A Player on the National Stage
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
At 6 feet 2 and 270 pounds, J.B. Walton is accustomed to having people look at him a little differently. What caught him off guard last spring, however, was exactly who was doing the looking.
The lineman at Lackey High drew an A-list of college coaches to Indian Head in Southern Maryland at the end of his junior year, each hoping to lure Walton to his school.
"You never knew who was showing up the next day or the day after that," Walton said. "It was most of the schools you watch on television. And they're coming here [for] me? It was amazing."
If Walton seems starstruck, he's not alone. Throughout the Washington area, celebrity coach sightings have become a more common part of the football landscape. They've been seen flying into small airports in Southern Maryland, negotiating the Mixing Bowl near Springfield en route to catching Westfield's Evan Royster, coming into the District on New York Avenue for a look at Dunbar's Vontae Davis - all of them trying to get their piece of the area's unprecedented depth of top-tier talent.
Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer is coming to school today? Ho-hum. Urban Meyer, the genius behind Utah's undefeated season, now aiming to bring Florida back to elite status? That's nice. Les Miles, recently hired by national champion LSU? Anybody want an autograph?
"The top-line guys in the Washington area this year are as good as anyone in the country," Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables said.
Oklahoma is just one of the schools giving Maryland's Ralph Friedgen, Virginia's Al Groh and Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer company in their own back yard.
"You name it, they've been here, other than USC," Forestville Coach Charles Harley said after spending the spring listening to coaches try to woo offensive lineman Antonio Logan-El. "They're the only one of the high-end boys I haven't seen.
"Who would have ever thunk it? [And] Fridge, I'd never seen him in our building before. This year, he's been in twice already."
He's not the only one getting a fill of coaches with high Q-ratings.
Take Quince Orchard. Since opening in 1988, the Gaithersburg school had never produced a Division I-A signee. Then linebacker Bani Gbadyu came along and nearly 40 schools offered him scholarships before he chose LSU.
Meantime, Mount Hebron defensive end Aaron Maybin might be the most highly recruited player ever from Howard County.