Harv currently writes for Abstract Sports, the Sports History Network, and the magazine Gridiron Greats. Harv wrote the published book "Pro Football's Most Passionate Fans" and as a professional writer has had articles published in an array of sports publications.
High School Standouts Who Made it to the Professional Level
Professional athletes are typically known by the teams they play for. Sometimes their college alma mater comes into the discussion. But how many times do you hear anyone talking about what HIGH SCHOOL they graduated from?
From High School to the Pros, from Different League Perspectives
Certainly, there have been some outstanding players even hall-of-famers that skipped the college level and became amazing athletes in their respective sports on the professional level. Some of those more famous and successful men were Tracy McGrady, Shawn Kemp, Dwight Howard, Moses Malone, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and today’s superstar, LeBron James in basketball. You won’t find many instances in football specifically the National Football League because they prohibit any player from being drafted or signed until they have been out of high school for at least three years.
The famous case of Maurice Clarett comes to mind when considering the NFL rules about eligibility and for Clarett, he was a star at Ohio State in his freshman year then attempted to enter the 2004 NFL draft following his debut as a Buckeye. He had to go to court to gain access to the draft which was originally won by Clarett but then subsequently reversed. In 2005 however, he did get selected by the Denver Broncos in the third round but never made it to the regular season because of personal issues he was causing with the coaching staff in Denver.
In the NFL I did find one instance of a high school graduate making the pros and his name was Andy Livingston turning the trick in 1964. Still alive today at 75 years of age, Livingston hailed from Eufaula, Oklahoma and attended Mesa High School in Arizona but failed to graduate. Technically Livingston did not go straight to the NFL from high school because he was enrolled at Phoenix College where the NFL provided him with a hardship exemption allowing him to leave Phoenix College and come to the professional level. He went ton to play as a running back for the Chicago Bears from 1964 to 1968 and then another season with the New Orleans Saints in 1969 before being forced to quit because of a knee injury in 1970. In 1969 Livingston rushed for 761 yards for the Saints. When he scored his first NFL touchdown he became the youngest in NFL history to do so at the tender age of 20 years and 53 days old.
As for the diamonds of baseball, perhaps the most famous high school-to-major league instance was the of Joe Nuxhall. The former Cincinnati Reds pitcher came out of high school to take the mound in the pros at just at 15. There have been other players some very famous making their way into the pros and skipping college or the minor leagues. How about the great Mel Ott who became one of the game’s greatest for the New York Giants after being educated at Gretna High School in Louisiana? Remember Jim “Catfish” Hunter? Straight to MLB from Perquimans County High School in North Carolina. Harmon Killebrew skipped the minors after attending Payette High School in Idaho and was signed by the Washington Senators. Maryland’s Southern High School produced the same result for Al Kaline. Then there is the fireballing Bob Feller who became a stud pitcher for the Cleveland Indians after leaving Van Meter High School in Iowa.
When it comes to hockey, like baseball high schoolers can get drafted or signed but often they are sent packing to the farm teams first before getting a shot with their respective NHL teams. But there have been exceptions. Tom Barrasso who had an outstanding NHL career debuted in 1984 at just age 18 and won the Vezina Trophy for the top goaltender. Jeremy Roenick took the same path. Hall of Fame defenseman Phil Housley made it from high school to the pros on a direct path. The roots for high schoolers to the NHL began with Bobby Carpenter who was drafted in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft after attending St. John’s Preparatory School in Massachusetts became the first player in the National Hockey League to take a direct path from high school to the NHL.
High School Football Standouts Who Made it to the NFL
So now that we’ve established that high school athletes can turn pro without the benefit of a minor league, farm team, or college what high schools have sent the most athletes directly into the money-making world of professional sports? In a report I found on Credit Loan from February of 2019, they list the top pro-producing schools for each of the major sports. What are the top five for each? Let’s begin with the NFL and in parentheses are the number of players listed that made the NFL according to Credit Loan.
- Wide receiver DeSean Jackson is a product of Long Beach Polytechnic in Long Beach, California (56). As of the date of this research, Long Beach Polytechnic turned out an incredible 56 NFL players. Among that large group are Brian Banks, Marcedes Lewis, Willie McGinest, Gene Washington, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. You will see this high school in the top five of baseball as well and if you want to talk other sports, Long Beach has an alumnus that includes tennis great Billie Jean King. Rap star and professed sports enthusiast Snoop Dogg also attended this school. The school dates back to its origin in the year 1895.
- Not too far behind Long Beach is Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia (45) that with Credit Loan’s report has sent 45 men into the NFL including Vinny Testaverde. While not establishing himself as one of the best quarterbacks ever, some of Testaverde’s fellow alumnus that reached football’s top level was Plaxico Burress, Jim Druckenmiller, Eddie George, Carlos Hyde, C.J. Spillman, and Michael Thomas.
- Susan Miller Dorsey High School (33) is the second in the top five to be located in California. Keyshawn Johnson’s resume lists this as his high school alma mater. Joining Johnson as graduates are Keith Browner Jr., Na’il Diggs, and Dennis Northcutt. While this school failed to make the list in baseball the late Sparky Anderson spent his teenage years being educated here.
- The state of Florida makes the list with St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Ft. Lauderdale (33). This is where Joey Bosa spent his days playing football on this level. His alma mater has won an incredible 100 state titles in this all their sports combined. Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins also came out of St. Thomas Aquinas. Of course, Joey Bosa’s brother Nick also is a graduate. Hall of Famer Michael Irvin is a graduate of this school. If you never saw the original version of the movie “Brian’s Song” the centerpiece of the film was Brian Piccolo who also came out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School. Another star tennis player rose to the top of her sport as well and came from this school and that was Chris Evert.
- The Pro Football Hall of Fame is located in Canton, Ohio. That’s also home for McKinley High School (31) that has sent the fifth-most men into the NFL including current running back Leonard Fournette of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Way back in the NFL there was a man who ran similar to the great Jim Brown and his name was Marion Motley. He is a graduate of McKinley. So is Mike Doss, Tyler Everett, and Percy Snow. Some famous NFL coaches also consider McKinley as home, such as Wayne Fontes and Josh McDaniels.
High School Baseball Standouts Who Made it to the MLB
As we move away from football and into baseball stadiums, the top five professional producing high schools are:
- Fremont High School, Los Angeles (25). California sure does have its roots in pro sports. Since 1924, some great baseball players hail from this school. Just check out some of these names that will be household if you know baseball. Eric Davis, Bobby Doerr (Hall of Famer), Chet Lemon, James Lofton, Gene Mauch, Bobby Tolan, and Bob Watson. There are many more but other athletes also came out of Fremont such as Ricky Bell, a famed football player.
- Long Beach Polytechnic in Long Beach, California (19). A repeater in this list, Long Beach put players on the pro diamonds as well in the names of Milton Bradley, Tony Gwynn, and Chase Utley. Gwynn’s brother Chris also made the majors. Randy Moffitt is another.
- Sarasota High School, Sarasota, Florida (17). In the state of Florida where the sun shines most of the year, baseball is a sport that can be played for 365 days. It’s not a surprise that Major League Baseball talent has come out of the “Sunshine State.” With nearly 20 big-league players making it to the top from this high school none of the names is household but a few are Joe Ayrault, Adrian Garrett, Wayne Garrett, Scooter Genett, Derek Lilliquist, Jason Miller, and Bobby Seay.
- Sacramento High School, Sacramento, California (16). One of the older schools you will find in this article is Sacramento High established in 1856 but became a charter school in 2003. The baseball players that took the field for this high school and eventually made their way to the top level may not be as well known as say those from Fremont but they are former Major Leaguers. Stan Hack is a familiar name. Jerry Royster played for five different teams on the pro level. Gordon Jones lasted 11 years in MLB. But in football, Jim Breech a very successful placekicker came out of Sacramento High.
- Woodrow Wilson High School, Long Beach, California (15). California is another state with relatively good weather and so they make up four of the top five spots. Wilson’s top product would have to be Bob Lemon who starred with the Cleveland Indians and then would become a manager for the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox, and New York Yankees. Other players from this high school were Jeff Burroughs, Bob Bailey, Bud Daley, Bobby Grich, and Jim Pagliaroni.
High School Basketball Standouts Who Made it to the NBA
Wrapping up this high school discussion is the sport of basketball. Saving the NBA for last, this is a league where many high schoolers have bypassed college and went right into the National Basketball Association many of whom made it big (Kobe Bryant). Producing the most pro talent are the following top five schools.
- Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, Virginia (29). Oak Hill can be considered an “NBA factory.” After all, claiming this as their alma mater are Rod Strickland, Jerry Stackhouse, Rajon Rondo, Ron Mercer, Jeff McInnis, Ty Lawson, Sean Green, Ben Davis, William Avery, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony among others. The talent is not the only thing that places this school at the top of the list. Oak Hill was named national champions in 1993, 94, 99, 2001, 04, 07, 12, and 2016.
- DeWitt Clinton, the Bronx, New York (17). Having lived in New York for a while I can attest how popular street basketball is there. I believe around 14th street in Manhattan used to be a hot spot for pickup games often visited by some of the best talents that the city had to offer as well as men who would end up in the NBA. Up in the Bronx, you have DeWitt Clinton High School that turned out one of the best NBA players in history named Dolph Schayes. Some of the other men who played for the “Governors” were Nate Archibald, Butch Lee, and Ricky Sobers.
- DeMatha Catholic, Hyattsville, Maryland (16). While not the top NBA producing school, DeMatha may be the most well known. Perhaps it is because, in 2005 and 2007, Sports Illustrated featured these schools as being the second-best athletic program in the country. The school turned out NBA’s Kenny Carr, Adrian Dantley, Dereck Whittenburg, Sidney Lowe, Adrian Branch, and Danny Ferry.
- Laurinburg Institute, Laurinburg, North Carolina (13). Of the 13 players coming out of the Laurinburg Institute (sounds like a science project) only one needs mentioning to prove the level of talent from this school. The great Sam Jones graduated from Laurinburg but so did Chris Washburn. For the #4 ranked basketball producing high school Laurinburg can hang their hat on one name alone that of Sam Jones, one of the best ever.
- Hargrave Military Academy, Chatham, Virginia (13). Finally, there is a second Virginia high school. Interestingly, we have four out of the top five from the south. NBA names from this school include Sam Young, Josh Howard, Lorenzo Brown, P.J. Hairston, Sharrod Ford, and Lonny Baxter. Worth mention from Hargrave is football standout and NFL star Torry Holt as well as fellow NFLers Martavis Bryant, Solomon Page, DJ Ware, and Muhammad Wilkerson.
Is your high school listed in this article? Have there been any famous pro athletes from your alma mater? Your answers are welcome on this topic. Send your responses to Abstract Sports and we’ll see if we can get them listed at a later date. Just for curiosity's sake, let’s take a look at some of the newest Hall of Fame entrants for each sport and find out where they graduated high school from.
NFL class of 2020: Troy Polamalu (Douglas High School in Winston, Oregon), Isaac Bruce (Dillard High School, Fort Lauderdale), Edgerrin James (Immokalee High School, Immokalee, Florida), Steve Atwater (Lutheran High School North, St. Louis, Missouri), Steve Hutchinson (Coral Springs High School, Coral Springs, Florida).
NBA class of 2019: Bobby Jones (South Mecklenburg, Charlotte, North Carolina), Sidney Moncrief (Hall High School, Little Rock, Arkansas), Jack Sikma (St. Anne High School, St. Anne, Illinois), Teresa Weatherspoon (West Sabine High School, Texas), Paul Westphal (Aviation High School, Redondo Beach, California), Al Attles (Weequahic High School, (Newark, New Jersey), Chuck Cooper ( Westinghouse High School, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), Carl Braun (Garden City High School, Garden City, New York).
Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2020: Derek Jeter (Kalamazoo Central High School, Kalamazoo, Michigan), Larry Walker (Maple Ridge Secondary School. Vancouver, British Columbia).