the United Football League (UFL) and inked three separate one-year contracts over his next three years with the Florida Tuskers, Omaha Nighthawks and Sacramento Mountain Lions. Williams’ final professional football game was in 2011.
13. Ronald Powell – Released By Seahawks
The Moreno Valley, California native attended Rancho Verde High School, where he played a wide variety of positions including tight end, linebacker and defensive end. On top of his awards and invitations, Powell was labeled a five-star college recruit and was listed as the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2010.
The University of Florida offered the young linebacker a scholarship and Powell had some success in his first two years of college but two ACL tears plagued his entire junior year.
The New Orleans Saints selected Powell with the 169th overall pick in 2014 and while the linebacker appeared in 14 games during the 2014 season, the Saints elected to move on from Powell and decided to cut him. Shortly after his release, the Chicago Bears signed Powell to their practice squad and the Seattle Seahawks then signed him off of the Bears’ practice quad. He was waived by the Seahawks on August 10, 2017 and hasn’t played in the NFL since.
12. Derrick Williams – Cut From CFL
The top high school football prospect of the 2005 class was born in the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. and attended Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Williams entered the 2009 draft and was drafted by the Detroit Lions with the 82nd overall pick but was waived just months after being drafted. The Pittsburgh Steelers signed the receiver but he was once-again released after participating in just four preseason games for the franchise. In his brief NFL stint, Williams recorded just nine receptions for a total of 82 yards.
After retiring from the NFL, the 27-year-old signed with the Toronto Argonauts for the Canadian Football League and was once-again released just months after signing, virtually ending his professional football career.
11. Charlie Ward – Runs Foundation
The Thomas County Central High School graduate threw for 5,747 yards and 49 touchdowns in his four-year career at Florida State and led his Seminoles to their first-ever National Championship in a win over Nebraska in 1993.
The 1993 Heisman Trophy and 1993 Maxwell Award winner certainly made an impact at the professional level but believe it or not, the former quarterback never played a single down in the NFL, let alone was even drafted. It was in the NBA however, where Ward made a career for himself.
Ward is just one of 14 players to have won the Heisman Trophy but not be drafted into the NFL and while the two-time ACC Athlete of the Year never played professional football, he may have taken a smarter and much safer route with the NBA. Today, Ward runs the aWard Foundation, which enhances young people’s lives through sports mentoring.
10. Dorial Green-Beckham – NFL Free Agent
Green-Beckham attended Hillcrest High School where he accumulated an astounding 300 catches, 6,356 receiving yards, 74 receiving touchdowns and averaged an unheard-of 21.2 yards per catch. The Springfield, Missouri native won the Sporting News Athlete of the Year award and also earned the right to play in the 2012 Army All-American bowl before committing to the University of Missouri. Unfortunately the standout receiver was dismissed from the university due to legal troubles. Green-Beckham transferred to the University of Oklahoma but due to the NCAA transfer rules, was ineligible to play throughout the duration of the season.
Despite not playing a single down at Oklahoma, Green-Beckham was drafted in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans and had a decent rookie year accumulating 549 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Prior to the 2016 season, Green-Beckham was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles but was waived in June, 2017 after only picking up 392 receiving yards and two touchdowns the previous year. He was arrested on DUI charges in December and many are wondering if his NFL career is already over.
9. Tre Mason – Facing Charges For Operating ATV On Public Road
You may remember Mason as the star-running back of the Auburn Tigers where he led his conference in rushing and set a new school-record with 1,816 rushing yards before leading his team to an SEC Championship game in 2013. The Amityville, NY native was drafted by the Rams in the third round of the 2014 draft and in just his rookie year, led his team in rushing with 765 yards through 12 games. Unfortunately for Mason, the Rams elected to use their No. 10 overall pick in the 2015 draft on Todd Gurley, a running back out of Georgia and while the Rams seem to have struck gold with the Gurley pick, it also seems likely that this pick ultimately ended Mason’s career.
The 24-year-old and former Rams running back failed to report to the team prior to the beginning of last season and just over a year ago, was arrested in Florida for fleeing from cops after they tried to stop him on his ATV. Mason fled to his mother’s home in Lake Worth, Florida and was arrested for operating an ATV on public roads and also for fleeing from the police.
8. Kellen Moore – Cowboys QB Coach
The former high school Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Washington racked up 8,330 passing yards and 126 passing touchdowns in his high school career at Prosser High School but endured a very underwhelming career in the NFL that began with the Detroit Lions and ended with the Dallas Cowboys. The Prosser, Washington native went undrafted but was quickly signed by the Lions where he served as the third-string QB for the 2014 season. In March 2015, Moore signed a two-year contract with the Lions but unfortunately was cut after he failed to make the 53-man roster.
Throughout his years in the NFL, Moore started in just two of his three games played (both in the 2015 season) where he completed 61 of his 104 attempts and passed for 779 yards. He finished the season with just four touchdowns and six interceptions. In October, 2017, Moore was re-signed to the Cowboys practice squad and just recently, on January 23, 2018, made the transition from practice squad quarterback to quarterback’s coach for the team.
7. Ryan Perrilloux – Former Arena Football QB
The former quarterback attended East (LA) St. John High School in Reserve, Louisiana, where he had arguably one of the most dominant high school careers of all time as he shattered the state record for total offense when he totaled 12,705 yards from scrimmage. Perrilloux also recorded a total of 155 touchdowns (84 passing, 71 rushing).
The 2004 USA Today High School Offensive Player of the Year attended both LSU and Jacksonville State college and went undrafted in 2010 but was later signed to a future/reserve contract with the New York Giants. In an unusual sequence of events, the quarterback was released on September 3, 2011 and then later resigned to the practice squad on the same day. Throughout his next few months, Perrilloux was signed and released a total of five more times before joining the New Orleans VooDoo in the Arena Football League.
6. Michael Hart – RBs Coach For Indiana
Known as the one of the best high school running backs of all time, Mike Hart led Onondaga High School to a 46-1 record during his four years there and was able to notch three consecutive state titles on his belt. The 5-foot-9 running back also came within just 187 yards of breaking the all time rushing record for a high schooler as he racked up 11,045 career yards on the ground at Onondaga (second to Ken Hall with 11,232 yards, Sugar Land High School).
The Syracuse, NY native was selected by the Indianapolis Colts fairly late in the 2008 NFL Draft with the 202nd overall pick. Hart missed numerous games throughout his career after being plagued by ankle injuries.
After retiring from the NFL, Hart coached for Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan and Syracuse as a running backs coach and is currently the running backs coach for the Indiana Hoosiers. It’s safe to say that Hart’s coaching career will be more memorable than his NFL career when everything is said and done.
5. Todd Marinovich – Still battling Addiction
Robo-QB had a ton of pressure on him from a young age by his father. Todd Marinovich didn’t lead a normal childhood, as he was constantly training and dieting while other kids were enjoying the perks of being a kid. Marinovich though, appeared to be a once in a lifetime athlete and eventually the Los Angeles Raiders took a chance on the kid out of USC. Marinovich made national headlines back in high school while attending Capistrano Valley High School. Little did people know though, that the pressure was getting to Marinovich who eventually turned to some heavy narcotics. While Marinovich seemed to be doing better in an ESPN 30 for 30 released on him a few years ago, he’s had his relapses, including being arrested after being found naked and in possession of narcotics in a neighbor’s backyard.
4. Maurice Clarett – Still Struggling
Clarett began his high school career at Austintown-Fitch High School and transferred to Warren G. Harding High School prior to his sophomore year. After a successful three years at Warren G. Harding, Clarett began gaining national attention and was ranked in the top 100 high school players nationally.
Clarett was also known for his off-the-field issues which included an academic scandal and two arrests that eventually led to his dismissal from the university. Clarett never finished college and later fought the NFL’s rule that a player must wait three years to enter the draft after graduating high school. Clarett eventually declared for the 2005 NFL Draft where he was selected 101st overall by the Denver Broncos.
After his list of arrests and underwhelming training camp, Clarett found himself sitting on free agency and was unable to gain any interest by other teams, eventually ending his football career before ever playing a snap in the NFL.
3. Johnny Manziel – Attempting NFL Comeback
One of the most hyped-up football players of all time, Manziel racked up 7,626 passing yards and 76 touchdowns in high school and another 7,820 passing yards and 63 touchdowns in his two years of college football at Texas A&M where he won the most prestigious college football award in 2012, the Heisman Trophy. After being labeled “Johnny Football”, the Tyler, TX native gained national attention and there was much speculation about his talent translating to the NFL.
Ultimately it was his attitude that did him in, as his lack of work ethic and his alcohol problems limited his NFL career to two years.
Today, Manziel continues to train for a potential NFL comeback and has even released his own line of clothing and merchandise that features the term “Comeback SZN” which is short for “Comeback Season.”
2. Tim Couch – CFB Analyst
After setting national records for passing yards (12, 1o4), touchdown passes (132), passing completions (872) and passing percentage (75.1) the Leslie County High School quarterback from Hayden, KY was named Kentucky’s “Mr. Football” and was well on his way to a successful college career.
Couch was selected first overall in the 1999 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns who returned to the NFL as an expansion after being relocated to Baltimore in 1996. Couch endured a five-year career with the Browns but struggled to produce numbers similar to those he put up in high school and college.
1. Bryce Brown – Free Agent
The First Team All-Wichita selection as a freshman rushed for 1,472 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first year at Wichita High School and throughout his next few years in high school, rushed for a total of 7,209 yards overall and was named to the USA-Today All-USA team for his second consecutive time.
After a short stay at Kansas State College after failing to start in a game, Brown elected to prematurely enter the 2012 NFL Draft where he was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the seventh round where he served as a backup to LeSean McCoy for two years. In May, 2014 Brown was traded to the Buffalo Bills and later released in September, 2015. Just a month later, Brown was signed by the Seattle Seahawks where he was eventually waived and re-signed three times before wrapping up his career with just 1,076 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
Brown is still listed as an unrestricted free agent but has failed to gain any traction in free agency since being waived.
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