Being one of the little tyke ball boys for the Dragons football team while my father coached on staff there were the most fun years of my childhood and that was one heck of a 5A football district in a time where trophies weren't handed out for wearing a uniform, four teams didn't advance to the high school playoffs and only one real state champion was crowned in each class.
Thinking back on those days while cruising through Corrigan-Camden, Diboll and Lufkin before arriving in Nacogdoches, it's hard to image playing in a district now that was made up of Longview, John Tyler, Tyler Lee, Lufkin, Marshall, Nacogdoches, Pine Tree and Texas High.
Many of the top athletes the state has produced in a number of sports made their mark on the football field, basketball courts, baseball fields and the track at each school.
The trip up 59 to Nacogdoches leads to highway 259, which takes one into Henderson (home of Adren Dudley) passing through Mt. Enterprise (2010 sleeper RB/LB Kevin Pope) and on into Kilgore.
Kilgore is my favorite stop of any trip taken. Coach Vallery and his staff is a fun bunch of guys and make me as comfortable in the coaching office as any. Spending two hours or more with each stop is a given with talk ranging from Kilgore players to area players to college football (LSU assistant through recently was talking up Russell Shepard big time) and anything in between. They seem to think Phil Mickelson is my twin, minus the need for a manzire, and they wished me well at TPC Sawgrass Thursday.
The tough luck of Eddie Jones was a topic today. The unofficial number for Jones' surgeries is seven consisting of three shoulders, two knees, a wrist and an ankle. The Kilgore coaching staff couldn't feel worse for their former star and wish for just a healthy season to give Jones a single chance to stay on the field.
Have to mention that the Houston Rockets-Lakers playoff game is on in my hotel room and while the game is a good one, the half time show on TNT with Charles Barkley has me thinking about the Haney Project and the brutal golf swing of the NBA Hall of Famer. There are train wrecks and then there is the golf swing, if one calls it a swing, of Barkley. Chris Dudley's free throw stroke thinks Barkley has too many hitches in his golf swing.
Back to Kilgore, the Bulldogs aren't the immensely talented team of recent years, but they will feature one of the state's top 2011 prospects next season. Tight end Patrick Colbert is every bit of 6-5, 250 with long arms and agility. A future offensive tackle is likely and Oklahoma State was on hand checking him out as well as a junior kicker/punter that is receiving legit interest from LSU, Arkansas and the Cowboys.
Kilgore also has a 6-3, 400-pound freshman at left guard. If he can shed 50-60 pounds, the Bulldogs could have a player on their hands, as the feet were impressive for a 400-pounder. Typing 400-pounder without it being the result of a typo is a new one for me.
While the stop at Kilgore excited me, it was the 28-minute drive to Whitehouse that featured a wealth of 2011 football talent.
Many high school football fans and recruiting junkies are already aware of the talents of sophomore receiver Trey Metoyer, but the Wildcats feature a 2011 class that could produce up to six or seven D-I prospects.
On Metoyer, he is one of the rare skill players in which his lack of straight-line speed (mid-to-high 4.6's) is rendered meaningless. Much like some of the top prospects without standout 40-yard dash times, the 6-2, 177-pounder is blessed with hand eye coordination, body control, leaping ability, foot quickness, a game gear, the ability to separate out of breaks and instincts for his position that many can only dream. Making the position look easy is an every play occurrence for the long armed sophomore.
Quincy Aldridge, cousin of former Jacksonville and Texas A&M lineman Jami Hightower, is another sophomore that will be recruited nationally. With 13 interceptions in two seasons on varsity, anything reading other than "The Ball Hawk" on his letter jacket is a misrepresentation of the 6-1.5, 175-pounder. Four picks in two games off state champion and All-American quarterback Tyrik Rollison, as a freshman deserves a plaque on the wall. The corner turned safety will also line up in the slot next to Metoyer in 2009. What a lethal combo on the high school level that could be the next two seasons.
Jellybean's kid is on fire tonight.
Add in running back/safety Dujuan Shelton (6-0, 190, 4.5), who looks the best on the hoof, defensive tackle Joey Gautney (6-2, 246, 4.75) and up and coming quarterback Preston Conder (6-0, 175, 4.7) and the Wildcats have five prospects that could very well suit up in the Big 12 one day.
Conder is sitting on a quarterbacking gold mine with the D-1 weapons at his disposal. Area code throws will result in big plays and he possesses the arm strength to stretch the field.
Leaving Whitehouse, the mind wondered to Troup basketball. For some reason, the state tournament years featuring the Troup-Krum battles were my favorite. Greg Austin of Troup, to this day, is one of the top athletes that washed out after high school without realizing his potential.
Of course, the Jasper brothers of UCLA, A&M and NFL fame are the pride and joy of Troup. That is one talented small East Texas town.
Uh, oh, Luke Walton's perm is about to throw down with Luis Scola's mop.
Derrick Fisher just went Quentin Coryatt on Scola. That was the opposite of "Didn't know they grew ‘em so small down on the farm". Rockets miss Dikembe's razor sharp elbows about now.
Back to East Texas, spring football and what's on tap. Wednesday was a great day, albeit the warm up to what should be a fast paced Thursday featuring stops at Longview, John Tyler and Daingerfield.
The Lobos sophomore class was as impressive as any physically during the season and before today, while John Tyler and Daingerfield feature two commits in the Longhorn's 2010 class in Ashton Dorsey and Chris Jones.