Let’s just start here: the Washington area is really good at high school sports.
How good? Well, Maryland produces the highest proportion of boys’ and girls’ Division I basketball players of any state in the union. The District and Virginia aren’t far behind.
And in football, all three outperform the likes of Texas, Alabama and California in terms of the percentage of local high school football players recruited by Division I colleges.
The District, included along with the 50 states in this study, ranks fourth; 7.2 percent of all of its high school football players between 2013 and 2016 were recruited to play at the highest level of college football, according to NCAA research.
Six and a half percent of Maryland players and 5.6 percent of Virginia players got the same treatment, the NCAA found.
Texas, a state often considered the Mecca of high school football, only had 2.7 percent of its players recruited for Division I scholarships.
Florida, Georgia and Louisiana were the top three states with 9.9 percent, 8.6 percent and 8.1 percent, respectively.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to have some guys go on in the past to not only play major college football, but be successful,” said Mike Hunter, coach of Friendship Collegiate Academy, the reigning D.C. city champion. “That always leaves future players and generations wanting to follow in those footsteps.”
Friendship had two graduates in the NFL in the 2016-17 season: Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and Bears defensive tackle Eddie Goldman. Rival H.D. Woodson also had a pair of NFL players: Saints defensive back Ken Crawley and Lions defensive back Tavon Wilson.
The Redskins just re-signed Dunbar graduate Vernon Davis to a three-year contract last month. The tight end’s brother, Vontae Davis, also a Dunbar graduate, spent last season with Indianapolis as one of the Colts’ starting cornerbacks.
“D.C. has always had a bunch of athletes,” Hunter said. “Back in the 1980s and the early ’90s, most of your better athletes focused on basketball. Over the past 10 to 15 years, that has started changing. We’re getting some of those basketball guys to come out for football. We’re getting recognized for football now.”
Friendship Collegiate has 18 players off its city championship team signed to play college football, five of them to Division I schools, including highly touted pass rusher Vaughn Taylor and wide receiver Nykeim Johnson. Taylor signed to play for Navy. Johnson signed with Syracuse.
Woodson sent run-stuffing defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman to Pittsburgh.
St. John’s, of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, sent six players to Division I schools, including Auburn signee and five-star offensive lineman Calvin Ashley.
National Signing Day, Hunter said, is one of the most emotional days of the year for his team.
“It’s our championship day,” he said. “A lot of things we do with our academic program, not just athletics, is to get them through college, not just to college. A lot of things you learn in sports you can take with you.
“We have a number of guys graduating college. They’re successful in their college careers. It’s not so much they come back and tell the coaches, but they tell younger guys at Friendship what helped them and what they had to overcome when they got to college.”