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Carolina's Connor is 'player of the decade'

2/14/2010

In a column I wrote about New Orleans guard Jahri Evans a few weeks ago, I pointed out how inner-city Philadelphia isn’t a real hotbed for big-time college recruits and future NFL players.

Basically, there are two reasons for that. Philadelphia is, and always has been, a basketball town. Plus, for most of his half century or so at Penn State, Joe Paterno pretty much has avoided recruiting the inner city.

But Paterno does dip into the suburbs of Philadelphia, an area that’s ripe with talent. I had never thought about how many ties Southeastern Pennsylvania has to the NFC South until I read The Philadelphia Inquirer this morning. The newspaper picked its all-decade team for the region and there’s some pretty strong NFC South representation.

Start with the player of the decade. That’s Carolina linebacker Dan Connor, who grew up in the suburbs and went on to have a stellar career at Penn State.

Tampa Bay receiver Maurice Stovall also made the first-team offense. The next one may sound a little shocking.

Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan didn’t even make the first-team offense. Ryan was chosen to the second team. The team was picked based only what the players did in high school. Ryan had a great career, but Pat Devlin, who went to Penn State before transferring to Delaware, had a better high school career and was the first-team selection.

Although Evans has become the best guard in the NFL, he didn’t make the team. That’s largely because he missed his senior season with a broken leg and most of the all-decade team came from the suburbs and the city’s private schools. Atlanta cornerback Brent Grimes, another inner-city product, also did not make the team.

Off the top of my head, there are a few other inner-city Philadelphia ties to the NFC South. Former Atlanta defensive tackle Rod Coleman grew up there. Carolina’s Jackie Miles, the best equipment manager in the history of the NFL, is a proud native of Philadelphia.