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Thursday, September 22, 2011
Amani Toomer among top Spartans

By Greg Biggins
ESPN Recruiting

Concord (Calif.) De La Salle has produced many great players throughout the years. Here's a look at the 15 best (in alphabetical order).

Mike Bastianelli, QB/WR, Class of 1994
Considered the finest veer-option quarterback DLS has ever produced, Bastianelli led the Spartans to their first national championship in 1994 while playing quarterback, defensive back and kicker. He signed with USC as a receiver and played mostly as a reserve from 1995-98. He finished his career with 68 catches for 961 yards and four touchdowns. In 2004, Bastianelli was driving with his college teammate and former Oakland Raiders defensive lineman Darrell Russell when his car spun out of control and crashed, tragically killing both passengers.

Doug Brien, K, Class of 1989
Brien was the Spartans' kicker his senior season and ended up walking on at Cal. He would leave as the Bears' all-time leader in points (with 288) and field goal accuracy (hitting 56-of-70 attempts, 80 percent) for his career. The San Francisco 49ers drafted him in the third round. As a rookie, Brien won a Super Bowl ring in the 1994 season. His 17 PATs during the '94 playoffs remains a postseason record. Brien ended up kicking for 12 seasons for seven different teams, retiring in 2005. For his career, Brien made 80.2 percent of his field goals and 98 percent of his PATs.

Maurice Jones-Drew
Jacksonville Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew was a TD machine even back when he was at De La Salle.
Leon Callen, RB, Class of 1996
Callen was a two-sport star for the Spartans starring in both football and track. He was a two time all-state selection at running back and signed with Arizona to play football. While at DLS, Callen also qualified for the state track finals in the 100 and 200 meters, clocking a personal best 10.62 in the 100. Despite being one of the most highly touted recruits the Wildcats ever signed, Callen's career mostly fizzled at UA and academic troubles eventually derailed his playing career.

Cameron Colvin, WR, Class of 2004
One of the most talented receivers the school has ever produced, Colvin played in the Army All-American game following his senior season, catching two touchdowns. He made his college choice live on ESPN, one of the first public announcements to be made on TV at the time, and shocked many when he committed to Oregon over Michigan. Colvin was one of the most hyped recruits the Ducks ever signed, but battled a variety of injuries and never lived up to the enormous expectations. He finished his college career with 74 total catches for 892 yards and seven touchdowns. Colvin signed with the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted free agent and currently played for the Las Vegas Locos in the United Football League.

Matt Gutierrez, QB, Class of 2002
Considered the finest pro-style quarterback in school history, Gutierrez made the Elite 11 QB camp in 2001 and led the Spartans to a national championship as a senior. He signed with Michigan and was slated to be the starter in 2004 but suffered a shoulder injury before the season opener during warmups. Backup QB Chad Henne took over as the starter and Gutierrez was never able to get the job back. He transferred to Idaho State in 2006 and played one season for the Cincinnati Bengals. The New England Patriots signed Gutierrez as an undrafted free agent in 2007 and he played two seasons for the Pats. He spent time with the Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears, Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL and was recently cut by the Washington Redskins prior to the regular season.

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Class of 2003
Jones-Drew became a Spartans legend when he scored all four touchdowns as a junior against Long Beach Poly (Calif.) in the first game to ever pit teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation. He starred at UCLA for three years, earning All-American honors his junior year and setting a school record with 16 touchdowns of 40-plus yards. Jones-Drew was a second-round draft pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2006 and set a franchise record as a rookie with 303 all-purpose yards in a game against the Indianapolis Colts. Scored 12 touchdowns in 2008 and then made the Pro Bowl following the 2009 season after rushing for 1,391 yards and 15 touchdowns. He is now regarded as one of the premier backs in the NFL.

Derek Landri, DL, Class of 2002
One of the most highly decorated players to ever play at DLS, Landri was California's Mr. Football State Player of the Year as a senior (he's one of three Spartans to earn that honor joining D.J. Williams in 1999 and Amani Toomer in 1991). He was a dominant two-way lineman and signed with Notre Dame to play defense, but a fluke accident, in which he broke his leg and tore all the ligaments in an ankle while falling off a bicycle, sidelined him his freshman year. He started the last three years for the Irish but never regained the same explosiveness he had back in high school. Landri was a fifth-round draft pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2007 NFL draft. He played two years for the Jags and was picked up on waivers by the Carolina Panthers in 2009. Landri is currently on the Philadelphia Eagles' practice squad.

David Loverne, OL, Class of 1994
One of the school's finest two-way lineman, Loverne, signed with Idaho before transferring to San Jose State following his freshman season. The New York Jets drafted Loverne in the third round of the 1999 NFL draft, and played him primarily on special teams. He was traded to the Washington Redskins in 2002 season and started the entire season at guard. He was then traded to the St. Louis Rams prior to the 2003 season and also played for the Detroit Lions and Houston Texas before retiring after the 2006 season.

Tosh Lupoi, DL, Class of 2000
Regarded as one of the hardest working players to ever play for the Spartans, Lupoi was a two-year starter and earned all-state honors as a senior. He attended Cal and played for the Bears for six seasons, as he was granted an extra year due to a medical redshirt. Lupoi then spent the 2006-07 seasons as a graduate assistant at Cal before being hired as the Bears' defensive line coach. He quickly made his mark as one of the nation's best recruiters and was named one of the top 25 recruiters in the nation by ESPN.com last year. Lupoi has proven to be more than just a recruiter, as Cal has had a defensive lineman drafted in the first round of the NFL draft in each of the past two years, only the second school in Pac-10 history to record such a feat.

Kevin Simon, LB, Class of 2001
Simon was among the nation's most heavily recruited players before signing with Tennessee. He was a three time all-state selection for the Spartans, but his career was never the same after suffering a devastating knee injury playing in the Army All-American game following his senior year. Injuries followed the rest of his career as his redshirt freshman year was cut short by a broken ankle and after leading the team in tackles his sophomore year, Simon tore his ACL, once again in the second game, in his junior season. Simon was still drafted in the seventh round of the 2006 draft by the Washington Redskins but never suited up for them. He is currently working as a scout for the Dallas Cowboys.

Amani Toomer
Amani Toomer was one of the first national recruits to come out of De La Salle. The Class of 1992 star went to Michigan and then the N.Y. Giants.
Aaron Taylor, OL, Class of 1990
Regarded as the best offensive lineman the school has ever produced, Taylor went on to star at Notre Dame earning All-American honors in 1992 and 1993. In '93, he was the winner of the Lombardi Award, given to the nation's top linemen, and was also an Outland Trophy finalist. He started the final 30 games of his college career and was recently voted as one of the school's 25 best players since 1970. He was a first-round draft pick by the Green Bay Packers in 1994 and started on the team's 1997 Super Bowl winning team. He signed with the San Diego Chargers but retired in 1999 after numerous knee surgeries cut short his career. Taylor currently works as a commentator for CBS Sports.

Amani Toomer, WR, Class of 1992
Toomer was one of the finest skill players to ever play at DLS and one of the first big, national recruits for the school as well. He was a USA Today and Parade All-American as a senior and signed with Michigan. Earned all-Big Ten honors as a junior and senior and became just the third receiver in school history to post a 1,000-yard receiving season when he racked up 54 catches for 1,096 yards and six touchdowns after his junior year. Toomer was a second-round draft pick by the New York Giants in 1996 and played 12 seasons for the franchise. Finished his career holding several Giants records, including most catches, yards and touchdowns and helped the team upset the previously undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

T.J. Ward, DB, Class of 2004
Ward is an incredible story as he's an NFL starter without ever starting a high school game. He was relegated to a backup role with DLS until his senior season. The safety then suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason and missed his entire senior year. Ward walked on at Oregon and quickly earned a scholarship with his stellar play, but still battled injuries. As a redshirt freshman, Ward earned a starting spot at corner before a knee injury derailed his season. He led the Ducks in tackles as a junior and earned All-Pac-10 honors. As a senior, Ward suffered an ankle injury in the season opener but came back for the final six games of the season and finished fifth on the team in tackles. The Cleveland Browns selected Ward in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft and he led the team in tackles last season with 123.

Demetrious Williams, WR, Class of 2002
He was a two-year starter for the Spartans at receiver and corner and caught 15 touchdowns as a senior. Williams signed with Oregon, was a three-year starter for the Ducks and led the team in catches, yards and touchdown receptions each of those years. He finished his career third on the all-time receptions list, fourth in receiving yards and fourth in touchdown receptions. Also holds the Oregon record for most 100-yard receiving games with 11. Williams was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL draft. He played four seasons with the Ravens before signing as a free agent with the Cleveland Browns in 2010.

D.J. Williams, LB, Class of 2000
Many in the Bay Area consider Williams the best football player to ever play for the Spartans. He was a two-way star for DLS and the consensus No. 1 recruit in the nation when he signed with Miami in 2000. Williams started at fullback for the Canes as a true freshman before moving to linebacker his sophomore year and playing on the teams 2002 national championship squad. He earned All-American honors as a senior and was a semifinalist for the Butkus award. In 2004, Williams was a first-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos and led the team in tackles his rookie season with 114. He has started at all three linebacker positions for the Broncos and was second in the NFL in tackles with 141 during the 2007 season.

Greg Biggins covers recruiting in the West region. He can be reached at Greg.Biggins@espn.com.