Coaches Making Run For Border For Texas RB

College coaches are already looking towards McAllen, Texas, a town just miles from the Mexico border, for junior running back prospect Bradley Stephens. The 2,000-yard rusher has a connection to Ohio State and has also been up to see games in person. We have more today on this player to watch from next year's class of seniors.

If you don't already know about Bradley Stephens, you soon will. After all, there's a simple explanation as to why. But understand one thing: college football coaches know all about him.

Recruiting experts and college coaches alike can agree on one simple premise - the 5-10 tailback has quite a bit going for him.

So now if you're still asking yourself why you haven't heard of him, you're probably not alone. For starters, the 185-pounder is just a junior. Secondly, he lives in the southernmost portion of the United States. And lastly, he's not a kid that demands attention.

But now he's getting plenty of it.

"This is exciting, this is what I want to do - play college ball," he told Bucknuts.com. "It's nice to get attention from all these universities but you just have to take it one step at a time and not overwhelm yourself with it."

The soft-spoken kid is one of the top running backs in the United States in the class of 2007. When you mention running backs, this strong, shifty runner with 4.42 speed from McAllen, Texas near Brownsville will be mentioned in the same breath as Florida preps Noel Devine and Chris Rainey.

He plays for Memorial High School in the 5-A division in the state of Texas - which is the largest schools and the best competition. McAllen is a city of 106,000 people located just about five miles from the border of Mexico and a little over a half hour west of Brownsville.

Stephens' measured stats are impressive. He boasts a 35-inch vertical leap, a 505-pound squat and nearly a 300-pound bench press. But his football statistics are equally impressive.

This season as a junior, Stephens rushed for an astonishing 2,638 yards and 39 yards while running for 10.8 yards a carry. He led the state in rushing while Memorial finished 6-4, losing in the first round of the state playoffs.

But that's only half the story as to why teams are in a rush to send letters, ask for phone calls and visits.

"Basically I'm hearing from Texas, Texas A&M, Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Nebraska, Northwestern, Michigan State, mostly all the Big 12 schools, the Floridas -- Miami, Florida State Florida -- Georgia, a lot of the SEC teams, and some others," he said.

On top of being one of the most heralded players in the state of Texas as a junior, which is not an easy feat in itself, Stephens is a 4.0 student whose family is a close-knit group with a religious background, strong moral fiber and respect and humility.

Early in the process, the Aggies and Buckeyes have a beat on Stephens. But even Stephens is mature enough to understand what's at stake.

"Because we want to narrow the schools down soon, we want to make sure we give everyone a chance so it wouldn't be fair to cut off any schools out right now because I'm only a junior and still in the process," the Texas prep star said.

As a junior, Stephens saw a game in both Columbus and College Station. Early in the season, Stephens and his father Craig went up to Ohio State to watch their big clash with the Longhorns of Texas.

That gave Craig a chance to spend time with his brother (Bradley's uncle) who is a tenured zoology professor at Ohio State. It also gave Bradley his first look at a game at Ohio State.

"Oh my gosh, the stadium was sold out and it was crazy," Stephens said. "That's got to be the biggest stadium I've been to for a football game. Over 100,000 people, so it was crazy."

It was more than he bargained for.

"I think it was a bigger deal (than I expected)," he added. "I mean you don't really know what to expect from a place until you go through it but the atmosphere was awesome."

The elder Stephens' brother, Craig joked, has been recruiting Bradley quite a bit to Ohio State. But he's not alone.

Ohio State has been sending plenty of mail, including hand-written letters from Ohio State RB Coach Dick Tressel, who has mentioned to the Stephens family that the Buckeyes would like a running back in their 2007 recruiting class.

The younger Stephens, however, in addition to visiting his uncle took plenty away from his chance to watch Ohio State and Texas.

He spoke with the coaches, toured a few of the facilities and took in some of the gameday traditions at Ohio State.

Just a few weeks ago, he got yet another chance to watch Texas, but this time in a rivalry game at Texas A&M. It was only the second time the entire year they were able to schedule a trip to see a game, something Bradley's father says they hope to do a little more often next year.

But they made the most of their only other trip this season.

"I got to talk to Coach Fran (Dennis Franchione), that was the first thing I did," Stephens said. "After that, we watched the pre-game warm-up and I got to talk to the RB coach, my recruiting coach and watched the team warm up. We got to look around the buildings and watched the game. It was a good visit."

Often times it might be hard to pluck a high school kid away from the state of Texas and especially out of the South, but this isn't necessarily your typical Southern kid.

Stephens grew up in Chicago and lived there until he was 9 years old. It was then that his father, a successful entrepreneur, moved them to Texas.

"When I was really young, I was a big Northwestern fan because that was kind of the area that I grew up in," Stephens said, "but now I would say I'm just a real big fan of college football. It's my favorite sport and I like watching good games."

And so for that, he's got a little South and a little Upper Midwest in him.

"I guess sometimes I still miss the snow," he laughed.

"I guess I'm not necessarily a pure Texas kid, but I like it a lot here and I love the football down here. It's good smash-mouth football."

Ohio State and Northwestern are not the only Big Ten schools to take up interest in Stephens. Michigan was actually the first school to begin recruiting him.

And come next fall, that's a game that Mr. Stephens and his son will have highlighted as a can't-miss game. They have already made a mental note to make every attempt in their power to attend next year's game in Columbus.

Scheduling prevented them from seeing more games this year with his high school season, church, school and everything else.

And that's before the onslaught of phone calls begin from recruiting journalists and coaches once college programs can begin calling him next spring.

Because of that, the family hopes to begin narrowing their list by summer. Then they can concentrate on visits and working with a select list of schools.

Until that time, however, people must sit back and watch as the legend grows. And that's pretty typical for a good Texas football player.

But this one has coaches making a run for the border while he makes a run at greatness. While coaches find McAllen, he continues to find the endzone.

He may not have demanded the attention, but he's certainly about to get it.


Buckeye Sports Top Stories