There was a time when high school athletes were basically anonymous unless they were being named in national magazines for their play. Thanks to the internet, those days are long over and we now know what a two star kicker from the middle of South Dakota plans on doing for his college days. Because of the boom in internet recruiting websites, there have been a lot of prep athletes that were hyped up beyond belief.
It’s hard to tell if a high school player is going to pan out, as the jump from high school to FBS level football is a massive one. Then again, there are some players that play up to the level of their hype, making their fanbases incredibly happy. Let’s take a look at some of the prospects that have received the most attention in the internet age and see how they fared in their college (and pro) careers.
We didn’t include some players like Trenton Thompson, Andrew Brown and Rashan Gary, as it is too early to tell how they fared since they still have another full season in college. Here are the 15 best football recruits from high school and what happened after National Signing Day.
15 Matthew Stafford
Attending Highland Park High School in Dallas, Texas, Matthew Stafford stood out as one of the best quarterback prospects that many scouts had seen in quite some time. Stafford was being hailed as a future NFL star while he was still in high school and he attended Georgia, where he would start as a true freshman.
14 Adrian Peterson
Many USC Trojan fans were hoping that when Adrian Peterson made his decision, he would be making the move from Texas to Southern California. Instead, Peterson ended up committing to the Oklahoma Sooners, where he was immediately drawing comparisons to former Sooners like Marcus Dupree. Peterson made a huge splash in his freshman season, rushing for 1,925 yards and 15 touchdowns.
13 Terrelle Pryor
Terrelle Pryor could have selected a career in either basketball or football, but the Pennsylvania native ended up choosing the latter. Pryor had his choice of colleges, and would end up committing to Ohio State. Pryor would see a lot of playing time in his freshman season, appearing in 13 games while throwing for 1,311 yards, 12 touchdowns and four interceptions, adding 631 yards on the ground.
12 Manti Te’o
Hawaii has produced some impressive recruits over the past decade and the best of the bunch was linebacker Manti Te’o. Te’o was a two time state player of the year in Hawaii and the Sporting News named him the High School Athlete of the Year. Te’o would end up choosing Notre Dame, playing for Charlie Weis.
11 Percy Harvin
Percy Harvin has always been an interesting character, and that even dates back to his high school days when he was getting in trouble with his coaches. Harvin would still be offered by just about every college in the United States and he would choose the University of Florida. In his three seasons with the Gators, Harvin proved to be very versatile, amassing 1,852 rushing yards and 1,929 receiving yards.
10 Myron Rolle
Although there were some scouting services that had Myron Rolle as low as 12th, ESPN had him rated as the top player coming out of high school in 2006. Rolle was always an academic stud in addition to having on-the-field talent and he would commit to Florida State where he played safety. Rolle would start in all three of his seasons in Tallahassee, collecting a total of 206 tackles and an interception.
9 Will Hill
Attending school in Jersey City, New Jersey, Will Hill proved to be a multi-talented athlete that excelled in both track and football, where he played several different positions. Hill had remarkable speed and colleges were lining up to get the athlete’s services since his potential to play multiple positions was vital. Hill chose Florida of the schools that offered, and he was plugged in right away.
8 Jabrill Peppers
Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey has produced a lot of college football talent and that includes Jabrill Peppers from the 2014 recruiting class. Peppers made a lot of Wolverine fans happy when he decided to head to Ann Arbor for college, though he wouldn’t get as much early playing time as some of the other players on the list. Peppers played in just three games during his freshman season, but that would change in his sophomore season.
7 Julio Jones
Julio Jones didn’t travel far to attend college after going to high school in Foley, Alabama. Jones made his decision to play for the Crimson Tide in February 2008, and was a day one starter in his freshman season. Jones would finish with 924 yards and four touchdowns during his first campaign, earning the conference’s Freshman of the Year award.
6 Da’Quan Bowers
Da’Quan Bowers was able to do anything in high school in South Carolina, where he was a stud on both offense and defense. His tremendous strength and speed earned him the top spot in the 2008 recruiting class, where he was drawing comparisons to Reggie White. Bowers had his pick of the litter in terms of colleges, choosing Clemson, where he would play for three seasons.
5 Leonard Fournette
Just like Julio Jones, Leonard Fournette decided to stay in state for college, picking LSU after being compared to running backs like Adrian Peterson. Fournette would have a solid freshman season despite all of the hype, finishing with 1,034 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. The next year, though, would bring some Heisman talk as he had 1,953 yards on the ground and 22 touchdowns (in addition to 253 receiving yards and a touchdown).
4 Robert Nkemdiche
Back when Robert Nkemdiche decided that he was going to enroll at Ole Miss (after originally picking Clemson), many were saying that it was the biggest recruiting get for the school since Eli Manning. Nkemdiche was the consensus top high school player when he made his choice in 2013, a rare feat only achieved by the top four players on our list.
3 Vince Young
High school football was already a big deal in Texas, but due to the fact that Vince Young was always on television and committed to play with the Longhorns, the hype was out of this world in the Lone Star State. Young had gathered just about every award you can get as a prep athlete in Texas and his college career would end up being what Longhorn fans were hoping for.
2 Ernie Sims
In a recruiting class that would end up producing Reggie Bush, the title of top prospect actually went to Ernie Sims from Tallahassee, Florida. Sims stayed in town to play for Florida State, getting significant playing time in his first season. Sims was expected to breakout during the 2005 season, though he ran into trouble with the law before the season started.
1 Jadeveon Clowney
No more hype has surrounded a high school athlete quite like Jadeveon Clowney. When the Rock Hill, South Carolina native was ready to make his college decision, every football fan tuned in to see where he would go. Clowney decided to stay in state, attending South Carolina, bringing a lot of excitement for the Gamecocks fans. In his college career, Clowney would not disappoint them.
Clowney was named to the first-team All-ACC squad in both 2012 and 2013, also being named to the first-team All-American teams. Clowney finished his three seasons with 47 tackles for a loss (129 total) and 24 sacks en route to the 2012 Ted Hendricks Award. Clowney has been dealing with injuries, but that didn’t stop him from being named the top overall pick in 2014 by the Houston Texans. Hopefully, he can overcome the injuries and live up to his potential.
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