The Last Hurrah

If only you'd been sitting next to Dennis McCarthy that brisk, New Jersey afternoon in 1998, you would have seen it too. The hulking wide receiver looked too good to miss, running routes like he belonged in college or maybe even the NFL.

If you'd sat there, you would have forgiven McCarthy when he leaned to the person sitting next to him and whispered: How old is that kid? Twenty-five?

Thirty years spent scouting high school football and McCarthy had never seen anything quite like Johnnie Morant. At 16, he stood 6-foot-5 and weighed 220- pounds. He could run like Randy Moss and make diving catches like Jerry Rice.

He would be the greatest athlete to ever come out of New Jersey.

"Without a doubt, he was the best talent I've ever seen," said McCarthy, who publishes an annual New Jersey recruiting report. "I'd bet you that nobody in the NFL has that much pure talent."

Johnnie looked like he'd been sculpted by the Gods, like he was God's gift to football. And every play, every minute, we just waited for him to unleash that talent on the world.

They're still waiting.

More from Eli Saslow can be found in this month's issue of The Juice.

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