The fabric of America is not a spiraling city metropolis, rather it’s small towns. Some of sports biggest icons are natives of small towns. Michael Jordan, Jim Thorpe, Pele, Jerry Rice, Bo Jackson, and Wayne Gretzky all grew up in places with fewer than 60,000 residents. About 25 percent of the United States population resides in cities with under 50,000 people, but nearly half of the players in the NFL are from areas that size. The trend is less significant but continues into the NHL (39 percent), MLB (38 percent), NBA (28 percent) and PGA tour (50%).
How are small towns able to produce an abundance of talent? It could be the cultural importance placed on sports in the community. It could be a chance to get away from their rural environments. It all got us to wondering, what small towns produce the best pro sports talent? We take a look at our 12 favorite.
The Muck, Florida
Pahokeee, a small town in southeastern Florida is home to 5,600 residents. The closest town, Belle Glade has a population of 17,000 residents. Together these two communities are known as “The Muck”. They hold a unique tradition that is something out of a comic book. Located on the eastern southern coast of Florida. The cities have a rough reputation and both cities are well below the poverty line. While it may lack state funding and a solid infrastructure, it does posses a legendary football legacy. Two school’s Glades Central and Pahokeee, have sent at least 48 players to NFL over the last four decades. Pahokeee has won five state championships in last 6 years, Glades central has won six since 1971. Each year the Muck Bowl is decided between Glades Central and Pahokeee high. While the game is for bragging rights, it symbolizes much more.
Many wonder why Pahokeee & Glades could produce the ridiculous number of NFL players it does. Sugar Cane fields spread right up to the levees of Lake Okeechobee, known as the Muck for its dark rich soil and three feet of coffee grounds. Pahokeee holds a unique football tradition each year, they burn the sugar cane harvest, the burn drives the rabbits out of the fields. During the burning, players from the city will come out and try to catch the rabbits. If they catch a certain number of rabbits (45 in one day) they are fast enough to be a position player for the football team. Many think the tradition provides a quick separation of the players and non-players. Anquan Bolding, Janoris Jenkins, Perneell McPhee, Antone Smith, Bill Bently, Rickey Jackson and Andre Water have all chased the rabbits. Adidas made an ad campaign based around the cities rabbit chasing tradition (which can be seen here).
The Muck has a reputation for producing tough no-nonsense players. NFL hall of fame linebacker Ricky Jackson may have been the first star of “The Muck”. The 4x All-Pro selection attended Pahokee high school before going on to Pittsburgh. As a member of the New Orleans Saints he was a member of the famed “Dome Patrol”.
Four time pro bowl running back Fred Taylor was born in Pahokee and attended Glades Central. Taylor initially played linebacker, but switched to running back in his junior season. As a senior, he ran for 1,700 yards and 22 touchdowns. Taylor played at the University of Florida before being drafted in the 1st round with the 9th overall pick.
In an area known for producing receivers, Anquan Boldin may have been the best. The future Hall of Fame wide receiver stared at Pahokee high from 1993 to 1995. Boldin caught for over 14,000 yards in his NFL career and has stared in 2 Superbowl's.
Superbowl champion Santonio Holmes also attended Glades Central high school. He was a Letterman in football, basketball, and track. In football, he helped lead his team to two state titles and a 12-1 record as a senior. Santonio graduated from Glades Central High School in 2002 before winning a National Championship at Ohio State. During his pro career he produced over 6,000 receiving yards and 36 touchdowns in 9 seasons.
Recently star cornerback, Janoris Jenkins stared for The Muck. He caught the rabbit in 2006 before being drafted by the Rams in 2012.
Kelvin Benjamin was originally a basketball player, before he took up football his junior season. Everyone was impressed with Benjamin, at a camp Randy Moss told him he reminded him of himself at the same age. Benjamin played 3 seasons at Florida State before being drafted in the first round.
Other elite football players that come out of “The Muck” include Alphonso Smith drafted in 2009, Kevin Bouie in 1995, Eric Moore in 2005, Pernell McPhee in 2011, Dwight Bentley in 2012.
A town of only 27,000 residents, located 8 miles west of the Hoover river. The town is still stained of the mining and steel making decline of the early 1900’s. Without Bessemer, the history of college football would change dramatically. The town has the distinction of being home to 2 different Heisman winners, Bo Jackson and Jameis Winston.
Winston grew up in Bessemer and played his high school football at nearby Hueytown High School. As a high school senior, Winston threw for 2,424 yards and 28 touchdowns. And ran for another 1,065 yards and 15 TDs as a senior. As a redshirt freshman, Winston won the 2013 Heisman Trophy with Florida State. The next season he led his team to the 2014 BCS National Title and a 14-0 record. He went 26-1 as the starting quarterback at Florida State. True to his roots, Winston held a draft night party in Bessemer, rather than attend the NFL Draft in Chicago.
Before he was the most famous athlete on earth, Bo Jackson called the city home. He attended school in McAadory, where he rushed for 1175 yards as a running back as a high school senior. Jackson hit twenty home runs in 25 games for McAdory's baseball team during his senior season. Bo was also a two-time state champion in the decathlon, in which he built up such a commanding lead that he never had to compete in the 1500 meter race of event. In 1982, Jackson set state school records for indoor high jump (6'9") and triple jump (48’8").
Beside the two Heisman winners, Bessemer has produced a ton of football talent. DeMeco Ryans attended Jess Lanier High. In his senior season, he had 135 tackles, 11 sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions. Ryans eventually played college football for the University of Alabama, and received unanimous All-American honors. He was chosen by the Houston Texans in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft. In Houston, he was named the AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2006, he was also selected to two Pro Bowls.
Jerome Rhodes was a starting quarterback and honor student at Jess Lanier High in Bessemer. During his senior season, Rhodes threw for more than 1,600 yards and ran for another 850. He was also selected first team All-state in basketball, after he led his team to the 6A title game. He was drafted by the New York Jets in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft. Rhodes was named to All-Pro teams by three publications after the 2006 NFL season. If that’s not enough, rap legend Gucci Man hails from Bessemer.
A town of 48,000 people, halfway between Dayton and Cincinnati. Bleak and gloomy weather burden the city, that was once famous for it’s steel production. During the 1950’s and 60’s it was one of the best basketball cities in America. Their outdoor court “Sunset Park” was home to some of the most legendary street games of all time, featuring future pros like Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas. Hundreds of fans lined the court to watch the area’s greatest high school and college players. Middletown high school had already won five state championships from 1945–55. Residents have taken pride in its plethora of amazing athletes that have been born and raised in the city.
By the time he was 15, Sunset Park was one of the best summer basketball scenes in the midwest. By then, Jerry Lucas had grown to 6'7" and had the opportunity to scrimmage against college players, improving his game significantly. He led the 1956 Middletown team to an undefeated season and co-national high school champion. The 1956–57 team also went undefeated and won the Ohio state title. By then, Lucas had set several all-time Ohio records for scoring and shooting accuracy. Lucas entered his senior year as the top-rated high school player in the country. When Middletown lost to an undefeated Columbus North team, 63-62, in the 1958 state playoffs, his high school career ended with a 76-1 record. Lucas went on to a standout career, playing 14 NBA seasons before being selected for the Hall of Fame.
The most notable family of Middleton was the Carters, the eldest brother Butch stared for Middleton High School from 1973-1976. As a senior Butch was Mr. Basketball of Ohio. He went on to play for Indiana University and was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers. He played in the NBA for 6 seasons before going on to coach professionally.
The youngest of the Carter brothers, was Chris. The two-sport star attended Middleton high from 1980-83. Many thought of him as a superb basketball talent that was destined to follow his brother’s path to the NBA. The little brother was heavily recruited in both football and basketball. He chose to attended Ohio St, where he planned to play both sports. After his freshman season he decided to focus entirely on football. As a junior he was an All-American before declaring for the draft. He played 15 seasons in the NFL and left as one of the greatest wide receivers of all time. Carter was known for his ridiculous hands, racking up over 13,000 receiving yards and 130 touchdowns.
Todd Bell was a standout football player for Middletown, recruited by Ohio State as a defensive back. In 1981 Todd Bell was drafted by the Chicago Bears, playing for them from 1981 to 1987. He signed a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he played an additional two years before breaking his leg against the Bears in 1989.
Jalin Marshall attended Middletown high school, where he played wide receiver and quarterback. During his career, he rushed for 4,759 yards and had 54 total touchdowns. Marshall was rated by Scout.com as a five-star recruit and committed to Ohio State University to play college football.
Baseball standout Kyle Schwarber attended Middletown High School in Middletown, Ohio. During his four years, he hit .408 with 18 home runs and 103 RBIs. Gary Brewer, a professional golfer on the PGA Tour from 1961 to 1972, was the winner of the 1967 Masters Tournament. Brewer retired from the PGA Tour with 11 tournament wins. Produced a various other division 1 college basketball players like Purdue's current star Vincent Edwards. Most recently Luke Kennard came out of the city, he set the Ohio high school basketball scoring record before staring at Duke University for 2 seasons. He’s currently in his rookie season with the Detroit Pistons.
Kinston, North Carolina
Just off the coast of the Atlantic, Kinston only has 21,000 residents. At one point they were the tobacco capital of America. Another time they had a bomb threaten the entire existence of their city. Since then gangs, drugs and violence have overwhelmed the community. A town of about 20,000 people produces more high-level basketball talent than major cities. The odds of making it to the NBA are pretty minuscule, only three out of every 10,000 high school players make it to the highest level of basketball. But Kinston’s numbers resonate way differently. Since 1972, 1 out of 53 varsity players play in the NBA. Making it the top producer of talent per capita of any city in the United States.
Holloway rec. center was a proving ground for the top Kinston players. The center was opened and is still owned by Brandon Ingram’s Father. The skill level was separated by two courts. One court for the adults and one for the kids. Everyones aim was always to play on the adult court, that's how you proved you belong. As a youngster Jerry Stackhouse had intense battles with Mr. Ingram, trying to prove his rank at the center.
Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell started off the tradition for Kinston. He was only good enough to make the varsity team as a senior, before earning a division 1 scholarship. Cornbread was drafted in the first round by San Diego in the 1977 draft. He went on to play with Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics winning an NBA championship in 1981. Maxwell has served as a mentor to many in the community.
Jerry Stackhouse may have claim to the greatest athlete out of Kinston. The 18 year NBA veteran set all scoring records at Kinston before heading off to Oak Hill Academy as a senior. Heres a bonus video of Stack dominating at Kinston in the early 90's. Stackhouse scored over 24,000 points in his NBA career. He has claimed Kinston as his home throughout his career. Stackhouse has also been an adviser for several athletes from Kinston after him.
Recently Brandon Ingram has continued the tradition after scoring over 2,500 points in high school. He headed off to Duke where he was the ACC freshman of the year, before being drafted 2nd overall in the NBA draft.
Reggie Bullock also grew upon Kinston. He said there were a number of people who looked out for him as a young ball player growing up in a place he has described as “gangland.” Bullock said gang members helped dissuade him from a life of crime and went as far as to shelter him from danger.
Tony Dawson is a retired NBA small forward who attended Kinston High School. He’s played with the Sacramento Kings and the Boston Celtics before playing some basketball overseas.
While the city produces mostly basketball talent they have produced other notable athletes. NFL hall of famer, tight end Dwight Clark was born in Kinston. Kinston was home to NBA veterans Herbert Hill, Charles Shackleford, Mitchell Wiggins and NFL veteran Dwight Coples.
UNC Coach Roy Williams commented, “You know it is incredible the size of the town but yet you think about those players that have been there and what they’ve accomplished. It’s phenomenal.” Williams also added that “I’m more likely to travel to Kinston to see a player than I would be in New York City”.
Donora is a decaying town, another in a long line of once-flourishing Rust Belt boroughs along the river in West Pennsylvania. Agriculture, coal-mining, steel-making, wire-making, and other industries were conducted in Donora's early history. Home to the 1948 smog that killed 20 people and sickened another 7,000. Donora has a collection of hall-of-famer's that would even put the bigger cities to shame. Stan Musial, Ken Griffey Junior and Joe Montana. The population as of 2010 was a mere 4,781.The steel mills closed long ago. A broken-down bridge that was Donora’s last business life line was imploded last year. “It’s really depressing, and basically, everybody moves out of this town,” said Dennis Lomax, 64, who grew up in Donora.
Stan “The Man” Musial was the first superstar to hail from Donora. While growing Musial lived next to a former minor league catcher who taught Musial valuable lessons in baseball. He played one season on the Donora High School baseball team, where one of his teammates was Buddy Griffey, father of MLB player Ken Griffey Sr. and grandfather to Ken Griffey Jr.. One of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball had a lifetime average of .331 over his 22 big league seasons. Musial faced hometown tragedy when the Donora Smog attack killed a brother and a cousin. Although it was a tremendous loss for Musial he continued to support his home town. “The Man” helped put Donora on the map and has never forgotten when he came from, giving the residents of the city a great source of pride.
Both Ken Griffey Jr. and Ken Griffey Sr. hail from Donora. Senior went to high school right there in Donora before staring for the Reds and Mariners. His contemporaries in Donora did not think he would become a baseball star; they considered his best sport football, where he was a star wide receiver. At times, he would even compete in track meets during baseball games, rushing up the hill between Donora High School's baseball field and track between at-bats when it came time for his track events. Junior didn't play his high school ball in town but went to Archbishop Moeller of Cincinnati. Still Senior thought it was best if his family lived in the same town he grew up in. Both still call Donora home to this day, the town recently gave the town an official Ken Griffey day.
Joe Montana “Joe Montana was from New Eagle, but he played his high school football for Ringgold at Legion Field here in Donora,” he said. Maybe think the magic of Donora may have rubbed off on Montana.
While the city hasn't produced a great athlete in a number of years, the community is still heavily rooted in sports. Donora is a decaying town, yet another Western Pennsylvania borough hit by hard times. But it’s also the birthplace of the Griffey's and Stan Musial, and that’s something that keeps its residents going.
Located only 29 miles outside Pittsburgh, this tiny town of 10,000 was able to give starts to 4 future NFL hall-of-famers. In the early 1980's when the steel mills started moving away, people found multiple generations of their families out of work. With no other jobs, most people moved away from the area. This caused the city’s population to drop drastically. Those who stayed found themselves struggling just to feed their families. It has one of the highest violent crimes rates in the nation, regardless of city size.
The towns original sports hero might be Pete Maravich’s father, Press Maravich. From his early time as a player, Press was a basketball hero in his hometown. After his brief professional career he returned to coach the high school boys team.
Before the sweater vest and cigar, future hall-of-famer Mike Ditka was a 3 sport star at Aliquippa High School. Under head coach Press Maravich, Ditka started at forward on the basketball team. Ditka went on to be a hall of fame NFL tight end and a Superbowl winning coach with the 1986 Chicago Bears.
Eight years after Ditka departed, Press Maravich’s son was ready to star for the city. It was Aliquippa, where Pete first honed his basketball wizardry, even throwing an under the legs pass as a 12 year old on the high school’s varsity. Maravich and Press eventually formed the greatest father-son college tandem of all time. Maravich scored a record 44 points a game for his dad at LSU, before staring for 10 seasons in the NBA.
Running back Tony Dorsett attended Hopewell High School and set the school rushing record with 2,272 yards. While attending Pittsburgh University, he was the Heisman winner in the 1976 season. Dorsett was an all-world running back in the NFL where he accumulated 4 Pro Bowl selections and a first team All-Pro nod in 1981.
The early 90’s saw Ty Law emerge on the scene for Aliquippa high. Law was MVP of the school’s basketball and football teams. He was a top 50 recruit nationally and chose to attend Michigan before his hall of fame NFL career.
As a senior Sean Gilbert was a Parade Magazine All-America and the USA Today Prep Defensive Player of the Year and the Associated Press named him to its First-team All-state after leading the "Quips" to a 14–1 record and a Western Pennsylvania AAA championship.
The greatest football player to come out of Aliquippa may be Darrelle Revis. In the State Championship game, he led Aliquippa to a come-from-behind 32–27 win by scoring 5 touchdowns. In his junior and senior years of high school he led Aliquippa to WPIAL basketball championships, leading the team in scoring both years, culminating with a 25.2 PPG average his senior season. He stared at Pittsburgh before his 5x All-Pro career in the NFL.
Other NFL players that came out of the city include, Carmine DePascal, Anthony Dorsett Jr., Charles Fisher, John Tzel, Josh Lay, Curt Singer, Paul Posluszny, Richard Mann, Bob Liggett, and Willie Walker. These kids don’t have a lot, most have nothing to look forward to but football, so they put all of their pride into that game.
Depending on who you ask, Compton is both clouded in gang violence and filled with family ties. Ask those outside LA and they instantly think of gang activity. Natives tell a tale of close-knit community. Similar to other cities, Compton has seen a serious change over the last 50 years. While the namesake provides plenty of cache, the city itself has produced a countless amount of pro stars. A rich history of sport has always ran parallel with the city.
The city’s biggest stars may be sisters, Serena Williams world No. 1 ranked female tennis player with 23 Grand Slam singles titles and 14 Grand Slam doubles titles. And her sister, Venus Williams – former world No. 1 tennis player with seven Grand Slam titles and four Olympic golds. The sister honed their game in Compton learning the game at an early age from their father. Heres some footage on Venus and Serena on their upbringing in Compton.
Dennis Johnson was one of the first truly dominant basketball players from Compton. The glamour of NBA stardom was a long way from Johnson's childhood in Compton, Calif. He was the eighth of 16 children, the son of a bricklayer and a social worker. As a 5-9 guard at Dominguez High School, Johnson played only a minute or two each game. After graduation he grew 6 inches and eventually found his way to Pepperdine University, before going on to a hall of fame career with Seattle and Boston.
In 2000 a kid named Aaron Afflao started attending Centennial High in Compton. Afflao went on to be a two time All-State selection and a top 20 player nationally. After leading UCLA to the Final 4 in his junior season, he declared for the draft. Later prompting Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar to include tails of Afflao, in his hit album Good Kid Mad City.
Demar Derozan blew up as a 13 year old playing with Master P’s All-Star team, that featured the likes of Brandon Jennings. Jennings who started his freshman year at Compton’s Dominiguez, then transferred to Oak Hill Academy his sophomore season amid cash allegations. Meanwhile Derozan stayed home attending nearby Compton High School for 4 seasons before attending USC. As teenage stars the duo knew just about everyone in Compton, including fellow basketball star James Harden. The Beard attended Artesia High School a far drive away from the inner city of Compton. Although he didn’t attend a Compton basketball factory he did lead his team to two state championships. The cities other NBA players include Cedric Ceballaos, Dwayne Polee, Tyshaun Prince, Patrick Christopher, Josh Childress, Titto Maddox and Jeff Trepagnier.
All-Pro NFL corner Richard Sherman played for Dominguez high from 2003-2006. As a senior in 2005, he accounted for 1,030 all-purpose yards, including 870 yards on 28 catches and three punt returns for touchdowns. Sherman was even named an All-American track and Field player as a high school senior. Sherman played at Stanford before being drafted in the 5th round by the Seattle Seahawks.
Compton’s only Heisman winner was USC running back Mike Garrett. Garrett was a star running back during his reign with the Trojans. He went on to star in the NFL for 10 seasons. Notable ESPN personality and NFL pro bowler Marcellus Wiley also hails from Compton. Wiley played for the Bills and Chargers for 11 NFL seasons. James Lofton was a standout linebacker with the Washington Redskins. Lofton helped them to 3 Super Bowl titles after growing up in Compton.
Eddie Murray was a big time slugger in the major leagues, tacking up over 500 home runs. Murray started his baseball career at Compton High before moving on to college. As a senior the outfielder was one of the most sought after prospects in the country. Murray is far from the only great baseball player Compton has produced.
Duke Snider Started the tradition, the MLB hall of famed had a great career with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Snider stared at Compton high in the late 1930’s. The city has also produced various other coaches and people close to sports. Ex NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle is a native of Compton.
The western most city in the Florida Panhandle has a population around 55,000. Known for their dangerous exposure to hurricanes and their title of "The Cradle of Naval Aviation”. Home to a large United States Naval Air Station, the first in the United States. The football king of talent could also be Pensacola. Home to all time greats Emmit Smith and Derrick Brooks, the city gets little credit for its football dominance. A respectable number of basketball and baseball stars also called the city home. The youth program was thought to have some of the best coaches in america.
The NFL’s all time leading rusher Emmitt Smith, attended Escambia High School where he played high school football and ran track. During Smith's career he rushed for 106 touchdowns and 8,804 yards, which was the second most yardage in the history of American high school football at the time. Emmitt rushed for over 100 yards in 45 of the 49 games he started for Escambia. In track & field, Smith competed as a sprinter and was a member of the 4 × 100 m (42.16 s) relay squad. For his efforts, Smith was the USA Today and Parade magazine high school player of the year for 1986.
Following Smiths stellar high school career, the city birthed another Football legend in Derrick Brooks. Brooks attended Washington High School in Pensacola where he was a USA Today All-American. During his senior season in 1991, Brooks carried Pensacola to the state playoff semifinals, where they lost to the eventual champion Manatee. Brooks would eventually star in the NFL where he was All-Pro 11 times, he was elected to the hall of fame in 2014.
Doug Baldwin hails from the city, where he stared at two sports in high school. The wide receiver had a big senior season with 682 yards and 6 touchdowns. Once at the pro level, Baldwin broke out racking up over 5,900 receiving yards and 80 touchdowns in just 7 seasons. Recently running back’s Trent Richardson and Alfred Morris stared for high schools in Pensacola. Both running backs made it big in the NFL, even though Richardson flamed out rather quickly. Richardson was an All-American during his high school career. While Morris was an unheralded recruited, he excelled at the pro level.
Not known for corner backs, Cortland Finegan also attend Pensacola high. An underrated recruited Finegan proved himself at the highest keel once he got the chance. Several other outstanding football players call the city home including Ladius Green, Josh Sitton, Ahtyba Rubin, Adron Chambers, Fred Robbins.
Baseball is another speciality of Pensacola, which produced the likes of Addison Russell, Josh Donaldson, Jay Bell, Travis Fryman, Buck Showwalter, Josh Sitton and Don Sutton. The town has even produced a few NBA players, Bob Williams, Tom Sweell, Rich Peek, Clifford Lett and most recently Reggie Evans.
Infamous boxer Roy Jones Jr. hails from Pensacola. Before he went on to 6 different weight titles, he trained right there in downtown Pensacola.
A fast growing city in northern Georgia, in only 5 years Norcross went from 9,000 residents to over 16,000. The recent explosion in population has helped an already robust basketball city take the next step. Norcross has recently started to produce high quality players. Before 2003, no NBA player ever came out of Norcross. Since then Jodie Meeks, Trey Thompkins, Gani Lawal, Jeremy Lamb, Al-Farouq Aminu and Malcolm Brogdon have all made it to the league via Norcross. Putting out NBA players is nearly impossible and Norcross is making it look routine. Outside of prep schools, there are not many talent-rich public high school basketball factories. Norcross High is a public school that continually produces college & NBA level basketball players. Racking up multiple state championships while sending countless players to the college and NBA level. Head Coach Jesse McMillan, has sent over 45 players to division one college since 2002.
Jodie Meeks started the recent trend of successful players when he started at Norcross High in 2002. His senior season culminated in Meeks averaging 25 points and leading Norcross to it’s first state championship. As a top 50 recruit nationally, he drew numerous college scholarships before choosing Kentucky. As a junior he earned All-American honors and was a first round draft pick in the NBA.
Al-Fariuq Aminu was a bona fide star as a high school star at Norcorss high. A top 10 recruit nationally, Aminu averaged 23.1 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game as a senior. Aminu is currently in his 8th NBA season with career averages of 9 points and 5 rebounds. Norcross went 30-3 during Aminu’s senior season where he paired with future NBA player Gani Lawal.
Lawal teamed with Aminu to make one of the best front lines in the history of Georgia high school basketball. Lawal was named a McDonalds All-American as a senior before staring at Georgia Tech.
Before he won the 2009 NCAA championship with the UCONN Huskies Jeremy Lamb was leading Norcross to a regional championship. After his two years at UCONN, Lamb was an NBA lottery pick in 2012.
Recent NBA sensation Malcolm Brogdon graduated in 2009 before staring at the University of Virginia. As a high school senior he averaged 25.7 points, 12.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Brogdon was Rookie of the Year in 2016 after being drafted in the 2nd round by Milwaukee.
Various college basketball stars also came out of the city. Trey Thompkins had a cup of tea in the NBA after staring at Georgia. Jordan DeMercy paired with Aminu and Lawal before playing at Florida State for 4 seasons. Chris Allen was a college star at Michigan State. Rayshaun Hammond's like countless other players played at Georgia. Jordan Goldwire is a sophomore at Duke University. Most recently Norcross high’s Lance Thomas committed to Louisville.
True to its state tradition, the city has produced some great football talent. Before tearing up the NFL, running back Alvin Kamara called Norcross home. The pro bowl running back and Crimson Tide alumni, attended school at Norcross high. Wide recover Brice Butler, Denver Broncos center Max Garcia and Detroit Lions Tackle Jeff Backus all stared at Norcross high in the past 20 years. Recently Georgia's Lorenzo Carter attended Norcross high.
Pine Bluff, Arkansas
With a population of about 50,000 people, Pine Bluff has been a hidden gem in the world of sports. With roots in the civil war, early industry help build the cities infrastructure. Once those industries left and jobs were gone, the community took a serious hit. Now the town has major problems with its economy and dying infrastructure. At one time, it was one of the major producers of athletic talent in the country.
Early football star Don Hutson help put Pine Bluff on the map. As a senior at Pine Bluff High School he was an All-State basketball player, he was famously quoted as saying "I'm like most, I'd rather see football, but I'd rather play basketball.” Hutson only played one year of football at Pine Bluff before he went on to play for the Alabama Crimson Tide. He then signed a contract with the Green Bay Packers where he stayed for 10 seasons. He was an 8 time first team All-Pro at the wide receiver position and won three championship. Hutson was named league MVP twice, leading the league in receiving yards 7 times.
Joe Berry Caroll was perhaps Pine Bluff’s biggest basketball star. The 7’0 Center stared at North Carolina State in college before becoming at NBA lottery pick. A naturally gifted player, Caroll struggled with substance abuse issues and was never able to fulfill his true potential.
One of the NBA’s first big point guards was Lafayette Lever, better known as “FAT”. The 6-3 Lever had a long and skinny frame that allowed him to shoot and see over the top of smaller defenders. His best year came in 1987 when he averaged 19 points to go along with 8 assist for the Denver Nuggets. The best part of Lever’s game might have been his rebounding, as he averaged 8 or more rebounds 4 different times in his career.
The cities most well-known star was Torii Hunter, the former MLB center fielder stared at Pine Bluff High school where he played baseball, football, basketball and track. During his high school career he was named to the US track team. Eventually he was selected out of high school in the 1993 MLB draft by the Minnesota Twins.
Willie Roaf was a longtime NFL lineman that also grew up in Pine Bluff. Roaf was a star tackle in high school and had numerous division 1 college choices. Roaf might even receive some consideration for the Hall of Fame.
The mid size city has also produced a countless amount of division 1 football and basketball players. Recently those in the area think that the talent pool has dropped off quite a bit. Mostly due to families moving away from the area. Locals question when that problem will be solved.
East Chicago, Indiana
Located against the south end of Lake Michigan, East Chicago is cold, tough town in the northern most part of Indiana. Home to 30,000 people, the frigid town has produced great athletes. East Chicago was once powered by a booming steel industry. Near by, Gary is another basketball hot bed that has produced numerous talents. East Chicago's has a rich high school basketball history which includes four basketball state championships, 7 NBA players and more than 100 Division I players.
Before Kenny Loften was big time in the major leagues, he called East Chicago home. Loften was a huge two sport star in baseball and basketball. The future MLB All-Star broke several school records. He started at point guard for the schools basketball team, while playing center field for the baseball team.
Greg Popovich grew up in East Chicago before playing in the NBA and coaching 5 championship teams. He spent his summer nights at Glen Park on 39th and Broadway in south Gary, going against the top players in the area. As a junior he started on the varsity team, where he improved each day. Eventually he caught a scholarship and made his way to the NBA. Recently Popovich had his No.21 jersey retired by his high school, prompting him to say, "I don't know why they want to do it now. My scoring average hasn't changed in 40 years." Here is some bonus footage of Popovich talking about growing up in East Chicago.
NBA player Junior Bridgeman was the 7th overall pick in the 1982 draft. Bridgeman was a star recruit for East Chicago high. NBA journeyman Etwann Moore continued the basketball tradition in East Chicago. The 6-3 scoring guard was a top 50 recruit nationally before attending Purdue University.
Recently Carolina Panthers Star Kawann Short attended East Chicago high from 2004 to 2007. Short was under recruited but was a two time all Big-Ten selection at Purdue. Besides Short, the town has produced long time NFL veterans Jim Bradley and Ron Smith. They even produced MLB players Larry Fritz and Bob Anderson.
Lamar, South Carolina
Lamar with a tiny population of 989, has produced four NFL football players in the past 25 year. All of them attended the one and only high school in town. Linebacker Levon Kirkland (Class of 1986), defensive end John Abraham (1996), safety Mike Hamlin (2004), linebacker Marshall McFadden (2005) and B.J. Goodson (2011) all came up in Lamar. Known as a town where two school busses were toppled over in a desegregation protest in 1970, Lamar remade its image with football.
The odds of a town that size producing 5 NFL players in 25 years is off the charts. Jeffrey Forrester, an associated professor of math at Dickenson College in Pennsylvania put the chances at 0.000000000797. Being dealt a royal flush is 20,000 times more likely to happen. Dominic Yeo, an Oxford math student, set the probability at “1 in ten million billion.”
John Abraham was a star in the NFL, making 5 pro bowl teams as a defensive end. The future first team All-Pro selection played only one season of high school football where he was good enough to earn a scholarship to the University of South Carolina.
Most recently Lamar native B.J. Goodson made his way to the NFL. The Clemson linebacker was drafted in the 4th round by the New York Giants in 2016. In his 2 seasons with the Giants, he has recorded 62 tackles.
Levon Kirkland, a former Pittsburgh Steeler and second-round draft pick, is now an assistant coach with the Arizona Cardinals. Before his coaching days he was a 2x All-Pro selection at linebacker. He believes the no-frills life in Lamar has a real effect on the success of the players in the city “there were no movie theaters or fast food restaurants and that led to a blue-collar work ethic. The guys from Lamar are workers.”
Mount Vernon, NY. Tyler, TX. Gavelston, TX. Tuston, CA. Martins Ferry, OH. Gastonia, NC. Marietta, GA. Griffin, GA. Stone Mountian, GA. Bernice, LA. Lufkin, TX. Gastonia, NC. Glen Ridge, NJ.
An overly complicated list to research and judge. High School Football has been played in this country for over 90 years. Choosing the 10 best teams was a big task. While the Football might span several decades, their were many similarities between these all time juggernauts. Teams were ranked based on a few characteristics, Division 1 or NFL talent, their strength of schedule and their margin of victory. Several of these individual teams served as big time pipelines to major college programs. Many of the players would go on to decide future National titles in college.
#1) De La Salle (Conord, California) 2001
Most sports fans have heard of the infamous 151 game winning streak by De La Salle High School in Concord, California. Led by head coach Bob Ladicer, the Spartans didn’t loose for over 12 years. During that streak they boasted numerous NFL and division 1 prospects.
The team that standouts over the others, is the 2001 version of the Spartans. They started the season ranked 1 nationally in some publications, but the USA Today ranked them 2nd behind Long Beach Poly. There defense only returned four starters and had to replace All-American linebacker Kevin Simon, who moved on to Tennessee. Their defense still managed four shutouts. Unlike some seasons in the streak, the Spartans faced two nationally ranked teams in the 2001 season. Although, they were never in danger of loosing a game.
Head coach Bob Ladicer was probably the best high school football coach ever. The 2001 team exemplified everything the program was about. Their veer offensive illustrated their simple approach to the game. Instead of flashy gimmicks De La Salle was simply more discipline and hard working than any team they ran into. While effort and fundamentals were their backbone, the team had no shortage of talent.
Led by junior running back and future NFL star Maurice Jones-Drew, the 5-7 bulldozer racked up 1,043 yards and 22 touchdowns on just 75 touches during the 2001 season (13.9 YPC). He performed even better in big games, racking up 365 yards rushing (14.6 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns in three postseason games. Quarterback Matt Guiterez had his pick of big time schools, as he was ranked 88th in the country. He was recruited by the likes of Michigan, Notre Dame and Tennessee, eventually he spent some time in the NFL. He had a big senior season in 2001 with 3,300 passing yards and 33 touchdowns. The team had another big time weapon in two way starter Demetrius Williams. A blur with the Spartans, he was a three-year starter at wideout for Oregon, where he had 11 100-yard receiving games. He played in the NFL for 5 seasons. The standout lineman was two way starter and nationally ranked Derek Landri. The tackle was the highest rated prospect the Spartans had. During his senior season of 2001, he was named California’s Mr. Football. He went on to start at Notre Dame for three years, before staring in the NFL for 5 years. The depth of the program was unquestioned. Defensive back and future Oregon Duck, Willie Glasper was a sophomore on the team. Juniors Chan and Erik Sandie were both Division I recruits on the offensive line. Sophomore and future NFL pro bowler TJ Ward wasn't good enough to play a down the Spartans that year. Future top 25 recruit nationally, wide recover Cameron Colvin only played occasionally for the team.
Their biggest match-up of the season was the 5th game, which was against the number 1 ranked Long Beach Poly. Known as “The Streak vs The Beach” the game has been documented as the first No. 1 vs No. 2 game in US prep football history. Since the start of the 1997 season The Beach went 57-1-1. 20001 Long Beach Poly was widely regarded as the most talented in school history, with six players listed in SuperPrep's top 100. The New York Times as well as 120 other media outlets requested credentials for the game. A live telecast was available nationwide on DirecTV, and attendance at Veterans Stadium in Long Beach swelled to 17,321. Scalpers were charging up to $50 for $10 tickets. The Spartans were peeved about going into any game relegated to second. De La Salle hadn’t lost since Dec. 4, 1991.
Although the game was competitive, Long Beach was no match for De La Salle’s ground game as they won 29 to 15. Before the game, no one knew the name of junior running back Maurice Drew. He finished the game with 165 total yards and 4 touchdowns. After the game he said “I read the quotes in the paper, and it was like they had all these star players and we didn't have anybody."
The National champions demolished every other team that came in their path. They won 56-14 over defending Central Section champ Buchanan of Clovis, then two weeks later in Stockton took apart southern California powerhouse Mater Dei 34-6. They outplayed foes in the playoffs outscoring them 147-28 in the 4A Playoffs.
The Spartans finished the season undefeated and were able to push the streak forward. When the season finished they were ranked as the number one team in the nation by USA today and Rise/ESPN.
#2) Vigor (Prichard, Alabama) 1988
1988 Vigor was the greatest team the state of Alabama has ever produced. Five members of the 1988 team went on to play professionally in the NFL or CFL, Mitch Davis, Roosevelt Patterson, Willie Anderson, Albert Reese and Kevin Lee, all went on to play professionally in the NFL or CFL. Over 20 players ended up playing division 1 football. The Entire defense returned from the season before. Their speed, size and skill was simply unmatched. The Wolves outscored their opponents 387-44, including 148-7 in the playoffs. No foe got closer than 14 points. By season’s end, the Wolves had a 25-game winning streak. The only team from Alabama that can boast a national title on its resume. "The players bought into our system -- whatever you asked them to do," head coach Perine said. "You know a lot of kids you can't find? Those kids were there and ready to go each and every week.”
The talent level at Vigor was ridiculous, 11 players went on to play at mid major division 1 programs, while 9 played at major college football schools. Future Auburn Tiger Darrell "Lectron" Williams was named Mr. Football after rushing for 1,706 yards on 235 carries, before injuring his knee in the championship. Vigor quarterback Kelvin Simmons, was a dual threat at quarterback. He threw for 1,498 yards and accounted for 22 touchdowns. Kevin Lee, Bruce McGree and Ryan Blakeley returned at wide receiver. The trio known as McBlakeLee combined for 44 catches and 1,097 yards along with 8 touchdowns. Kevin Lee ended up catching passes at Auburn. Duane Lewis, 5-11, 180, fullback played at Jackson State. Their two most talent players ended up never playing in college or the NFL, mostly due to their criminal record.
Every position had a potential Division I football player in it," Darrell Williams said. "Twenty-two people, 11 on defense, 11 on offense and each a Division I talent. People ask me all the time: What made you guys so much better than everybody else? We had no weaknesses. The most competition that we experienced was at practice. If you wanted to see some hellacious competition, come to our practice and see our first-string offense go against our first-string defense". Defensive end Adrian Jackson 6-3, 210 was an excellent pass rusher before he went on to Auburn. Lineman Roosevelt Patterson played at Alabama, where he helped the Tide win the national title in 1992. Norvie Chambers, 6-0, 170, defensive back signed with Florida A&M and defensive back Bradley Craig, signed with Memphis State. Linebacker Mitch Davis, a junior in 1988, signed with Georgia the next year. The hard hitting Cleon Jones was a junior on the squad that went on to sign with South Carolina.
The Wolves won their 25th straight game in front of over 20,000 fans, including Auburn Coach Pat Dye, Alabama Coach Bill Curry and Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden. During the contest Vigor put on a display and assured their legacy as one of the best high school football teams to ever take the field. Vigor became the first team to win back to back championships in Alabama's largest classification since 1976. Their opponents, Berry high school did not cross midfield until the second half. Berry was able to get on the scoreboard shortly before halftime on a 6 yard touchdown pass, breaking a scoreless streak of 25 straight quarters for the defense. Vigor completed its 13-0 season by beating Berry 41-7 in the 6A championship game at Legion Field.
Roosevelt Patterson, a 1988 All-State lineman for Vigor, "I don't think there's a team that compares to our team. We had all the pieces to the puzzle. Teams like that probably come along once in a lifetime. We were hard-working and talented. Most teams that might be talented, they don't be hard workers. We worked all year 'round. I think it's going to take a while for another team to be like that '88 team."
Vigor received national recognition following the season and were named by ESPN as the 1988 high school national champions. They finished 2nd in the USA Today poll behind Pine Forest of Pensacola, Florida. At the end of the year, there were efforts to get them together, but the high school associations squashed the idea. This might have been the first ESPN nationally televised high school game had it been played.
#3) St. Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida) 2010
Saint Thomas Aquinas has always been known as a football dynasty in Florida. In 2010 they lost 4 future NFL players from the previous year and still had enough talent to win a national title. This team was able to pull talent from across the nation, a clear advantage that most high schools don’t have. Aquinas had a superior passing game which featured 3 big time weapons. Their point and turnover differential was among the best of all time. The 2010 team was back for revenge, off their 2009 state championship defeat.
The prep school circuit has given birth to new teams that are loaded, with out of town talent. Although they are allowed to pull talent from around the nation, they usually faced far stiffer competition than other powerhouse schools. Aquinas thrived under intense national competition and a reasonable amount of travel. A number of their players contributed at big time college football programs.
Jacob Rudock was a feared Quarterback in high school, he eventually went to Iowa after he had his pick of big time schools. His biggest weapons were future NFL players receivers Phillip Dorsett and Rashadd Greene. The speedster Dorsett went on to the U, before staring in the NFL. Greene helped Florida State win a championship in 2014. Star tackle Bobby Hart protected Rudock’s blindside, he also went on to play for the Seminoles. Austin Barron who signed with Florida Sate, was a bruiser on the inside line for Aquinas. Did I mention they had future Olympic sprinter Arman Hall at wide receiver.
The defense was just as nasty as the offense. Defensive back Marcus Robertson was a standout corner for Aquinas before he went on to be drafted by the Rams. Defensive end Bryan Cox Jr clogged running lanes before going off to play for the Gators. Sophomore defensive end and future NFL superstar Joey Bosa made a significant impact at a young age. Linebackers Cole Champion and Tyler Drake were also division 1 prospects. Johnny Joseph a top 100 corner back nationally, went to Bowling Green. Pass rusher Jelani Hamilton went on to Akron and running back Fred Coppet played at Bowling Green.
They played several supposed national powers in the pre-season. They throttled Skyline of Dallas, 31-3 in week 1. In week 4 they destroyed Georgia power Camden County 42-28, in which they racked up over 600 yards of offense. The 42-28 score was the closest any team would get to upsetting Aquinas all season. The playoffs were their own personal joke racking up nearing 200 points, while only giving up only 27 points. Completing an undefeated season they finished 1st in the ESPN national poll. The Raiders capped off a dominant season by dismantling defending 5A champion Plant 29-7.
While South Panoa high school of Mississippi was named the number one team in the country by multiple polls, there is much doubt that they could have competed with the excellence of Aquinas. Many cried foul that the two teams couldn't agree on a match-up date, leaving the mystery forever unanswered. One thing isn't up for debate however, Aquinas faced a way tougher schedule than South Panoa ever thought about playing.
#4) Jack Yates (Houston, Texas) 1985
The 1985 Yates Lions were special, they finished 16-0 while racking up a record 659 points. A great pool of talent and depth separated the team from its opponents. Their offense was unstoppable and their defense posted 8 shutouts giving up only 4.8 points per game. They were voted the team of the decade by the Texas media. The players made ultimate sacrifices to ensure their path to success, "We gave up everything," running back Johnny Bailey said after the state championship game. How determined were the Lions you ask? Linebacker Melvin Foster admitted that the team “Even gave up girls”.
Five players from the team, including Johnny Bailey, Melvin Foster, Quinton Smith, Zeno Alexander and Santana Dotson, went on to play in the NFL. Quarterback Charlie Price threw for 25 touchdowns in 1985. His best receiver Quinton Smith played college football at Kansas. Zeno Alexander, Darron Nash, Ronald Moore, Charles Price, Quinton Smith, James Goode, Larry Gill, Gregory Garrett, Kenneth Payne, Reginald Breggs and James Christian were all on the 1985 Chronicle All-HISD Team. The roster was so loaded that Santana Dotson, a future NFL starter came off the bench.
Their biggest star might have been middle linebacker Melvin Foster. Foster was a top 40 player nationally and recruited by a bevy of big time programs. The all-state selection was the leader of the defense, before moving on to an All Big-Ten career at Iowa.
They faced a bevy of legit challengers on their way to a state record 16 wins. They faced Odessa Permian in the final, as well as powerhouses Milby, Jones, Skyline and Westmount. The Lions would clean shop in the playoffs, getting in only one close game. They pulled out a close 21-15 win over Jones in the semi-finals. In the 5A state championship, the media widely predicted Yates would loose by 2 touchdowns. True to form, the Lions performed at their peak, in their biggest game of the season. They went on to dominant the defending champs Odessa Permian, 37-0.
There has been much debate about the greatest football team in the history of Texas. Among the teams discussed are 1988 Carter, 1985 Yates, 2015 Allen, 2006 Southlake, 1983 Daingerfield and Abilene 1956. The 85’ team was voted “Team of the Decade” by the Houston Chronicle and Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Yates defense was known for their overwhelming speed, which suffocated every offense they faced. Several media members argued that the Yates defense is the deciding factor for the discussion of best team in Texas history. Many analysts also point to the Lions potent offense which still holds the record for points scored in a season.
Yates displayed characteristics that often lead to success at any level. They were the ultimate collection of players willing to make unique sacrifices. The Lions displayed a discipline style that might have been the difference. My nod for the best team in Texas history goes to the 85 Yates Lions.
#5) McKinley (Canton, Ohio) 1997
Led by a bevy of players that went on to star at Ohio State, the 1997 McKinley team is the best team Ohio ever produced. McKinley scored 592 points on the season while only giving up 151. They went wire to wire as the number 1 ranked team in the nation.
The 1997 team featured three future NFL players, senior FB-LB Jamar Martin, senior TE-DE Kenny Peterson and junior RB-S Mike Doss, all of whom attended Ohio State after graduation. McKinley boasted several other Division I college players, including a trio of future Kent State players. Demarlo Rozier was that season’s County Player of the Year and Ben McDaniels finished as the school’s career passing leader.
McKinley played a murderous schedule facing 5 powerhouse teams in the state of Ohio. They also played St. Thomas Aquinas a national power from Florida. The toughest game, came against Cleveland St. Ignatius in which they won 35-32. The Bulldogs generally depressed their opponents, in their first six games they beat Akron Garfield, GlenOak, Jackson, Mentor, Glenville and Central Catholic by a combined score of 314-31. They destroyed St. Thomas Aquinas 70-0 and then Massillon 27-14. In week 8 they beat Warren Harding 30-9 at Youngstown State. The game cost McKinley a key player, LB Rashan Hall (who tore the MCL in his right knee and was lost for the year).
“They were all very decisive wins and we had to manage that the right way so the kids didn’t become complacent,” Thom McDaniels said. “I know in their churches and barber shops and neighborhoods, they were being told they were even better than the scores indicated. The coach continued “To be honest with you, I never really felt like we were going to lose ever. Whether it was before the game, before the season, during the week, during the game, during the fourth quarter, I never felt like we were going to lose in high school.”
McKinley faced some elite competition in the playoffs. While there was close games, McKinley showed their ability to grind out tough games. In the second round of the playoffs they gutted out a 25-22 win over St. Francis. In the semifinal they faced they're rival St. Ignatius, the game was a war. It took all 48 minutes for the Bulldogs to pull out the 20-19 victory. In the state final they faced national power Moeller of Cincinnati, claiming the state crown with a 31-16 victory.
Head coach McDaniels saw how a committed group of high school kids can achieve something special. They set a number of records during the season most wins 14, most points 592, most TDs 84, most offensive yards 5,062. That atmosphere was probably the coolest atmosphere I’ve ever been a part of,” head coach Ben McDaniels said. “I’ve coached at ‘The Horseshoe,’ I’ve coached in Ann Arbor, I’ve coached in a playoff game in the NFL and I’ve coached on Monday Night Football.”
They finished the number 1 ranked team by any media outlet that mattered. Debate between the two best teams Ohio ever produced always starts and end with McKinley 1997 vs Moeller Cincinnati 1976. My money is on the 97 Bulldogs.
#6) Carter High School (Dallas, Texas) 1988
The focus of ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary, What Carter Lost highlighted this ultra talented team. Featuring future NFL players Jessie Armstead, Le'Shai Maston and Clifton Abraham, Carter went 14-0-1 in 1988. Although troubled, the 88 team is thought by some to be the best team Texas has ever produced. The speed and pure talent of Carter overwhelmed a schedule riddled with powerhouse opponents. The Cowboys beat nationally ranked Odessa Permian, the team that inspired Friday Night Lights. Their defense was exceptionally fast and physical, several teams were scared to compete with them. They allowed 7.9 points per game and never surrendered more than 24 points in any contest. Their pass rush was easily one of the greatest in high school history. On the other hand, a cloud of scandal and regret will forever shape the memory of their team.
The 1988 team had 21 players who were offered college scholarships. A few division 1 prospects wound up being charged with robbery (more on that later) and their scholarships were pulled. Still 15 seniors from that team earned FBS scholarships.
The straw that stirred the drink was two-way All-American Jesse Armstead. The future five time NFL pro bowler was unstoppable to say the least. Armstead stated himself that Carter’s defense was the "best ever in Texas high school and in the nation.” During his career Armstead made some crippling hits, leading one of the best group of pass rushers in high school history. One local newspaper claimed that the linebacker injured 20 different players during his senior season. He even made the winning touchdown catch in the state title game.
Carter’s QB that year, Robert Hall, went on to a banner career at Texas Tech and is a member of the program’s Hall of Fame. Wide Receiver Gary Edwards was one of the top receivers in the nation. He had a long list of division one schools after him. Edwards originally signed with Houston, and Derric Evans, signed with Tennessee, although neither would ever play college ball. Evans was known as a dominant defensive back who announced his decision to attend Tennessee while sitting in a hot tub. Le'Shai Maston, a running back, signed with Baylor and went on to play for five seasons in the NFL. Clifton Abraham, a defensive back, played at Florida State and went on to have a three-year NFL career.
The Dallas school faced a good schedule that featured several out of district Texas programs. The only close game they played all year was against the legendary Odessa Permian. They also played powerhouses John Tyler and Killeen in the regular season.
Carter faced a unique hardship that few others had to deal with. Because of a mistake made by a teacher, one of their star players was ruled ineligible. The team faced multiple court hearings with the Texas state legislator, the hearings would determine if they would be eligible to continue playing. The controversy was a hot topic in the state, it was complicated by mysterious academic rule changes 3 years either. Star receiver Gary Edwards, was originally ruled ineligible with the University Interscholastic League and the Texas Education Agency. They tried to remove Carter from the playoffs and the Dallas Independent School District ended up appealing the decision. Carter was allowed to play, and they beat Permian 14-9 in that semifinal. Carter then beat Converse Judson 31-14 to win the state title.
After their 88 season the players were cult figures in their local community. Cops would stop them to take pictures, they ate free at restaurants and even autographed a baby. However, Edwards, Evans and 10 other teammates were arrested for armed robbery in Dallas in May 1989. The players were eligibly part of 21 different armed robberies. Edwards was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Evans, a high school All-American, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on four armed robbery counts.
Head coach Dennis Parker of Marshall High School, that had played all the best talent of the era. He had played against 1985 Yates, lost to Carter in 1988, and lost twice to Permian in 1989. He was quoted as saying “Carter was the best team because of its exceptional speed on defense.” D.W. Rutledge head coach of Judson high lost to Carter in the 1988 final also thinks that Carter was the best team of the 80’s. Coach Dan Hooks, whose West Orange-Stark team lost to Yates in 1985, agrees that Carter had the superior talent.
#7) Lakeland (Florida) 2006
Florida has a rich history of football second to only Texas. 2006 Lakeland may be their crowning jewel. This team possessed a running game that most division one colleges would envy. Their state championship culminated for their 3rd consecutive and their 2nd straight USA Today Championship. Although they outscored opponents by 500 points, they faced some tough games. The tough games strengthen their resume, all of the close games were against top 50 teams nationally. The defense allowed only 93 points in 15 games. 10 players went on to play football in the SEC. This team went wire to wire as the number one ranked team in the nation.
Seven players went on to star at the University of Florida, they become known as the Gator Naughts. The future Gators would later prove to be a serious contributors to Florida's championship runs of the late 2000’s. They may have had the greatest rushing attack in high school football history. This teams mentality was simple, run, run and run some more. Although the passing game wasn't chopped liver, no one in the state could contend with the pure power of the burly offensive line. Led by future NFL pro bowl twins Maurkice and Mike Pouncey, the two obliterated defensive lines. The Pouncey twins cleared space for All-American running back Chris Rainey, he flew around the field on his way to 2,478 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns. The speedster had 15 touchdown runs of 50 yards or more. To compliment the running game Wide receiver Paul Wilson was a sure handed target for the Dreadnaught's. Defense tackle John Brown overwhelmed opponents and originally signed with Tennessee before his grades forced him the junior college route. Amahad Black rounded the defense out at the Safety position. Black was an intimidating presence on defense, later he played 3 years in the NFL with Tampa Bay. Linebacker Steve Wilks was a hard hitting linebacker for the Lakeland.
Besides the bevy of players that signed with Florida, 3 other players went on to play SEC football. Jamar Taylor was a great addition to the running game before heading off to Alabama. Tight ends Jordan Hammond and Jordon Corbin both signed with LSU.
With the nickname Dreadnaught's one could expect the school and fan base to have pretty crazy traditions, this assumption would be correct. Many of their fans wear a full fledged battle ship hats to all of the games. Their also known for their famous golf cart, which features a Lakeland helmet as the outer shell of the cart.
In 2006 the Dreadnaught's played the toughest schedule in the entire country. Their monster schedule began with their first real test in St. Xavier of Cincinnati Ohio. In a brut physical game the Dreadnaught's won by 3 in overtime. Local Florida school Osceola High School gave them a scare in a close 7 - 3 victory. In a rivalry game they beat Kathleen High 29-26.
They faced loaded national power St. Thomas Aquinas in the State Final. They featured future NFL players James White, Giovanni Bernard, Phillip Dorsett and Rashad Greene. They won in 2OT by a score of 45 - 42. In the contest, Rainey worked Aquinas with over 270 yards on the ground.
#8) Miami Northwestern Senior High School (Florida) 2007
Northwestern has a tradition that is among the best in the nation. The rare public school that dominates year after year. Miami Northwestern might soon hold the distinction of producing the most players to excel at the NFL level. Over 14 NFL pro bowlers have walked the halls of Northwestern. The school has produced football stars such as Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Bryant, Denver Broncos linebacker Nate Webster, and Miami Dolphins offense tackle Vernon Carey. Despite their winning tradition and continued dominance, the school has only been named the number one team by USA today one time.
By all accounts the 2007 team was simply remarkable. That team holds the title of the greatest team in the programs history. They had numerous division one players, including 8 players that would go on to play at the University of Miami. Similar to many teams on this list, Northwestern served as a feeder to their local University. Star Quarterback Jacory Harris threw for 3,445 yards and 49 touchdowns as a senior. Aldarius Johnson, Kendal Thompkins and Tommy Streeter were a nasty trio at wide recover, together they accounted for over 2,400 receiving yards and 38 touchdowns. Linebacker Sean Spence and lineman Marcus Forston, Ben Jones, Brandon Washington also signed with Miami.
Besides the future Hurricane players, the Bulls had plenty of talent. Future NFL Pro Bowler Lavonte David went largely unnoticed and unappreciated. He was outstanding, but despite his play, division 1 major colleges cited his size as a major concern. David would go on to star at Nebraska where he would break their school record for most tackles. As a senior, David made more than 100 tackles, with three quarterback sacks, two interceptions. Future West Virginia running back Daquan Hargett was featured at running back and recorded over 880 yards and 12 touchdowns. Although just a sophomore future Louisville running back Corvin Lamb rushed for 350 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Ranked the No. 1 team in the country, Northwestern traveled to No. 2 Southlake (Texas) Carroll. Northwestern's superior speed beat out Carroll's historic four-year run of 49 consecutive wins. A crowd of 31,896 at Gerald J. Ford Stadium watched as Miami Northwestern won the contest 29-21.
They won their second straight Class 6A state championship, defeating Boone 41-0. Miami-bound QB Jacory Harris passed for 281 yards and 2 TDs. The defense recorded its fifth shutout and coach Billy Rolle pocketed a 3rd state championship. They beat up Deerfield Beach 19-14, in Class 6A semifinals at the Orange Bowl. Tyresse Jones' five-yard TD run with 18 seconds remaining capped a 12-play, 99-yard drive. The Bulls won their 29th straight and equaled the Dade County record for most consecutive victories.
Northwestern won back-to-back state titles in 2006 and 2007. They were listed as mythical national champions by USA Today in 2007. Giving the state of Florida a 3 year run, with one of their high school teams winning the high school national championship.
#9) Warner Robbins (Georgia) 1976
The best team the state of Georgia has ever produced, was the 1976 Warner Robbins team. They only gave up 86 points all year, while scoring 614 points. Their defense is considered one of the greatest ever, they had 8 shutouts (including the state championship). Robbins had plenty of stars with 5 future NFL players. Perhaps their greatest weapon was their star studded running game.
One of the best ground attacks ever, featured two future college standouts in the backfield. The powerful Jimmy Womack was a big bruising full back who blocked for future NFL player James Brooks. In college Womack led the way at Georgia for Hershell Walker’s Heisman winning season. Womack racked up 1,467 yards on the ground as a senior in 1976. Future 4 time NFL pro-bowler James Brooks was a dynamo with the ball, quick but still strong enough to break tackles and stay on his feet. He would go on to star at Auburn before staring for both the Bengals and Chargers in the NFL. Brooks rushed for 1,810 yards as a senior. Another standout was two way star Ron Simmons, who went to star at Florida State. There he was an All-American nose guard, before he spent 4 years playing pro football. Simmons even finished 9th in Heisman voting despite being a defensive tackle. Wide receiver Phil Williams accepted a scholarship to Florida State. Jesse Canion played at East Carolina and fellow defensive back Rusty Smith played at Navy.
They faced the top competition of Georgia throughout the season. Like others on the list, they won all their games by a pretty good margin. Their closest game of the season was against Hardaway, in a 35-28 win. Besides that game no other team came within 14 points.
They went insane in the playoffs beating down three teams by a total score of 132-7. They shutout powerhouse Griffin high school 34-0 in the state final. After their dominant playoff run they were named Georgia state champions and "mythical" co-national champions with Moeller High School of Ohio.
#10) Allen High School (Texas) 2013
The most recent team on our list was 2013 Allen, a dominant collection of college talent. The star power was overwhelming with more than 18 division 1 prospects. Although the changing of rules has made it much easier for teams to score, this team was simply an offensive god. No team held them under 31 points the entire season.
Kyler Murray, who is regarded as arguably the top Texas high school football quarterback of all time, was the leader of this Allen squad. Murray had his pick of schools before ultimately ending up at Oklahoma. He was so outstanding at Allen that he was invited to the ESPY’s during his senior season. “The ESPYs had to be the pinnacle. It was like I was just walking on a cloud while I was there,” Murray said. During his junior season he threw for 3,669 and 46 touchdowns. He also racked up 1,328 yards on the ground to go along with 18 touchdowns. Eventually he was invited to play in the Under Armour All-American football and baseball games. He was the Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior.
Offensive tackle Bobby Evans protected Murray's blind side, he also signed with Oklahoma. Future Notre Dame wide receiver Jalen Guyton, provided a reliable target and was a constant threat in the passing game. Center Cody Wheeler, a future Texas Tech signee sured up the o-line. Linebacker Tay Evans was leader of the defense, the future Sooner intimidated opponents and provided a pass rushing nightmare for offenses. On the opposite side linebacker Christian Sam played an important role before going off to Arizona State. They also had two future division 1 players at defensive back. Chad Adams accepted a scholarship at Arizona State as did Maayomi Olootu jr at Northern Illinois. Tejan Koroma was a load on the offensive line, he would eventually suite up for BYU. Although only sophomores on the team, future Ole Miss signees OT Gregory Little and safety Jaylon Jones provided a spark for the Eagles. So ya, there star power was immense.
They cruised through the regular season, with victories over the likes of Carroll and Cedar Hill. The only really competitive game Allen played was against DeSoto, which it won, 42-35.
They finished the season ranked 2nd by Max Preps and 1st by USA today. Thus capturing the mythical national crown. There is no doubt this Allen team is among the best in Texas state history.
1956 Abilene Texas 14-0, 1961 Washington Massillon Ohio 11-0, 1969 Coral Gabels Florida 11-0, 1971 Valdosta Georiga, 1976 Archbishop Moeller Ohio, 1978 Spring Branch Texas, 1983 Daingerfield Texas 16-0, 1987 North Hills Pennsylvania, 1988 Pine Forest Florida, 1989 Crenshaw California, 1989 Odessa Permian Texas 15-0, 1990 Ruston Lousiana, 1991 Inglewood High California, 1992 Valdosta Georgia 14-0, 1994 John Tyler Texas, 1998 West Monroe Lousiana, 1999 Evangel Christian Lousiana, 1999 De La Salle California 13-0, 1999 Madison Central (Miss), 2001 Long Beach Poly California 12-1, 2003 Pine Bluff Arkansas 15-0, 2004 Colerain Ohio, 2005 Southlake Caroll Texas 16-0, 2006 Oaks Christian California, 2007 Miami Northwestern Florida 15-0, 2007 St. Xavier Ohio 15-0, 2008 Centennial California, 2010 South Panola Mississippi 14-0, 2011 Don Bosco Prep New Jersey 11-0, 2015 Katy Texas, 2016 Bishop Gorman Nevada 15-0.
Drop us a comment and let us know who we missed.
Intimidation is defined as intentional behavior that "would cause a person of ordinary sensibilities" fear of injury or harm. These teams took it a step further, displaying behavior that even their peers would deem troubling. Whether it’s fighting, drug-use, appearance, unpredictability, dominance, aggression or a potential injury, these teams caused their opponents a healthy level of fear. All of these teams pushed the envelope, having an effect on the rules in their respective sports. Did I mention, no one is intimidated by a loosing team?
Detroit Bad Boys 1989
Who? Isiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, Chuck Dailey
Why? Strong Language, Violence, Gore, Grisly Images, Torture, Aggression, Psychological Games, Trash Talk, Jordan Rules, Injury Potential
Have you ever heard the expression “pick on someone your own size”? This concept was mastered by the 1989 Detroit Pistons, who loved a good brawl. They played the game of basketball like escaped convicts imploring physical and mental intimidation. The Bad Boys were the most violent team, in the history of basketball. Renown for their cheap shots and no layups allowed attitude.
Led by Dr. Jekyll himself, Isiah Thomas smiled in your face and stabbed you in the back. Rick Mahorn, Dennis Rodman and Bill Laimbeer formed a nasty front court, that could get into the heads of even the best front court players. Bill Laimbeer was a renown cheap shot artist, perhaps his finest moments came in the 1990 NBA Finals, when he frustrated Portland's big men to the point of tears. Chuck Daily also known as “Daddy Rich," kept the pack relatively under control, as the head coach.
Detroit held a rare trait, the best players in the world were terrified of playing them. While their physical play was highly publicized, the mental games they played with opponents had devastating effects. There no layup rule often left stars like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Dominique Wilkins, Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson bloodied on the floor. Each of these star players saw their field goal percentage drop significantly when playing Detroit. When these stars played Detroit in the playoffs their FG% dropped even further.
Of course their was no shortage of fights on court. Among their best fights could have been the numerous assaults on Boston’s McHale and Bird. The two teams had bench clearing brawls more than 8 times. Perhaps their most famous battle was that with Michael Jordan. The “Jordan Rules” was a strategy employed by the Pistons that called for 3 players to rush the paint anytime Michael took a dribble. They're reasoning was simple “Michael didn’t trust his teammates and we knew that” said longtime Piston Bill Laimbeer. The strategy worked as Detroit beat Chicago in three straight playoff series. For a longer list of their most famous fights and plays check out the video here.
Technical fouls were not called nearly as much as they are now. With that being said, the Pistons still had their fair share of technical fouls. In fact from 1986-1990 the Pistons ranked first in average technical fouls per game. A recent article has even suggested that The Bad Boys had the largest number of technicals, relative to the league average in NBA history.
The most intimidating part of it all was the back to back championship banners they hung in 1989 and 1990. The 89 season saw Detroit finish the regular season with a 63-19 record. They had the second best playoff record of all time, loosing only two games in the playoffs. While it was great to watch the physical style employed, it also led to the cotton candy style of play that dominates today.
Oakland Raiders 1976
Who? Jack Tatum, John Madden, Otis Sistrunk, Ken Stabler, Willie Brown, Skip Thomas, Dave Casper, Phil Villapiano, Ted Hendricks, Fred Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch
Why? Cocaine Use, Substance Abuse, Steroid Use, Strong Language, Violence, Gore, Grisly Images, Gang Affiliated, Torture, Illegal Equipment, Some Nudity, Aggression, Psychological Games, Injury Potential, Frightening Appearance
“I like to believe that my best hits border on felonious assault.” These words spoken by Safety Jack Tatum summarized the 1977 Raiders. True bullies on the defensive end of the field. Their revolutionary press style and blind side hits were innovating. Opposing rival coach Chuck Knoll once commented that “They were the criminal element of the league”. Rumors of drug use on and off the field were more than speculation. Perhaps their biggest accomplishment was their ability to bend the rules.
The 1977s Raiders featured some of the most feared defensive backs in NFL history. Nicknamed “The Soul Patrol”, they featured Jack “The Assassin” Tatum, Skip “Dr Death” Thomas, Willie Brown, and George Atkinson. Tatum was known around the league as the most devastating hitter, having knocked out over 30 players throughout his pro career. Several Tatum stories have become NFL legend. He and Earl Campbell collided head on, both were knocked out on impact. Famously his hit paralyzed wide receiver Darryl Stingley and he separated Vikings receiver Sammy White from his uniform. The rest of the defense backs were plenty intimidating. In 1976 defensive back George Atkinson knocked out receiver Lynn Swann with a forearm to the back of the head. Skip Thomas earned his Dr. Death nickname with his aggressive play. Mad men like Ted Hendricks, Phil Vilapiano and Otis Sistrunk rounded out the 11 angry men.
On the opposite side of the ball, the offense showed they were for real. Art Shell and Gene Upshaw formed the greatest lineman combo in NFL history. Kenny Stabler was amongst the best quarterbacks in the league and might have been the toughest. Cliff Branch brought a deep threat that was unmatched by others in the time period. Dave Casper gave Stabler a big physical tight end that could both block and catch. Mr. Stick-em Fred Belitnoff was acted as the intermediate threat. Casper & Branch were both named first team all-pro.
The Raiders intangibles were absolutely off the charts. What do I mean by intangibles? They were the first to employ themes like “Rule 1, Cheating in encouraged, rule 2, see rule number one. Another piece of the Raiders bad boy image, were the ridiculous pads and accessories they used to their advantage. Full casts were hardened and applied, so the players could use them as club-like weapons on the field. Illegal spike cleats, extra layers of padding, stick-em, anything they thought would give them an edge was used.
Several after hours stories about this bunch have been told throughout the years. Notably Anthony Kiedis Autobiography Under the Bridge, Kiedis claimed to have sold a good amount of cocaine to more than 5 members of the 1977 Raiders team. Did I mention Kiedis was 12 and he sold it to them the night before the Superbowl? Their has been additional stories linking team members to the Hells Angels Biker gang.
Aside from their off the field shenanigans, the Raiders were truly a dominant team. They posted a regular season record of 13-1, first in the AFC west. They went on to beat New England in the divisional round of the playoffs, before beating their rival Pittsburgh Steelers 24-7 in the Conference championship. In Super Bowl XI they dominated Minnesota to the tune of 32-14. During their playoff run, they outscored opponents 80 to 42.
New York Mets 1986
Who? Doc Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Lenny Dykstra, Bobby Ojeda, Wally Backman, Joe Carter, Kevin Mitchell, Ron Darling
Why? Cocaine Use, Substance Abuse, Strong Language, Violence, Gore, Grisly Images, Some Nudity, Aggression, Psychological Games
The cocaine circus on wheels, that was the 1986 world champion New York Mets. As pitcher Bobby Ojeda said in his book, The Bad Guys Won, “We were a bunch of vile fuckers.” With guys like Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and Keith Hernandez the 86 squad could be seen as the “kings of nose candy”. Guys like Lenny Dysktra, Bobby Ojeda, Wally Backman, Kevin Mitchell, Joe Carter and Ron Darling all contributed to the madness. The turning point of the season for the Mets, came on May 27 when third baseman Ray Knight brawled with Dodgers' pitcher Tom Niedenfuer. Summed up the Mets were a gang of drunks, pill-poppers, barroom brawlers, degenerate gamblers, cocaine enthusiasts, womanizers, and all-world egos that won the hearts of New Yorkers.
After clinching the league championship with a 15 inning game in Houston, the Mets boarded a flight back to New York. Most of the players felt the same way, lets get on this plane and absolutely tear it apart. This included players hovering fat rails of cocaine in the bathroom, harassing the flight attendants, and racking up $7,500 in damages to the plane. Backup catcher Ed Hearn recalls “Soon steaks were flying like Frisbees. It was the epic carnivore free-for-all. ‘By the time we reached the airport, guys were eating the steaks raw,’ says Hearn. ‘Taking bites out and breathing hard and hitting each other. It was that psycho mentality.’”
The most dominant and out of control player on the team was 21 year old ace Dwight “Doc” Gooden. After winning the Cy Young the previous year Gooden continued to pitch well to the tune of a 17-6 record and a 2.84 ERA. The only problem was Gooden was massively addicted to cocaine, so much so, he missed his teams championship parade. Gooden himself said “I end up leaving the party with the team, going to these projects, of all places in Long Island.” I got time.’ And the clocks, I mean the rooms are spinning. I said, ‘OK, I’ll leave in another hour.’ Then the next thing you know the parade’s on and I’m watching the parade on TV.
With 5 All-Stars, their collection of pitching was the best in major league baseball. Dwight Gooden, Bobby Ojeda and Ron Darling formed a starting rotation that was second to none. Between the trio, they won 50 games with a 2.73 ERA. Their Bulletin might have been better featuring Jesse Orosco, Randy Myers and Randy Niemann.
Daryl Strawberry was a phenomenal 24 year old prospect, batting .257 to go with a team leading 27 home runs and 93 RBIs. The night before the now-famous 1986 Game 6, Strawberry lost control. He nailed his wife in the face, breaking her nose. The bloody image of Strawberry’s domestic dispute would define him for the next decade. After the 1986 championship things started to spin out of control, he was charged with beating his fiancé in 1990 and his girlfriend in 1993.
Keith Hernandez and Lenny Dykstra were both big contributors offensively. Hernandez hit .310 with 83 RBIs and an on base percentage of .413. Dykstra hit .295 with a team leading 31 stolen bases. Both players were named All-Star’s during the 86 campaign. Unfortunately both players were stained, after being named in the Pittsburgh Drug Trials in 1985. Baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth ruled that Hernandez was among 7 players who had used cocaine and been involved with distribution. Both Hernandez and Dystra were able to have tremendous seasons in 1986 after rebounding from their season long suspensions in 1985.
They finished the season with 103 wins most in the national league. During the world series everything turned around in game 6 when a ground ball went through Redsox first basemen's Bill Buckner’s legs. After that the Mets were able to rally for a game 6 win and then easily won game 7. Doc Gooden best summed up the win “But in the early craziness of the locker room, two thoughts were crowding all the others out of my head: I gotta call my dealer. And I gotta call my dad.”
Pittsburgh Steelers 1978
Who? Mel Blount, Jack Lambeer, Jack Ham, Mean Joe Green, Lc Greenwood, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, Mike Webster
Why? Substance Abuse, Strong Language, Violence, Grisly Images, Aggression, Psychological Games, Injury Potential, Frightening Appearance
The famed “steel curtain” dominated the NFL in the 1970s, winning 4 Superbowl's. Loaded with 7 defensive hall of famers, players like Jack Lambert, Mean Joe Green, LC Greenwood, Jack Ham and Mel Blount. They lost 2 games by a grand total of 10 points all year (both teams would reach the championship game in their respected conference). The 1978 season would mark their third championship in the 1970s. To understand the measure of respect Pittsburgh demanded at the time, the Steelers had 12 players named as All Pros at their respective positions. Some ague that the Pittsburgh teams of the early 1970s were a better defense, but this team was by far the most well rounded.
The Steelers teams of the 1970s were stacked with intimidating defenders like “Mean” Joe Green, Lc Greenwood, Mel Blount, Jack Ham and Jack Lambert. Eight of the defense’s starting 11 players were elected to the Hall of Fame. No team will have a defense with more hall of famers at one time. The 78 team was able to finish the season with the second most forced turnovers in the league.
Mel Blount was among the most intimidating defense backs of all time. In fact because of Blount’s legendary press converge the NFL was forced to change their rules, in turn the 5 yard contact rule is also known as the Mel Blount Rule. Joe Green was a devastation force that ranked among the most dominant lineman of his time. He was a perennial contender for the defensive player of the year award. Jack Ham and Jack Lambert were the rugged hitting linebackers that anchorched the defensive unit.
The offense was led by Terry Bradshaw, Len Swann, John Stallworth, Franco Harris and Mike Webster. Nothing scares a defense quite long the long pass, the Steelers tormented secondaries with their air attack. Bradshaw put together the best year of his career to that point, becoming only the second Steeler to win the NFL MVP award. Bradshaw posted career highs (to date) in completions (207), attempts (368), passing yards (2,915), touchdowns (28) and quarterback rating (84.7). Len Swann both had a career year catching 11 touchdowns to go with 880 yards receiving. Deep threat John Stallworth caught 9 touchdowns to go with 800 yards receiving.
The playoff run began with a domination of the Denver Broncos 33-10. In the AFC championship game, they embarrassed the Houston Oilers to a tune of 34-5, with Pittsburgh forcing 9 turnovers. The Steelers then finished off their storybook season with a win over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII. In what is still considered one of the greatest Super Bowls ever played. Terry Bradshaw took home MVP honors in Miami, as he threw for over 300 yards and four TDs.
Oakland A’s 1989
Who? Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Dave Stewart, Dennis Eckersley, Tony La Russa
Why? Cocaine Use, Substance Abuse, Steroid Use, Strong Language, Violence, Cheating, Aggression, Power, Frightening Appearance
The 89 Athletics were the George Washington of Steroids, leading the way for future generations. “The Juice Crew” were the bros of your nightmares, fueled by steroids and success. This team was an all time great power hitting lineup, most of which powered by steroids. Rumors swirled of drug use and fights in the Oakland clubhouse, mainly between the young regime and the old veterans. The crew also had a signature handshake that featured forearm bumps instead of fists bumps.
Oakland boasted some of the best power hitters in the game like Mark McGwire, Dave Henderson, Dave Parker and Jose Canseco. They didn’t just hit regular home runs, these were moon shots. Blasts like Canseco's and McGwire's famous home runs to the third deck of Toronto's Skydome (both blasts went over 520 feet). They also featured the speedy leadoff man Ricky Henderson. Add Dennis Eckersley to the bunch, one of the most feared closers of all time. The bay area native posted a 1.56 ERA and led the league in saves with 33. The collection of ego’s and personalities might be enough to intimidate any team. Throw in passive aggressive steroid behavior and you have a frightening team.
Canseco suffered a wrist injury before the season and didn’t return until after the All-Star break. Dave Parker filled some of the power void and hit 22 home runs and finished with 97 RBI. And when Canseco did come back, he hit 17 home runs in less than a half-season of play. The sensational Mark McGwire hit 33 home runs to lead the team.
Oakland was able to finish the season first in their division, with 99 wins. They defeated the Toronto Blue Jays in five games in the ALCS. Then swept their cross-Bay rivals, the San Francisco Giants, in an earthquake-marred World Series. They only lost one game in postseason play putting them near the top of all time dominating post seasons.
When Jose Canseco’s book Juiced was published in 2005, many of the A’s stories would come to limelight. Canseco claims that he introduced Mark McGwire to steroids in 1988 and that he often injected McGwire while they were teammates. He also admits that he envisions himself as the godfather of steroids to the entire MLB.
While they haven't played together for more than 25 years, a reunion seems unspeakable. Former teammate Carney Lansford was quoted as saying if Canseco were coming to the reunion, "I don't believe there's a guy on the '89 team who'd show up. Not after his book and all the lives he ruined. It's selfishness, basically. I hate to say that, really. I played with him and thought he was a nice guy, but I don't know how you can do that to people."
Chicago Bears 1985
Who? Mike Ditka, Mike Singletary, Otis Wilson, Buddy Ryan, Walter Payton, Jim McMahon, Dan Hampton, Richard Dent, Buddy Ryan
Why? Substance Abuse, Strong Language, Violence, Gore, Grisly Images, Some Nudity, Aggression, Psychological Games, Injury Potential, Frightening Appearance
The Monsters of the Midway could make an argument for the greatest overall team of all time. This team didn’t need sideshows or gimmicks to intimidate their opponents, they flat dominated them. Probably the only team on the list that didn’t feature the most menacing player, a group of fighters, or even the biggest group of partiers. This collection of talent was most imposing during the actual game. They embarrassed almost every pro offense they faced and as a result the defensive side of the ball was never the same. NFL network named them the best defensive unit of all time.
They went 15-1 during the regular season, their lone loss came at the hands of Dan Marino’s Miami dolphins. In the playoffs they laughed teams off the field, outscoring opponents 91 to 10. During the entire season Chicago was only involved in three games decided by 7 or less.
The 85 defense was simply the greatest defense of all time. Imploring the physical strategy of the 4-6 defense, Chicago was the most feared defense of their time. They had a bevy of tremendous players like Mike Singletary, The Fridge, Otis Wilson, Mongo McMichael, Dan Hampton and Richard Dent. The master mind of it all was of course an intimidator himself, Buddy Ryan. The Bears' iconic 46 defense (Named after former Bears' safety, Doug Plank), led by Defensive genius Buddy Ryan, was an "attack from all angles" scheme that resulted in many injured quarterbacks. With future Hall of Famer Mike Singletary alongside the supremely athletic Wilber Marshall and Otis Wilson, the linebacking unit ranked in at #5 of the greatest linebacking corps in NFL history in NFL Top 10. The secondary was anchored by safeties Gary Fencik and Dave Duerson. Their defensive line included future Hall of Famers Richard Dent and Dan "Danimal" Hampton , along with breakout media superstar rookie, William "The Refrigerator" Perry. The Bears were infamous for getting to the quarterback often and completely disrupting their timing. They hold a bevy of bone crushing defensive highlights, complete with multiple quarterback knockouts.
The offense was no slouch led by Walter “Sweetness” Payton (perhaps the best running back in the game at the time), wild man Jim McMahon and the intimidating coach Mike Ditka. Their offense ranked 2nd in the league in points scored. The real strength of their offensive, was their offensive line. Led by tackle Jimbo Covert and center Jay Hilgenberg, they were able to open huge running holes for Walter Payton. At the end of the season Payton, McMahon, Covert and Hilgenberg were all named to the pro bowl.
In their two playoff games against the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams, the Bears outscored their opponents 45–0 and became the first team to record back-to-back playoff shutouts. Then, in Super Bowl XX against the New England Patriots, the Bears set several records. Their 36-point margin of victory topped the Raiders 29 points margin put up in Super Bowl XVIII and stood as a record until the 49ers won Super Bowl XXIV. It was the Bears' first NFL World Championship title since 1963.
The 1985 bears changed the game with their hard hitting aggressive 4-6 defense. The 4-6 allowed for their defense to get serious hits on quarterbacks and skill players. The only question is, Why did they only win 1?
Philadelphia Flyers 1974
Who? Dave Schultz, Bobby Clarke, Serge Bernier, Jim Johnson, Bernie Parent
Why? Strong Language, Violence, Gore, Grisly Images, Torture, Illegal Equipment, Aggression, Psychological Games, Injury Potential, Frightening Appearance, Excessive Blood
They revolutionized the physical style of hockey popular today. Their players refused to wear helmets and led the league in penalty minutes. Their defense specialized in cheap shots and they instigated as many brawls as possible. Opposing teams preparing to play the Flyers knew they were in for a beating. The Broadstreet bullies were as dominant as they were mean, winning back to back Stanley Cup champions in 1974 and 1975. The Flyers were the last Stanley Cup champion to be composed entirely of Canadian-born players.
Early in the 70’s Philadelphia was defeated by the St Louis Blues who employed a more physical style of play than the Flyers. As a result the Flyers brought in bigger and tougher players (also known as bullies). The new additions to the team resulted in a jail house team that routinely broke rules and used fighting to intimidate opponents.
This blood thirsty, ragtag collection of asylum escapees included Bobby Clarke, Serge Bernier, Jim Johnson, Bernie Parent (who wore a menacing Jason mask) and Andre Lacriox. The leader of the asylum was Dave “The Hammer” Schultz. “The Hammer” set the NHL record for penalty minutes in back to back seasons during their Stanley Cup runs. He was best known for his blood filled mustache that often dripped relentlessly. Of course Dave Schultz's 348 penalty minutes led the NFL in 1974.
The 1974 team posted a record of 50-16-12, they won the West by seven points. The outstanding goalie Bernie Parent established an NFL record by winning 47 games, a record which stood for more than 30 years. The Flyers were represented in the All Star Game by Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, Ed Van Impe and Joe Watson.
The team was led offensively by Bobby Clarke, who led the team in goals with 35, assists with 52 and points with 87. He finished fifth among scoring leader in points. Clarke was named a 2nd Team All Stars along with defenseman Barry Ashbee. Clarke was followed by Bill Barber in goals (34), and by Rick MacLeish both in assists (45) and in points (77).
Like any intimidating team the Flyers style of play eventually forced the NHL to change its rules. An exhibition game against the Russian team, illustrated the brutality and physicality the Flyers played with. In most peoples eyes this exhibition game forced the NHL to institute new rules to clean up the game.
Pittsburgh Pirates 1979
Who? Willie Stargell, Dave parker, Omar Moreno, Bill Robinson, Bill Madlock, Dock Ellis
Why? Cocaine Use, Substance Abuse, Strong Language, Violence, Illegal Equipment, Aggression, Frightening Appearance, Sledgehammer
They became known as the “We Are Family” team, the Pirates powered their way to the 1979 crown. The Pirates became one of six teams in the 20th century to have won a World Series after trailing three games to one. They beat the Baltimore Orioles in a seven game world series, Willie Stargell took home the MVP. The curricular activities of the Pirates was surely over shadowed by their accomplishments on the field. The world series title was Pittsburgh’s last playoff series victory to date. However many think the Pittsburgh Cocaine trails might have diminished their accomplishments.
The leaders of the team were Willie Stargell and Dave “Cobra” Parker. Both carried heavy reputations as intimidating hitters, as both were amongst the best players in baseball. Parker was the 1978 NL MVP and Stargell took home the award in 1979. Bill Madlock and Bill Robinson both provided instant offensive at the plate.
Willie Stargell got a brilliant idea for their hitters to warm up with sledgehammers. The move intimidated opposing pictures and helped the Pirates confidence. Late in the 1978 season “Cobra” fractured his jaw in a home plate collision. He then wore a hockey-style mask straight from Friday the 13th, to protect his broken cheek bone. The mask was described by some opposing pitchers as terrifying. While the corrective mask was only worn for a short period of time, it made its mark.
The Pittsburgh drug trials shined more light on this collection of talent. Drug use ran rampant throughout the team’s clubhouse. Cocaine was done in record amounts and greenies were popped like skittles in the clubhouse. More than 5 players on the team would eventually be named specifically in the drug trials. Theres no question their drug use contributed to they're intimidating ways.
New York Knicks 1992
Who? Anthony Mason, Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley and Xavier McDaniel, John Starks
Why? Strong Language, Violence, Gore, Grisly Images, Torture, Aggression, Psychological Games, Frightening Appearance, Trash-talk, Injury Potential
The 1992 New York Knicks loved to mix it up on the court. Prior to the season New York hired Pat Riley, signed Anthony Mason and traded for Xavier McDaniel. These additions insured little physical opposition from their opponents. The only team on our list that failed to win the title. New York seemed destined to win a title under the guidance of Pat Riley, who had won five titles in Los Angeles.
The core of New York’s intimidating lineup was formed by their front line. They featured Patrick Ewing, Anthony Mason, Xavier McDaniel and Charles Oakley. A front line which rivaled the Detroit's Bad Boys in terms of physical play and sheer terror. It was unusual for more than 3 games to go by without the Knicks having some sort of fight. Patrick Ewing was widely thought of as the most intimidating player in the NBA. Charles Oakley was a world renown fighter who fought the likes of Charles Barkley, Dennis Rodman, Alonzo Mourning, and Pj Brown among many others. Xavier McDaniel aka “X-Man” was known around the league as a serious fighter. McDaniel would fight you at the drop of a hat, or strangle you if he deemed fit (see Wes Matthews and Juwan Howard). Very few opposing teams chose to challenge prowess of the front line’s fighting ability.
Greg Anthony and Mark Jackson were both among the toughest guards in the league. Jackson had a no-nonsense city game and Anthony once played with a broken jaw for more than a month. The ever unpredictable John Starks also had reputation for being a loose cannon, apparent by the head butt he delivered to Reggie Miller in the 1993 Playoffs.
The team finished second in the Atlantic Division with a 51–31 record. In the first round of the playoffs New York would square off with the 92 version of the Bad Boys Pistons. In a series that closely resembled a cage match, it was the most physical series of all time. During game 1, McDaniel delivered a vicious elbow to Lambieers head resulting in a flagrant foul and a scuffle. In game 2, McDaniel drew a flagrant foul against Laimbeer, before Charles Oakley closed lined Dennis Rodman, both wind up with technicals. In the next game four technical fouls were called in the first three minutes. Rodman then punched McDaniel, resulting in the two tangling up. During the fourth quarter, Darrell Walker earned a flagrant foul for bashing McDaniel, who screamed threats at Walker. All this in the first three games. The Knicks would end up beating Detroit in 5 games.
Next round, the Knicks faced off against the defending champion Chicago Bulls for the second straight year. Bill Laimbeer of the vanquished Detroit Pistons thought the Knicks would strongly compete if they were allowed to play this way, but doubted "the league" would let them. To the contrary, Phil Jackson said of the NBA, "I think they like this style." Several players including, Michael Jordan, Xavier McDaniel, Scottie Pippen and Greg Anthony got into physical altercations. New York was able to frustrate Michael Jordan with their physical play, but ultimately lost to Chicago in 7 games. During the offseason McDaniel left for Boston, New York never took Chicago to seven games again. Many observers think it was the closest any team got to stopping Chicago’s run of 6 championships in the 90’s.
New York Yankees 1927
Who? Babe Ruth, Lou Geriehg, Earle Combs, Tony Lazzeri, Herb Pennock, Waite Hoyt, Miller Huggins
Why? Drinking, Strong Language, Violence, Aggression, Psychological Games
Murder’s Row was the Beatles more than 25 years before the Beatles. They featured seven hall of famers on their roster. The first truly intimidating team in sports, opposing pictures and sports writers were so obsessed with the team, they were nicknamed the Murders Row for the core of they're hitting lineup. Following a 21-1 July victory against the Washington Senators, first basemen Joe Judge said “Those fellows not only beat you but they tear your heart out. I wish the season was over.” Murders Row existed in a time where super teams were more than 50 years away. The 1927 Yankees batted .307, slugged .489, scored 975 runs, and outscored their opponents by a record 376 runs. Did I mention they had the two most feared hitters in the game?
The nickname describes the first six hitters in the 1927 team lineup: Earle Combs, Mark Koenig, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, and Tony Lazzeri. Center fielder Earle Combs had a career year, batting .356 with 231 hits, left fielder Bob Meusel batted .337 with 103 RBIs, and second baseman Tony Lazzeri drove in 102 runs. Gehrig batted .373, with 218 hits, 47 home runs, a then record 175 RBIs and was voted A.L. MVP. Ruth amassed a .356 batting average, 164 RBIs, 158 runs scored, walked 137 times, and slugged .772. Most notably, he set the single season home run record with 60.
The two most intimidating hitters in baseball, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, were bitter rivals in the same clubhouse. Their differences in personality created a rift between the superstars. Ruth was an undisciplined man in every facet of his life, except hitting. While Gehrig, was never one for empty boasting. Another factor in their rift was differences in salary between the two. Babe made $80,000 during the height of the Great Depression, Gehrig less than half that amount. The two rivals would duel off in a season long home run contest. Early in the season, the New York World-Telegram anointed Gehrig the favorite. But Ruth caught Gehrig and then had a remarkable last two months of the season, hitting 17 home runs in September. After his 60th, Ruth was exultant, shouting after the game, "Sixty, count 'em, sixty! Let's see some son-of-a-b**** match that!"
They finished the year 110–44 winning the A.L. pennant by 19 games. New York swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1927 World Series. Only four teams have won more regular season games to this date. Unquestionably one of the greatest teams in MLB history.
Hope you enjoyed the list, leave a comment below and tell us what we missed!