The Class of 2013 will be a very special one for Louisiana.
Not since the 1971 draft class that produced 10 players, defensive end Richard Harris (Grambling), halfback Joe Profit (Northeast Louisiana), wide receiver Frank Lewis (Grambling), outside linebacker Isiah Robertson (Southern), offensive guard Sam Holden (Grambling), halfback Virgil Robertson (Grambling), outside linebacker Ronnie Hornsby (Southeastern Louisiana), cornerback Al Clark (Eastern Michigan) and tight end Joe Carter (Grambling), has Louisiana produced more top 120 players selected in one draft class.
In the class of 1971 Harris, Profit, Lewis-from Southdown High School in Houma and Robertson, were all first round pick selections and all produced from high schools in the state of Louisiana.
The Class of 2013 will not have 4 first round picks from the prep ranks in Louisiana, but in my top 100 the Louisiana prep ranks have 7 players included in that number.
LSU outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, LSU free safety Eric Reid, Alabama halfback Eddie Lacy, Southeastern Louisiana cornerback Robert Alford, Tennessee offensive tackle/guard Dallas Thomas, LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan and LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, are amongst the list of the top players available to the NFL.
Four other players including LSU cornerback Tharold Simon, Louisiana Tech offensive tackle Jordan Mills-who played his prep football at Assumption High School, LSU offensive tackle Chris Faulk and LSU defensive end Lavar Edwards are included in my top 140 players available.
And it doesn’t stop there.
Thirteen other players including inside linebacker Michael Mauti (Penn State), halfback Michael Ford (LSU), offensive center P.J. Lonergan (LSU), LSU punter Brad Wing-who is originally from Australia, but he played his final season of high school football at Parkview Baptist in Baton Rouge, fullback Alex Singleton (Tulsa), offensive center Patrick Lewis (Texas A&M), wide receiver/return specialist Charles Hawkins (Southern University), offensive tackle/guard Josh Dworaczyk (LSU), offensive tackle Jason Weaver (Southern Mississippi), defensive tackle Darrington Sentimore (Tennessee), free safety Dexter McCoil (Tulsa), defensive tackle Josh Downs (LSU) and outside linebacker Herman Lathers (Tennessee), all have strong chances to get picked in the middle to later portions of the late April draft.
Eleven other players including wide receiver/halfback Randall Mackey (Ole Miss), wide receiver Javone Lawson (UL-Lafayette), tight end Chase Clement-from E.D. White Catholic High School in Thibodaux-(LSU), offensive guard/center Kevin Saia (Louisiana Tech), cornerback Trey Wilson (Vanderbilt), cornerback Ryan Travis (Tulane), defensive end Emeka Onyenekwu (UL-Lafayette), quarterback Blaine Gautier (UL-Lafayette), free safety Chad Boyd (Louisiana Tech),fullback/linebacker Jordan Piper (Nicholls State) and kicker Drew Alleman (LSU), look to be free agent signees for an NFL team.
The numbers are staggering for such a small drop of a dime place on the football map, but what is more amazing is that this has occurred seven and a half years after hurricanes Katrina and Rita rearranged the population of the state of Louisiana, especially south of the I-10 corridor.
The state of Louisiana took a population drop of almost 5% after those two devastating storms ravaged our region and sent many folks out of the southern portion and into northern Louisiana or out of state for jobs or in their opinion protection for themselves and their families.
That movement on the map could have had devastating results for schools in our regions, but instead we have seen steady growth of programs in our state from the likes of Louisiana Tech, UL-Lafayette, UL-Monroe and the potential of Tulane under second year head coach Curtis Johnson.
After the recruiting class of 2006 had ended 278 players from the state of Louisiana had signed scholarships to play football at some level of college competition.
At the end of the 2013 recruiting period the Louisiana prep ranks currently have 388 players that have signed scholarships to play at some level of college competition.
There is no denying that we have been and are still living in the Golden Age of LSU football.
And this year’s draft class will be a record breaking one.
In 1948 LSU had 8 players selected in one draft class, the most ever to come out of Tigertown in one year.
This year LSU will have Barkevious Mingo, Eric Reid, Kevin Minter, Sam Montgomery, Tyrann Mathieu, Tharold Simon, Bennie Logan, Lavar Edwards, Spencer Ware, Michael Ford, Chris Faulk and Brad Wing get selected, and the possibility of Josh Downs, Russell Shepard and P.J. Lonergan getting picked late also. Of the 15 possible selections 10 grew up and played high school football in the state of Louisiana.
Since 2006 LSU has sent 42 players into the NFL and of those 42 drafted players 25 of those were players from the state of Louisiana.
Since 2006 LSU has won 74 games, played in two national championship games and won one in 2007.
Much of their success has been built on building a tall levee around the state to corral most of the top talent and have them play their Saturday nights in Death Valley.
And many have gotten their opportunity to continue their careers in the NFL.
Last season LSU had 37 players playing in the NFL.
Nine straight years LSU has had a defensive lineman drafted by an NFL team. This year will most certainly make it 10 and no other school in college football can make that claim.
Defensive end Sam Montgomery, defensive tackle Bennie Logan, defensive end Lavar Edwards and defensive tackle Josh Downs all are likely to be picked and only Montgomery was not a product of the LSU prep ranks.
LSU has also produced six straight years of having defensive backs selected and with the likes of Eric Reid, Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon in this year’s class, it will make it seven straight years and all three played their prep football in Louisiana.
What is amazing also is that if you watched the Pittsburgh Steelers play last season three starters in their secondary, cornerbacks Ike Taylor (Abramson) and Keenan Lewis (O. Perry Walker)-now a member of the New Orleans Saints and free safety Ryan Clark (Archbishop Shaw), all played their prep football in the state of Louisiana.
We all are well aware of the tremendous exploits of Peyton and Eli Manning on the field, and they have become brand names in and outside the football world and Ed Reed may go down as one of, if not the greatest free safety of all-time, but this state has produced some of the top return men in the game also.
Gamechangers like Joe McKnight (New York Jets), Darius Reynaud (Tennessee Titans), Trindon Holliday (Denver Broncos), Jacoby Jones – Baltimore Ravens and “Dancing with the Stars” fame, and Damaris Johnson (Philadelphia Eagles) were all amongst the top punt or kickoff return men in the game last season and every one of them were from the state of Louisiana.
And the city of New Orleans has bounced back in a huge way also.
Last season the city of New Orleans had 33 players in the NFL trailing only Los Angeles with 119, Miami with 75, Houston with 45, Dallas with 43, Atlanta and Chicago with 39, San Francisco with 35 and Washington D.C. with 34.
When you consider the numbers per capita New Orleans has produced 2.7 players per 100,000-the most of any major city in the United States.
In the second tier of cities Monroe is third behind Jackson, Mississippi and Jacksonville, Florida for producing NFL players per 100,000 capita with 21 total players.
Lafayette, Louisiana is sixth overall and Baton Rouge is tenth in producing players per 100,000.
In a small stretch of land just outside the city of New Orleans in the River Parish Region you have two high schools in Destrehan and Hahnville that had more players from one individual school in the NFL at the end of the 2012 season than any other in the state.
Destrehan High School had the likes of free safety Ed Reed (Baltimore Ravens) strong safety Jericho Nelson (New Orleans Saints), wide receiver/punt returner Damaris Johnson (Philadelphia Eagles) and punter Mike Scifres on rosters at the end of the 2012 season.
Hahnville High School had safeties Dawan Landry (Jacksonville Jaguars) and LaRon Landry (New York Jets), halfback/return man Darius Reynaud (Tennessee Titans) and wide receiver LaRon Byrd (Arizona Cardinals), all on rosters to end the 2012 campaign.
These two schools are separated by less than ten miles and now have eight players playing in the NFL.
For all the effects of our storm ravaged area, major problems with our educational system and the reputation of dirty politics, this area is also known for its hospitality, its ability to produced and export a big chunk of our nation’s fuel and food through our port system, our unique food and culture, our tremendous amount of top chefs now all across the landscape in the United State and Canada and of having some of the top fishing and hunting spots in America.
We also know how to throw a party and a festival like no other place in North America and some of the most innovative ship building in the United States, but what could have been a real hit to one of our top exports, football talent, Louisiana has stayed alive and now prospered and in less than two weeks our state will be centerstage once again.
It is a really remarkable story.
One of our state’s top football players in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s was former East Jefferson High School and Nicholls State safety Gary Barbaro.
Barbaro was a small college All-American for the Colonels and went on to be a three-time Pro Bowler with the Kansas City Chiefs from 1976-1982.
Barbaro will announce the second and third round picks of the Chiefs in New York on the second day of the draft.
In past years the NFL has brought back many of the top stars to announce the selection of the teams they formerly played for.
Barbaro will be inducted into the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame this coming fall.