Commentary

Pro players, coaches state their case

Updated: October 14, 2008, 1:03 PM ET
By Gerry Brown | ESPNRISE.com

You've heard what our experts have had to say, but what about the pros? We asked former high school players and college coaches to give us their take on which state is really the greatest.

Lomas Brown


Brown
Miami native, seven-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion
"To me -- and I'm partial because I'm from Miami -- Florida high school football has to be the best. The reason I say that is we get more opportunities to play than a lot of states. We have good weather and spring football so you're pretty much playing football, and sports in general, all year round. Up north, the players don't get the same chances. Of course, we have our jamborees down there, too. In Florida you have that constant opportunity to work on your speed and technique, and that's why guys who come out of Florida tend to be just a tad bit quicker. The style of ball down in Florida overall is just a little bit more advanced.
"All those college and high school rivalries still matter in the NFL, too. It comes up in the locker room all the time. When I played college football at University of Florida, we got into it a lot because most of our players grew up in the state and played either with or against each other in high school."

Ray Buchanan


Buchanan
Maywood, Ill., native and former NFL defensive back
"When I played in the NFL, we were always talking about our different high schools. I'm from Chicago, and up in Illinois, we didn't have as much sheer talent as states like Florida, Texas or Louisiana. When a Texas guy got into it with a Florida guy about what state had the better football, I'd jump in on one side or the other just because I couldn't compete.
"Still, we could get talking in the locker room about what college or high school you went to, and the high school talk is extra special, especially when you find someone that played from a rival school. My biggest memory from high school is that we only won two games in my entire career. I went to Proviso East, and they are a lot better now, but when I went there we weren't that good. I won one my freshman year and one my senior year. We used to get blasted because all the best athletes in Chicago always seemed to be ineligible. So, needless to say, I didn't feel like I had any real bragging rights. Sometimes I still wonder how I got picked up and got a scholarship to Louisville. I guess it was just because I was real fast."

Tim Hasselbeck


Hasselbeck
Norfolk, Mass., native and former NFL quarterback
"There's definitely a lot of pride from players for their respective areas. Texas has a big reputation, but it seemed like anybody we had at Boston College that was from Texas turned out to be an absolute bust. I don't know if it was just that we were getting the wrong guys from Texas, but they were always bad. When you look at the NFL and you start to find out that a lot of the guys are from that Florida/Georgia area, it's pretty tough to compete with. There are so many good players in that area that end up at those schools down there like Miami, Florida and Florida State, and they often end up having success in the NFL, especially at the skill positions."

Jim Grobe


Grobe
Norfolk, Mass., native and former NFL quarterback
Huntington, W.Va., native and Wake Forest football coach
"To pinpoint one state as having the best football is a difficult task, but I've found that generally the kids who come to the next level -- who are most ready for college football -- come from states or areas that allow spring football. Those kids have had more practice and experience so, naturally, they come with a little more polish on them. Not to say that you don't get good players from other areas, because you do. It's just that spring football gives those players a little bit of an advantage."

Gary Pinkel


Pinkel
Akron, Ohio native and University of Missouri football coach
In my experience, Texas has the best high school football. It's different than any other state across the country in the commitment that they have to high school football. It's almost a religion down there. The coaching staffs are huge. The priority that is put on football in Texas is unlike any other place I've ever seen.
"The majority of our players at the University of Missouri are from Missouri and Texas, and the high school debate in our locker room is a constant battle. And not only between kids from Missouri and Texas, but even among the Missouri guys, who argue about which is better: the East side of the state or West side. Kansas City and St. Louis sit at the extreme ends of the state and those areas generally decide the state championships. The guys have a lot of pride about where they are from and constantly argue which side is the best but no one ever seems to win the argument.
"Now I grew up in Ohio, and we have the Big 33 game against Pennsylvania every year, so we are obviously big rivals. I grew up 20 minutes from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton and football is king, without a doubt. I think it may have spilled across the border a little bit into Pennsylvania, but I think that Ohio football is exceptional. Historically, I'd have to say Ohio has the edge over Pennsylvania."

Mark Schlereth


Schlereth
Anchorage, Alaska native and three-time Super Bowl champion
"I played high school football in Alaska and we didn't play very many games there. I think my high school season was seven games and from the standpoint of competition, I didn't know what kind of player I really was. I thought I was OK, but I wasn't sure. Teams from a lot of states are playing 14 games sometimes, and that was always an issue in my mind. I went to a smaller college [Idaho] partly because having played in Alaska, I didn't know if I could compete, but what I found out pretty quickly is that good football players come from all over. One time in the NFL, I had a guy from Alabama bragging to me all about Alabama football and then we lined up across from each other and I proceeded to flat-back him. The point to know is that there are good football players all over the United States."

David Tyree


Tyree
Livingston, N.J., native and Super Bowl champion
"High school football is always a real big topic for conversation in the Giants locker room, especially with the guys that played in Florida, California and Texas. Those guys usually have the most to say. But I try to stick my head in there sometimes and try to talk about all the great athletes that have come out of little, itty-bitty New Jersey. I'm always trying to find a way to get into the argument.
"Even if we don't have the huge reputation like some of the other states, New Jersey has a proud football tradition. We're not going to say we have the fastest guys but the game of football actually originated in New Jersey at Princeton. That's our claim to fame. These days we play a lot of traditional Power I football with two wideouts going hard and just some real gritty guys that can get the job done.
"I went to high school in Montclair which has one of the strongest traditions in the state. Aubrey Lewis, the first black captain at Notre Dame played there. When I moved there they had one of the best teams in the state so there was all this football in the air. Because of that, I can remember wanting to get involved in football from an early age. And it's obviously changed my life."

Marcellus Wiley


Wiley
Los Angeles native and former All-Pro defensive end for the Jacksonville Jaguars
"This is not even a fair debate and I feel bad for the residents and fans of Georgia [California's first-round opponent] for having to watch their beloved state get trounced in the first round by California, the best high school football state in the country. I'm looking forward to the championship game and here are just a few reasons why we're going to win:
"1. God chose us to be the best in the country by giving us such unbelievable weather year-round. It's 75-degrees in January here so our kids are able to play football outside all day every day. We average at least 280 sunny days every year and that's time used to play football and become the best in the country.
"2. No state puts more players in the pros or college football than California. It's like a California reunion every time an NFL or college game is played.
"3. This state is so big. In the 90s, one of the main reasons why the Miami, Florida and Florida State had such excellent teams was because they had the state locked up recruiting wise. If you were a great player then you were almost guaranteed to go to one of those universities. You can't lock up California. It's not possible. You can try to lock up a region, but not the entire state. It's too big and there are too many great players.
"4. We don't specialize like other states do. Texas is known for having power football players and Florida is known for sheer speed. We aren't bound by any one thing; we can do it all."

Agree? Disagree? Voice your opinion in the Great State Debate.

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