High-SchoolFootball: Davonte Neal

Johnathan Gray named Mr. Football USA

December, 21, 2011

This year's recipient of the Mr. Football USA award, the title bestowed upon the nation's most outstanding on-field player each fall by ESPNHS, reminds us a lot of last year's winner, probably because it's the same player. Tailback Johnathan Gray of Aledo (Texas) was the first junior to ever win the award in 2010 and is once again ESPNHS's selection as Mr. Football USA.

"I'm blessed with the family, coaches and teammates that have helped me get to where I am," said Gray. "I'd never be capable of doing this by myself, and I'd like to think that we won this together and that it's our honor together. It's a team game and in order to have success it requires a team effort."

Gray can now be considered the Archie Griffin of the award, becoming the first player to earn the distinction twice. Mr. Football USA dates back to 1970 and Gray is joined by four other Lone Star State running backs -- Earl Campbell (1973), Billy Sims (1974), Eric Dickerson (1978) and Cedric Benson (2000) -- to have been awarded the coveted honor.

His statistical success is undoubtedly the stuff of legend, but it has translated well into the win column as well. In Aledo's third straight state title win, a 49-28 victory over Manvel (Texas), Gray scored his 205th career touchdown, becoming high school's all-time career touchdown leader, surpassing former Michigan star Mike Hart in the process. In last year's state title victory over La Marque (Texas), Gray scored eight times, setting a Texas state championship record.

In front of every great back are the linemen who sacrifice to create the lanes and holes, and Gray is grateful for what his crew has done for him over the years.

"My O-line guys tell me, 'If I'm gonna block for you, you might as well go ahead and score, man,'" said Gray. "I tell them, 'You go get that 'backer and I'll get in for you.' Those guys work really hard and a lot of my success and our team's success is thanks to them."

Adding to his already gaudy résumé entering this season, Gray amassed 65 rushing touchdowns for Aledo this year and finished second all-time in points scored for a career (1,232), just 14 points shy of Hart. He finished his career with a yardage total that resembles the tally of a storied NFL career, with 10,908 yards on the ground, placing him as the No. 3 rusher in high school football history. With five receiving scores this season, his total of 70 touchdowns left him just one shy of the national single-season record for all-purpose touchdowns, held by T.A. McLendon of Albemarle (N.C.), who scored 71 touchdowns in 2001. Gray extended his state career record of 100-yard rushing games to 51.

You get the idea. The numbers are incredible and indelible, all while winning three straight state titles in the competitive climate of Texas high school football.

"You are always going to look back at these days and wish you could play high school football again," said Gray. "Especially playing in Texas, where football is just amazing and so important to people. Winning three straight championships is just so hard to do, and on top of that to have this honor is just another great blessing."

2011 Mr. Football USA -- RB Johnathan Gray, Aledo (Texas)

Last week: The nation's top-rated running back and 2010 ESPNHS Mr. Football USA carried the ball 30 times for 241 yards and one memorable and record-setting touchdown in Aledo's championship victory.
Season totals: 346 carries for 3,905 rushing yards and 65 rushing touchdowns, 28 catches for 567 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns; Aledo went 14-2 and ended up No. 45 in the final POWERADE FAB 50 ballot of the season.

The Other Mr. Football USA Finalists

WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Hillcrest (Springfield, Mo.)
Season Totals: 119 catches for 2,233 yards and 24 touchdowns, one rushing touchdown; team finished 11-2.
Recap: Green-Beckham established a new national record for receiving yards this season to cap an incredible prep career. Having overcome serious off-field obstacles makes his storied career and the record production that much more impressive. The chase for a commitment continues into the winter for the star wideout, who remains undecided for the next level.

RB Randy "Duke" Johnson, Miami Norland (Miami)
Last week: Johnson, a Miami recruit, led FAB 50 No. 7 Norland to its first state title since 2002 with 266 total yards and five touchdowns in a 38-0 drubbing of Wakulla (Crawfordville, Fla.) in the Class 5A state championship game. The dynamic back compiled more than 700 rushing yards and scored 11 times in the past three playoff wins.
Season totals: 208 carries for 1,957 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns, 14 receptions for 232 receiving yards and three touchdowns, three kickoff returns and one punt return for scores; team finished 14-0.
Recap: Johnson may not have the gaudy season totals like some others on this list, as he missed one game to suspension and one other to injury this fall, but there's no doubt he's the most explosive offensive player in Florida and carried Norland to its first state crown in nearly a decade. The proud "U" commit also overcame significant off-field adversity on the road to personal and team success and will keep ACC defenders busy for the next several years.

QB Maty Mauk, Kenton (Ohio)
Season Totals: 382 of 556 for 5,413 yards and 68 touchdowns with 16 interceptions, 241 carries for 1,768 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns; team finished 14-1.
Recap: Mauk, a Missouri recruit, finished his astounding prep career with national career records in passing yards (18,932), touchdown passes (219), completions (1,353), attempts (2,110) and total yards (22,681), all while passing his older brother Ben for several of these distinctions.

ATH Davonte' Neal, Chaparral (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
Season Totals: 100 carries for 1,317 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns, 62 receptions for 1,113 yards and 14 touchdowns, three kickoff returns for touchdowns and two punt return scores, recorded 31 tackles on defense; team finished 14-1 and is No. 22 in the FAB 50.
Recap: A truly dynamic talent with considerable contributions all over the field, there's little Neal can't do on the gridiron. Like Green-Beckham, Neal remains a coveted recruit who has yet to commit to his college of choice.

QB Patrick Towles, Highlands (Fort Thomas, Ky.)
Season Complete

Season Totals: 181-of-279 for 3,820 yards, 42 touchdowns and one interception, with 589 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns; team finished 15-0 and No. 34 in the FAB 50.
Recap: The 6-foot-6 signal-caller led his team to a dominating season that saw them set state records with 849 points, 121 touchdowns and 7,516 total yards. Highlands won the Class 4A crown while outscoring five playoff victims 263-76. A Kentucky recruit, Towles was named the Gatorade State Player of the Year.

RB Trey Williams, Dekaney (Houston)
Last week: This year marked the first time the Wildcats ever made the state playoffs and Dekaney, fueled by Williams' 197 rushing yards and three touchdowns, upset FAB 50 No. 14 Steele (Cibolo, Texas) 34-14 in the Class 5A Division II state championship game.
Season totals: The Texas A&M commit ran for 3,884 yards and 48 touchdowns on 427 carries, caught two touchdown passes and returned a kickoff for a score. Team finished 14-2 and No. 34 in the FAB 50.
Recap: The state title run proved even more impressive given that Dekaney fielded its first varsity team in 2008. Williams put together one of the best seasons in the history of Texas high school football and would assuredly get more shine if not for the epic accomplishments of his in-state peer Gray.

National POY Watch: Jameis Winston
Tom Hauck/ESPNHSJameis Winston earned Elite 11 co-MVP honors this summer.
QB Jameis Winston, Hueytown (Ala.)
Season Totals: 163-of-234 for 2,424 yards and 28 touchdowns with two interceptions, 1,063 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns, one touchdown reception; team finished 13-1.
Recap: The top QB in the nation and Elite 11 co-MVP is a brilliant athlete with legitimate professional potential in baseball. The versatile and affable Winston will take his talents to Tallahassee and pursue both sports at Florida State.

ESPNHS Mr. Football USA
Players of the Year (All-Time List)

2011 – Johnathan Gray, Aledo (Texas) RB
2010 – Johnathan Gray, Aledo (Texas) RB (Jr.)
2009 – Dillon Baxter, Mission Bay (San Diego) QB-RB
2008 – Garrett Gilbert, Lake Travis (Austin, Texas) QB
2007 – Jacory Harris, Northwestern (Miami) QB
2006 – Darren Evans, Warren Central (Indianapolis) FB
2005 – Matthew Stafford, Highland Park (Dallas) QB
2004 – Chase Daniel, Carroll (Southlake, Texas) QB
2003 – Jeff Byers, Loveland (Loveland, Colo.) OL-DL
2002 – Chris Leak, Independence (Charlotte, N.C.) QB
2001 – Vince Young, Madison (Houston) QB
2000 – Cedric Benson, Robert E. Lee (Midland, Texas) RB
1999 – D.J. Williams, De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) RB-LB
1998 – J.R. House, Nitro (Nitro, W. Va.) QB
1997 – Ronald Curry, Hampton (Va.) QB-RB
1996 – Travis Henry, Frostproof (Fla.) RB
1995 – Tim Couch, Leslie County (Hyden, Ky.) QB
1994 – Chris Redman, Male (Louisville, Ky.) QB
1993 – Peyton Manning, Newman (New Orleans) QB
1992 – James Allen, Wynnewood (Okla.) RB
1991 – Steven Davis, Spartanburg (S.C.) RB
1990 – Derrick Brooks, Washington (Pensacola, Fla.) LB
1989 – Robert Smith, Euclid (Ohio) RB
1988 – Terry Kirby, Tabb (Va.) RB
1987 – Carl Pickens, Murphy (N.C.) WR
1986 – Emmitt Smith, Escambia (Pensacola, Fla.) RB
1985 – Jeff George, Warren Central (Indianapolis) QB
1984 – Andre Rison, Northwestern (Flint, Mich.) WR-DB
1983 – Chris Spielman, Washington (Massillon, Ohio) LB
1982 – Rod Woodson, Snider (Fort Wayne, Ind.) WR-DB
1981 – Marcus Dupree, Philadelphia (Miss.) RB
1980 – Bill Fralic, Penn Hills (Pittsburgh) OL
1979 – Herschel Walker, Johnson County (Wrightsville, Ga.) RB
1978 – Eric Dickerson, Sealy (Sealy) RB
1977 – Marcus Allen, Lincoln (San Diego) QB-RB
1976 – Freeman McNeil, Banning (Wilmington, Calif.) RB
1975 – Charles White, San Fernando (San Fernando, Calif.) RB
1974 – Billy Sims, Hooks (Hooks, Texas) RB
1973 – Earl Campbell, John Tyler (Tyler, Texas) RB
1972 – Tony Dorsett, Hopewell (Aliquippa, Pa.) RB
1971 – Dave Logan, Wheat Ridge (Wheat Ridge, Colo.) WR
1970 – Pat Haden, Bishop Amat (La Puente, Calif.) QB

Brian Stumpf, Mark Tennis and Doug Huff of ESPNHS and Randy Jennings of ESPN Dallas contributed to this article.

Mr. Football USA Week 14 Tracker

November, 29, 2011
One of the biggest individual honors a high school football player can receive is Mr. Football USA, the title bestowed upon the nation’s most outstanding player each fall by ESPNHS.

Below is a look at the top candidates in the chase for the 2011 Mr. Football USA. Every Tuesday during the regular season we’ll update the totals of many leading contenders as well as examine some of the new names that are emerging as strong contenders.


RB Johnathan Gray, Aledo (Aledo, Texas)
This week: The nation's top-rated running back and 2010 ESPNHS Mr. Football USA carried 20 times for 303 yards and three touchdowns as Aledo routed Canyon Randall (Amarillo, Texas) 42-14 in a Class 4A playoff game.
Season totals: 278 carries for 3,252 yards and 59 touchdowns rushing, 22 catches for 472 yards and four scores receiving; Aledo is 11-2.
Stock – Up: Gray is now six touchdowns and 56 points behind the all-time high school leader in these two categories, former Michigan RB Mike Hart, who prepped at Onondaga (Nedrow, N.Y.). Gray and Aledo get a chance to avenge one of their two regular season losses this week versus Stephenville (Stephenville, Texas) in a 4A quarterfinal on Saturday.

WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Hillcrest (Springfield, Mo.)
Season Complete
Season Totals: 119 catches for 2,233 yards and 24 touchdowns, one rushing touchdown; team finished 11-2.

QB Maty Mauk, Kenton (Kenton, Ohio)
This week: The national all-time high school leader in passing yards and touchdowns completed 26-of-39 passes for 408 yards with four touchdowns and an interception while also rushing for 54 yards and a score in a 36-6 win over Clinton-Massie (Clarksville, Ohio).
Season Totals: 355 of 506 for 4,992 yards and 63 touchdowns with 13 interceptions, 219 carries for 1,718 yards and 23 touchdowns; team is 14-0
Stock – Slightly Up: Mauk and Kenton now face Norwayne (Creston, Ohio) in the Division IV state title game this Saturday and the Missouri commit has the chance to turn all of his statistical achievement into a championship, which would be a tremendous finish to his brilliant career.

Read More »

Mr. Football USA Week 2 Tracker

September, 7, 2011
xTom Hauck/ESPNHSJohnathan Gray ran for 336 yards and five touchdowns this week
One of the biggest individual honors a high school football player can receive is Mr. Football USA, the title bestowed upon the nation’s most outstanding player each fall by ESPNHS.

Below is a look at the top candidates in the chase for the 2011 Mr. Football USA. Every Tuesday during the regular season we’ll update the totals of many leading contenders as well as examine some of the new names that are emerging as strong contenders.


RB Johnathan Gray, Aledo (Aledo, Texas)
This week: Ran 15 times for 336 yards and five touchdowns, while also catching two passes for 21 yards in Aledo’s 50-7 rout of Weatherford (Weatherford, Texas).
Season totals: 42 carries for 556 yards and nine touchdowns rushing in two games; Aledo is 1-1
Stock – Up: Gray continues to shred Texas high school defenses and is now just three touchdowns away from the state record for career TDs of 146, held by current Univ. of Texas RB Traylon Shead.


WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Hillcrest (Springfield, Mo.)
This week: The nation’s No. 1 ranked WR by ESPNU posted big numbers again, catching seven passes for 142 yards and two scores, but it wasn’t enough as Hillcrest fell to Heritage (Rogers, Ark.), 37-20.
Season Totals: 25 catches for 426 yards and five touchdowns; team is 1-1
Stock – Slightly Down: His freakish talent is undeniable but it needs to translate into a lot of wins for Hillcrest for him to stay in top contention. Otherwise he’s just a big talent putting up big numbers, and there are a lot of those across the country in high school football where top players rarely face players across the line their equal.

ATH Stefon Diggs, Good Counsel (Olney, Md.)
This week: Diggs battled back from cramps to catch the game-winning 25-yard TD pass in overtime as Good Counsel topped Manatee (Bradenton, Fla .) 24-17 in a battle of two FAB 50 ranked teams. He also scored on an 80-yard reception earlier in the contest.
Season totals: Six receptions for 132 yards and two touchdowns.
Stock – Up: Big players make big plays in big games, and Diggs lived up to that addage this weekend.

DE Mario Edwards Jr., Denton Ryan (Denton, Texas)
This week: Edwards, the top-ranked recruit nationwide by ESPNU, was dominant for a second straight week, racking up five tackles for loss and two sacks in a 48-24 victory against Newman Smith (Carrollton, Texas).
Season totals: Four sacks and a forced fumble; team is 2-0 and No. 41 in the POWERADE FAB 50
Stock – Up: Edwards had a multi-sack outing for the second time in two games – if he keeps this up and Ryan has a deep run into the playoffs, a 20-25 sack season isn’t out of the question.

QB Alec Morris, Allen (Allen, Texas)
This week: Morris accounted for six touchdowns in three quarters of work in Allen’s 59-0 rout of Northwest (Justin, Texas). The Alabama-bound senior hit 18-of-32 passes for 320 yards and five touchdowns while also scoring on a one-yard rush.
Season totals: 35-of-60 for 570 yards and eight touchdowns with no interceptions, 51 yards and one touchdown rushing; team is 2-0 and No. 4 in the FAB 50.
Stock – Up: Allen is the consensus top team in Texas at this point and Morris is the driving force of the Eagles’ attack, having accounted for nine touchdowns in the first two games.

Read More »

Mr. Football USA Week 1

August, 30, 2011
One of the biggest individual honors a high school football player can receive is Mr. Football USA, the title bestowed upon the nation’s most outstanding player each fall by ESPNHS.

Below is a look at the top pre-season candidates in the chase for the 2011 Mr. Football USA. Every Tuesday during the regular season we’ll update the totals of many leading contenders as well as examine some of the new names that are emerging as strong contenders.


RB Johnathan Gray, Aledo (Aledo, Texas)

This week: Ran 26 times for 217 yards and four touchdowns, but was stopped on a two-point conversion with under two minutes remaining as preseason FAB 50 No. 18 Aledo was stunned by Stephenville 48-47.

Stock – Slightly Down: Gray doesn’t play defense, so his culpability in Aledo’s loss is minimal, but the two-time state champs losing their opener doesn’t help his cause.


ATH Stefon Diggs, Good Counsel (Olney, Md.)

This week: Good Counsel opens its season with a big showdown vs. FAB 50 ranked Manatee (Bradenton, Fla.) on Sept. 2.

Stock – Same

DE Mario Edwards Jr., Denton Ryan (Denton, Texas)

This week: Edwards, the top-ranked recruit nationwide by ESPNU, showed out in his televised opportunity Saturday night, recording two sacks and forcing a fumble that was recovered for a TD in Ryan’s 25-9 win on ESPN2.

Stock – Up: Edwards made plays and made the most of his showcase game. He’ll need to keep doing the same as Ryan plays better competition later in the year.

QB Bart Houston, De La Salle (Concord, Calif.)

This week: Houston and DLS open Sept. 2 versus Bellarmine Prep (San Jose, Calif.)

Stock – Same

RB Alex Ross, Jenks (Jenks, Okla.)

This week: Ross will start his senior year this Friday night as Jenks opens with Bixby (Bixby, Okla.).

Stock – Same

RB/DB Shaq Thompson, Grant (Sacramento, Calif.)

This week: Thompson ran for 120 spectacular yards and three scores, two in the pivotal third quarter before missing the fourth with cramps, as Grant rallied from 16-7 down at the break to crush Folsom (Folsom, Calif.) 43-16 in a matchup of two of the top teams in Northern California. The two teams split two meetings a year ago with Folsom eliminating the Pacers in the playoffs.

Stock – Slightly Up: The Folsom game and now this week’s test against Poly (Long Beach, Calif.) are Grant’s two major tests until the playoffs, and Shaq passed the first one with flying colors.


WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Hillcrest (Springfield, Mo.)

This week: Green-Beckham can’t control the level of competition, which was suspect Saturday night and will be all year long, but like Mario Edwards, he made the most of his spotlighted ESPNU-televised game. The nation’s top wide receiver caught 18 passes for 284 yards and three touchdowns in Hillcrest’s 48-20 win over Seneca (Seneca, Mo.).

Stock - Up: His talent is undeniable and it had folks around the country buzzing on social media Saturday night. Maintain big numbers year-long and there could be a very strong case for Mr. Football USA.

Read More »

Bishop Gorman overpowers Chaparral

August, 21, 2011
Why this was big: The showcase game of the Barry Sollenberger Classic pitted the defending 4A state champs from Nevada, Bishop Gorman, versus the defending 5A-II champs from Arizona, Chaparral. Both finished last year in the FAB 50 and entered this season highly-ranked, with the winner figuring to have the inside track to stay inside the top 10 and possibly creep towards the top five nationally by the end of the year in the POWERADE FAB 50. Gorman's 42-22 win is the program's first major triumph over a top team from another state.

What went down: After a back-and-forth, close first half in which Chaparral put together two long scoring drives and capitalized on some Bishop Gorman mistakes to take a 14-7 lead at the break, Bishop Gorman took complete control. Head coach Tony Sanchez's team came out in the second half and ran Shaquille Powell behind a huge Ronnie Stanley-led line and Chaparral had no answer for the physicality of the Bishop Gorman attack. On the flipside, the Bishop Gorman defense shutdown the high-flying Chaparral attack, holding Texas-bound QB Connor Brewer to an 11-for-26 for 197 yard passing performance and keeping the wraps on the dynamic Davonte Neal until a meaningless 82-yard touchdown catch with less than three minutes remaining.

Turning point: With 8:44 remaining in the third quarter and Chaparral still leading 14-7, the Firebirds jumped offsides as Bishop Gorman lined up to go for it on a 4th-and-2 from its own 47-yard line. Two plays later, Powell scored from 45 yards out and then Bishop Gorman recovered an ensuing onside kick and the rout was on.

Tom Hauck/ESPNHSBishop Gorman RB Shaquille Powell
Made a name for himself - Bishop Gorman senior running back Shaquille Powell: The 5-9, 200 pounder wasn’t a no-name coming in. After all, he rushed for 1,292 yards and 17 touchdowns last year and holds offers from ASU, Illinois, Vanderbilt, Fresno State, San Diego State and UNLV. But after a virtuoso performance in which he carried 30 times for 297 yards and five touchdowns while also catching three passes for 32 yards and a sixth score and even intercepting a pass on defense, Powell stamped himself as an early entrant into the ESPNHS Mr. Football USA race.

What it means in the FAB 50: Bishop Gorman has bigger games left on the schedule, including a matchup versus FAB 50 No. 9 Armwood (Seffner, Fla.) next weekend as part of the ESPN High School Kickoff Weekend (Friday, 9 p.m. Eastern, ESPN2), but the Gaels showed they should be able to hold their own against any team from around the nation. While there won’t be any adjustments to the FAB 50 until after Gorman battles Armwood, consider the winner top five worthy and as long as the outcome is not one-sided, the loser will still likely be in the top 20. For Chaparral, the Firebirds will now attempt to re-group and shoot for a third consecutive Arizona state title. This game was their lone chance to state a case for a season-long spot in the top half of the FAB 50, and they could even possibly drop out of the rankings entirely depending upon how they show next week and how some other fringe teams perform next weekend when many other states kickoff the season. They can play better certainly, but clearly lacked the size on both sides of the line to compete for 48 minutes with a program as powerful as Bishop Gorman.