North Carolina to the NFL Part 4: What North Carolina high schools and counties have produced the most eventual NFL players?


North Carolina to the NFL

(This is the fourth in a series on the North Carolina products who went on to play in the NFL. Here are the previous and upcoming stories:)

Part 1: The first NFL player came in 1921 and he came from the state’s winningest high school program. Link: https://carolinassportshub.com/north-carolina-to-the-nfl-part-1-the-first-nfl-player-came-in-1921-and-he-came-from-the-states-winningest-high-school-program/

Part 2: North Carolina to the NFL Part 2: Jim Thorpe is not a N.C. native but he spent time in the state and later recruited N.C. natives for his NFL team. Link: https://carolinassportshub.com/north-carolina-to-the-nfl-part-2-jim-thorpe-is-not-a-n-c-native-but-he-spent-time-in-the-state-and-later-recruited-n-c-natives-for-his-nfl-team/

Part 3: What do the numbers say about North Carolina high school products in the NFL? How many have there been? And who played the longest in the NFL? Link: https://carolinassportshub.com/north-carolina-to-the-nfl-part-3-what-do-the-numbers-say-about-north-carolina-high-school-products-in-the-nfl-how-many-have-there-been-and-who-played-the-longest-in-the-nfl/

Part 5: Which colleges have benefitted the most from North Carolina high school products who eventually played in the NFL?

Part 6: How many NFL first round picks have been produced by North Carolina high schools?

Part 7: How did eventual NFL players do when they played for North Carolina high schools?

Part 8: North Carolina has a handful of natives who didn’t attend high school in the state before making it to the NFL. Here’s a look at some of them.


By Richard Walker

Entering the 2021 NFL season, North Carolina high schools have produced 628 eventual players since the first N.C. prep product broke in during the 1921 season.

And 254 schools in 80 of the 100 counties in the state have produced those players.

So which schools have produced the most?

Twenty-five schools have produced six or more eventual NFL players, topped by Fayetteville E.E. Smith and High Point Andrews with 11 apiece and Richmond County with 10.

Doug Wilkerson is one 11 Fayetteville E.E. Smith products who have played in the NFL.

E.E. Smith’s first player, 1957 graduate Luther Jeralds, debuted in 1961. Others to follow him were Jimmy Raye (1964 graduate), Doug Wilkerson (1965), Joe Harris (1971), Larry Tearry (1974), Brian Bulluck (1983), Russell Davis (1994), Dimitrius Underwood (1995), Jason Hunter (2002), Tank Tyler (2003) and Aaron Curry (2004).

High Point Andrews’ 11 players are Johnny Evans (1974), Ted Brown (1975), Danny Waggoner (1978), Tony Baker (1982), Warren Marshall (1982), Junior Robinson (1986), Greg Jeffries (1989), Adrian Wilson (1998), William Hayes (2003) and Tony Washington (2009)

Richmond County’s 10 players are Harry Stanback (1976), Mike Quick (1977), Perry Williams (1979), Doug Thomas (1987), Oscar Sturgis (1990), James Hamilton (1992), Tony Horne (1994), Michael Waddell (1999), Dannell Ellerbe (2004) and Melvin Ingram (2007).

They are followed by nine from Asheville, Charlotte Independence and Greenville Rose.

Greensboro Dudley, Greensboro Grimsley, Kannapolis Brown and Scotland County had produced eight apiece.

Ted Brown is one of 11 High Point Andrews products who have played in the NFL.

There have been seven NFL players from Fayetteville Pine Forest, Greensboro Page, North Mecklenburg, Tarboro and West Charlotte.

And those who have had six are Durham Hillside, Fayetteville Byrd, Garner, Goldsboro, Greensboro Smith, Havelock, Kinston, Lexington, Matthews Butler and Wilmington New Hanover.

Which counties have produced the most?

Size matters in this one as 25 Mecklenburg County schools have produced 69 players, 12 Guilford County schools have produced 62 players, nine Cumberland County schools have produced 42 players, 17 Wake County schools have produced 39 players and 10 Forsyth County schools have produced 27 players.

Based on 2021 population figures, Mecklenburg ranks second of North Carolina’s 100 counties, Guilford third, Cumberland fifth, Wake first and Forsyth sixth.

Thirteen other counties have produced 10 or more players: Craven (18), Davidson (18), Durham (17), Cabarrus (15), Cleveland (15), Pitt (13), Buncombe (12), Onslow (12), Wayne (12), New Hanover (11), Richmond (11), Wilson (11) and Scotland (10).

Twenty counties await their first NFL player.

The counties that have so far been shutout?

Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Brunswick, Camden, Clay, Currituck, Dare, Davie, Graham, Hyde, Lee, Madison, Mitchell, Perquimans, Polk, Tyrell, Wilkes and Yancey.

Size again matters in this as these are among the smallest counties in the state.

Based on 2021 population, Tyrell ranks last of the 100, Hyde 99th, Graham 98th, Alleghany 96th, Camden 94th, Clay 93rd, Perquimans 90th are among the smallest counties in the state – each with less than 14,000 current residents.

The smallest counties to produce NFL players are Jones (97th), Washington (95th), Gates (92nd), Pamlico (91st) with Gates County High producing three – Quinton Ballard, Jessie Britt and Thomas Smith.

Jones Central produced Les Strayhorn for Jones County, Plymouth produced Charles Bowser for Washington County, and Pamlico County’s Doug Smith is its representative.