High School Football

October 07, 2007

Double Play

Despite pressure to specialize in one sport, some multitalented athletes still want to suit up for two in college

AFTER AVERAGING 16.5 points and 10.6 rebounds as a freshman in the 2004--05 basketball season, Jeannette (Pa.) High's Terrelle Pryor was projected as the nation's top sophomore small forward by scout.com and heard AAU coaches telling him he had NBA potential.

Though he was also expected to be the Jayhawks' starting quarterback the following fall, Pryor decided to transfer to hoops powerhouse Oak Hill Academy in southwest Virginia. "I had my bags packed," he says. But Jeannette's football coaches believed Pryor had just as much potential on the field and wanted to make sure he didn't give up football too soon. "We went to his house and talked to him on his porch," says coach Ray Reitz. "All we wanted him to do was give football a chance."

Pryor stayed at Jeannette, and 2 1/2 years later he is the nation's No. 1 overall football recruit and No. 3 small forward, according to rivals.com. At 6'6" and 225 pounds, he can run the 40 in 4.35 seconds and launch a football more than 60 yards flat-footed. For the 5--0 Jayhawks he has thrown for 638 yards and six touchdowns and run for 434 yards and eight scores. In basketball last season he averaged 21.2 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Pryor says football and basketball coaches at his top six schools—Florida, Ohio State, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia—have all promised him the chance to play both sports. "I'm making sure I go to a good football program first," he says. "At whatever school I choose, I'll jump in for basketball."

Under NCAA rules, schools can offer such two-sport athletes a scholarship in one sport and a walk-on spot in the second. It's rare, but possible, for college athletes to excel in two sports, and some coaches even prefer it. "Kids are fresher when they play more than one sport because they're coached by different people," says Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo, whose former forward Matt Trannon also played wide receiver for the Spartans from 2003 to '06.

Pryor and Jonathan Baldwin of Aliquippa (Pa.) High are friends and athletic rivals who played against each other in last year's football and basketball Class AA playoffs, but Baldwin has already abandoned the notion of playing both sports in college. Until last spring Baldwin, a 6'6", 215-pound forward who had averaged 21.3 points, was set on pursuing basketball, but then he realized his skill set gives him a better chance in the NFL as a wide receiver than in the NBA. "In basketball a lot of players are 6'6"," says Baldwin, "but in football you won't find many 6'6" players running a 4.31." Still Baldwin, who is considering six schools, says he may run track in college, primarily to stay in shape for football.

Here are three other seniors who aspire to play two college sports:

Xavier Avery, 5'11", 185, Cedar Grove (Ellenwood, Ga.)

A running back and an outfielder, he has 300 yards and three TDs. He batted .667 with five HRs in only 45 at bats last spring—because he also ran track (sixth at the state meet in the 100 meters).

Julio Jones, 6'4", 215, Foley (Ala.)

The nation's top-rated receiver (24 receptions for 286 yards and six TDs in four games) is also a track and field standout, winning the Class 6A long jump (23'8 1/2") and triple jump (49'1"), both by more than two feet.

Ryan Lewis, 6'3", 200, Catholic (Baton Rouge)

The Rice-bound lefthanded passer has thrown for 475 yards in five games. As a pitcher--first baseman, he hit a district-best .471 and had eight home runs and 48 RBIs.

ONLY AT SI.COM Daily rankings, profiles, news and analysis.

Friday Night Lights

WEST CENTRAL at CANTON, Oct. 5

West Central of Hartford won nine South Dakota Class 11A championships in 10 years before rival Canton won the title in 2006. After losing 24 players to graduation, however, the C-Hawks are 1--5 this season, while West Central's Trojans (5--0)—led by senior running back--linebacker Mike Galliger (right), who has 16 touchdowns and 800 yards rushing—are back on top of the state rankings. With the schools only 40 miles apart, a sellout crowd of 2,000 is expected.

National Notebook

RUNNING (AND RUNNING) TO GLORY
Ansonia (Conn.) RB Alex Thomas ran more than halfway to a 1,000-yard season—in one game. The senior, who has more than 5,000 career rushing yards, carried 44 times for a state-record 518 yards and seven touchdowns in a 62--35 win over Woodland (Beacon Falls, Conn.) last Thursday.

THE DOGS HAVE THEIR DAY
In Year 100 of the Battle of the Bulldogs, the Fayetteville (Ark.) Purple Bulldogs and Springdale (Ark.) Bulldogs nearly matched that number in points. Fayetteville beat Springdale 54--41 last Friday, paced by senior wide receiver Gionni Harris's four TDs—two rushing, one receiving and one on a 94-yard kickoff return.

COACHING MILESTONE
Richards (Oak Lawn, Ill.) coach Gary Korhonen became Illinois's alltime wins leader, with 301, when the Bulldogs defeated Evergreen Park (Ill.) 44--0 last Friday. In his 36 years of coaching he has won two state Class 4A titles.

SI's Top 10 Power Rankings

1 NORTHWESTERN (Miami) 4--0
Hosts struggling neighbor Miami Goleman (2--3)

2 ST. XAVIER (Cincinnati) 6--0
Bombers go for third straight shutout vs. LaSalle (Cincinnati)

3 SOUTH PANOLA (Batesville, Miss.) 5--0
Tigers just set state record with 65th straight win

4 CARROLL (Southlake, Texas) 3--1
Coming off a 63--16 W, faces 3--1 Heritage (Colleyville, Texas)

5 KATY (Texas) 4--0
In last nine quarters Tigers outscored opponents by a combined 93--14

6 NORTHSIDE (Warner Robins, Ga.) 5--0
Stockbridge (Ga.) must stop RB Tijuan Green (12 TDs)

7 MATER DEI (Santa Ana, Calif.) 4--0
Big game against undefeated Centennial (Corona, Calif.)

8 HAMILTON (Chandler, Ariz.) 6--0
Upstart Gilbert (Ariz.) is 4--2 and could be a surprise

9 MARYVILLE (Tenn.) 5--0
After escaping upset bid by rival Blount, Rebels put 50-game winning streak on line at Central (Knoxville, Tenn.)

10 COLERAIN (Cincinnati) 6--0
DL Brandon Mills (seven sacks) leads D vs. Lakota West

ONLY AT SI.COM For the Top 25, go to SI.com/highschool.

PHOTOMICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY (PRYOR)MAN IN MOTION Football is Pryor's priority, but he's not about to give up hoops (inset). PHOTOCHARLES LECLAIRE/WIREIMAGE.COM[See caption above] PHOTOMIKE SMITH/MATSHOTS PHOTOS (GALLIGER) PHOTOJOSALEE THRIFT/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

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