High School Not So Confidential
The Great Rory Wilfork Came out of a Strong Public School Conference in Miami (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics Dept.)
Princeton's list of incoming freshmen football players came out this morning and I was struck by the number of kids from private schools. It looks like 13 of the 27 recruits hail from prep or Catholic schools. It's hard to tell if all of their recruits are purely private school products, because many Ivy athletes do a post grad year at a prep school after graduating from public high schools.
But I thought it would be interesting to look back at the most successful football players in the recent Ivy past and find out if any one type of high school is more likely than another to produce an Ivy star.
The answer was pretty clear: if you want to recruit a great football player in this league, go to a Catholic school or a public school in a football-rich part of the country.
The best Lions since 1980 fit this trend to a "t." Most large high schools on my home of Long Island are not the big football powers that they were in the 70's and early 80's, but QB John Witkowksi came out of Lindenhurst High School at a time when Suffolk and Nassau County schools produced quarterbacks like Boomer Esiason, Vinny Testeverde and Jay Fiedler.
Next up is Matt Sodl, who came out of another public high school in perhaps the most high school football-rich section of the country: rural Pennsylvania. Matt played All-America-level football at CU. Current Columbia stars Andy Shalbrack of Doylestown and Justin Masorti of State College are Pennsylvania natives, and Shalbrack is also a Catholic school graduate.
Des Werthman went to the Catholic Loyola Academy just outside of Chicago in Wilmette.
Marcellus Wiley and Rory Wilfork were both products of good urban high schools in tough urban high school football leagues. But Wiley's urban high school was also a Catholic school; Saint Monica's in Santa Monica. Wilfork came out of Miami's Norland High School.
Some notable exceptions are Mike Cavanaugh, who came out of a competitive but relatively small high school in Troy, Michigan. And Jonathan Reese, who played for the prep St. Louis Country Day School.
Basically, it seems that the kids from top flight public school football conferences excel in the Ivies because they're flat out good athletically. Most of those kids are probably playing something pretty close to Ivy League level football when they reach their conference playoffs and championship games.
Many Catholic School football leagues are as good or even better than their neighboring public high school conferences, but I think the Catholic schools are just better at producing student athletes who can handle the academic pressures in the Ivies. I don't think religion or religious rigor play too much of a role, but I think this young man, currently playing at Yale, would beg to differ.
I suppose at one time, Ivy football was dominated by the Exeter and Andover grads, but that time was probably running out even at the turn of the 20th century. It seems like the best Ivy stars since the 1920's have either been from tough high school conferences or Catholic schools. It will be interesting to see if the coming seasons continue that trend.
At first look, I would say about 11 of Columbia's incoming freshmen come from either tough public school conferences or Catholic schools. Some, like Nathan Lenz of Clearwater, Florida, come from Catholic schools in areas where the public school football is quite good too. That would put Lenz in that Des Werthman/Marcellus Wiley/Andy Shalbrack category at least for now.
Mike Stephens from Flower Mound, Texas is probably coming from the best overall public school football conference for this incoming class. His background reminds me of Philip Murray, the great Columbia safety who hailed from Mesquite, Texas.
I'm sure I've left out a lot of names of kids from the incoming freshmen class who fit my above criteria. And I will try to give everyone their due at some point during this long offseason. But like all things at this early time concerning the class of 2011, it's all speculation.