North Carolina to the NFL Part 7: How did eventual NFL players do when they played for North Carolina high schools?
North Carolina to the NFL
(This is the seventh 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 4: What North Carolina high schools and counties have produced the most eventual NFL players? Link: https://carolinassportshub.com/north-carolina-to-the-nfl-part-4-what-north-carolina-high-schools-and-counties-have-produced-the-most-eventual-nfl-players/
Part 5: Which colleges have benefitted the most from North Carolina high school products who eventually played in the NFL? Link: https://carolinassportshub.com/north-carolina-to-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? Link: https://carolinassportshub.com/north-carolina-to-the-nfl-part-6-how-many-nfl-first-round-picks-have-been-produced-by-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
With 628 eventual NFL players produced by North Carolina high school players, it seems logical that most of those players would’ve enjoyed success when they played for their high school teams.
Many did, especially locally as the football teams at Cleveland, Shelby, Crest and Lincolnton all took state titles with future NFL players on their rosters.
And Charlotte Independence’s 109-game winning streak that is a state record and ranks second nationally came when the Patriots had five eventual NFL players on those teams from 2000 to 2008.
Eventual Pro Football Hall of Famer Bobby Bell, a 1959 Cleveland High graduate, led the Tigers to back-to-back N.C. High School Athletic Conference six-man state championships as a the starting quarterback. Bell scored two touchdowns in a 34-6 win over Aberdeen in the 1956 title game played at Shelby’s old Sumter Street Park and he accounted for all seven touchdowns – scoring five himself and passing for two others – in a 44-6 win at Badin in the 1957 championship game.
Shelby’s Tommy London rushed for 140 yards and ran for one touchdown and caught a touchdown pass in the Golden Lions’ 26-21 home win over Mooresville in the 1972 Western N.C. Activities Association state title game.
Crest’s Chris Coleman was that school’s first NFL player and also was a star player on the Chargers’ first state championship team in 1994. Coleman caught four passes for 45 yards in Crest’s 28-7 win for the N.C. 4A championship in 1994 over Jacksonville at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill.
Crest’s second NFL product, Brandon Spikes, helped the Chargers to back-to-back N.C. 3AA state titles in 2003 and 2004. Primarily a linebacker, Spikes scored one touchdown and had two tackles in the 40-0 win over Eastern Randolph at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill in 2003 and was named defensive most valuable player with six tackles in a 26-14 win over Greensboro Dudley at Wake Forest University in 2004.
In 2007, Lincolnton’s C.J. Wilson rushed for 67 yards and two touchdowns, caught two passes for 41 yards and made five tackles as the Wolves beat South Columbus 28-14 for the N.C. 2A state the championship at N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium.
During Independence’s streak of seven straight state championships from 2000 to 2006 – Class 4A in 2000 and 2001 and Class 4AA from 2002 to 2006 – that included their 109-game winning streak, eventual NFL linebacker Dre Moore, wide receivers Mohamed Massaquoi and Hakeem Nicks, linebacker D.J. Smith and defensive back DeVonte Holloman were on the Patriots’ rosters.
Led by quarterbacks Chris Leak (2000-02), Joe Cox (2003-04) and Darryl McFadden (2005-06), Massaquoi caught 17 passes for 259 yards and five touchdowns combined in the 2003 and 2004 games and Nicks caught eight passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns in 2005 to win game MVP honors.
The first future NFL player to lead his team to a N.C. high school state title was Lexington’s Bill Bailey in the 1933 and 1934 South Piedmont Conference title games of the old Western N.C. Activities Association. In 1933, Bailey had a 25-yard interception return in an 18-0 win over Concord. In 1934, Lexington and Concord played to a scoreless tie.
In 1941 and 1942, Asheville’s Lee Edwards had unbeaten records as an independent before playing in postseason bowl games in Atlanta in 1941 and Miami in 1942. The Maroons had star quarterback (and future NFL player) Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice and their right halfback was eventual Gardner-Webb College and Cherryville American Legion Post 100 coach Norman Harris.
In 1945, Raleigh High beat High Point 28-0 for the Class 2A state title as future NFL player Jimmy Lesane scored one touchdown and future Duke athletic director and Big Eight commissioner Carl James booted four extra points.
In 1951, Wilmington New Hanover won 14-13 at High Point in the Class 3A championship game by virtue of starting quarterback Burt Grant’s two successful extra points. The backup quarterback for the Wildcats who also played in the game was future NFL Pro Football Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen.
In the 1959 N.C. High School Athletic Conference title game, eventual Pro Football Hall of Famer Carl Eller helped Winston-Salem Atkins rout visiting Durham Hillside 50-0.
In 1972, future NFL player Johnny Evans rushed for a touchdown, passed for another and kicked one field goal and three extra points as High Point Andrews won 24-17 at Fayetteville Reid Ross for the Class 4A state title.
In 1983, future NFL linebacker Tony Goss rushed for 213 yards and five touchdowns as Randleman won 35-0 at East Carteret for the Class 2A state championship.
In 1985, future NFL tight end Deems May was the quarterback who directed Lexington’s offense to 489 yards in a 42-12 Class 2A state title win at Fuquay-Varina; May had 33 yards rushing and one touchdown and passed for 36 more yards.
In 1990, future NFL quarterback Heath Shuler completed 14 of 20 passes for 275 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 40 yards as Swain County beat Robersonville Roanoke 40-14 for the Class 1A state championship at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill.
Richmond County won six 4A state titles (1978, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1997 and 1998) with the help of four eventual NFL players – Perry Williams (Richmond County Class of 1979), Oscar Sturgis (1990), James Hamilton (1992) and Michael Waddell (1999).
And Tarboro’s Todd Gurley, an eventual NFL Pro Bowl running back, was named most valuable player for back-to-back Class 2A state title wins in 2010 and 2011. Gurley rushed for 105 yards and caught a 7-yard TD pass in a 21-13 win over Winston-Salem Carver at Wake Forest in 2010. Then, in 2011 when he played on two heavily-taped twisted ankles at N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium, Gurley rushed for 244 yards and four touchdowns in a 39-36 win over Lincolnton.