Which state annually produces the best high school football? ESPN Rise's editors have pared the field down to eight states. It's up to you to decide which is the last state standing.
No. 1 seed Texas
Population: 23.9 million
Number of high schools playing football: 1,200
Pro Football Hall of Famers: 23, including RB Earl Campbell, QB Bobby Layne, QB Doak Walker, LB Mike Singletary, RB Eric Dickerson, RB Billy Sims (Editor's note: DL Michael Strahan is not yet eligible).
Heisman Trophy winners: seven, most recent Ty Detmer, Andre Ware and Tim Brown.
Top current NFL alums: RB LaDainian Tomlinson, QB Vince Young, OL Alan Faneca, RB Adrian Peterson, QB Drew Brees, DL Tommie Harris.
Great schools: Southlake Carroll (Dragons won 49 straight games from 2004-2007 and back-to-back FAB 50 national titles in 2004-05); Odessa Permian (School subject of book, television series "Friday Night Lights"); Celina (Defending state Class 3A champion set state record with 68 straight wins from 1998-2002); Dallas Highland Park (state's winningest program with 699 wins and 49 playoff berths); Katy (Defending state Class 5A-II champion has five Lone Star State crowns and once featured cheerleader Renee Zellweger).
Points of greatness:
• The numbers game -- simply put, Texas leads the way in many significant measures of football prosperity, including most players signed by Division I colleges each year. More than 1,200 high schools in Texas play football, more than any other state. Everything is bigger in Texas -- no state plays more football with more athletes moving on to the next level than Texas.
• Ever since Texas high school football was aligned into five classes in 1951, the Lone Star State's model for state playoffs has been a shining example and has been emulated by numerous states around the country. Texas' ability to coordinate playoffs that now crown 10 state titlists, despite having not only the most schools playing football in the country but also the largest area of any state to navigate (excluding Alaska), illustrates what is right with Texas football.
• Nowhere is big-time high school football more apparent than in Texas, which is why H.G. Bissinger went to Odessa to pen "Friday Night Lights." Texas high school football is home to head coaches who have full-time gigs that pay six figures and don't include teaching, home to high school stadiums with capacities upwards of 15,000 that even include personal seat licenses. High school football is life there, despite the backlash that followed FNL's publication in the late 1980s.
• Speaking of coaching, there's nowhere with more devotion toward it than in Texas. Home to two of high school football's best win records in G.A. Moore and Gordon Wood, recently the Lone Star State has been at the forefront of the movement to the spread offense, recently developing and producing quarterbacks in prolific numbers. Top QBs in the college ranks returning this fall that hail from Texas include Chase Daniel, Graham Harrell, Colt McCoy, Matthew Stafford and Todd Reesing.
• Texas relies on Texas. Perhaps no state has a higher correlation of reliance on homegrown talent. Consider that of the two Texas college teams that are in the 2008 preseason Top 25, Texas and Texas Tech, 91 percent of the players on those two team's rosters hail from the Lone Star State.