BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Are ya ready for "Sideline 2017?" It's hard to believe we are now in our 29th year of the big show, and we're pumped up!
Of the thousands of football players who have appeared on the program over the last quarter century, many of them have gone onto superb college and NFL careers. Some have already retired from the NFL, others are still playing, and many boast of All-Pro honors, and yes, a few are future Pro Football Hall Of Famers.
So here we go: My Top Ten football players ever to appear on "Sideline". Keep in mind that the WBRC FOX6 viewing area stretches from just north of Montgomery to the Huntsville suburbs and to both state lines bordering Mississippi and Georgia.
Also, you will notice that my Top Ten players have each gone on to play in the NFL, with half of them still playing. And after my Top Ten List? Three for the road! I'll list three players from each of the last 28 years that have been etched into my mind, and forever etched in our Sideline Hall Of Fame!
The Phillips High School product is one of 13 kids- in fact he was born with 6 fingers on his left hand. His prep career was superb as he starred in both football and basketball. Cotchery caught 13 TD passes his senior season in high school, went on to become a record-setting receiver at NC State, and played for the Jets, Steelers and Panthers of the NFL.
It was hard to ignore this kid, who starred at Etowah High School. A shifty yet powerful runner, Carnell, later nick-named "Cadillac", was a regular on our show. In 1999, Williams ran for 194 yards and ran a kickoff back some 90 yards to help Etowah beat Jamarcus Russell and Williamson on the 5A state championship game. All Carnell did after that was go on to rush for nearly 4,000 yards and score 45 TD's at Auburn, and then run for the Tampa Bay Bucs and St Louis Rams. He is currently assisting the football team at the University Of West Georgia
The current San Diego Chargers quarterback often saw his name called on our program, and for good reason. In his senior year at Athens, Rivers passed for 2023 yards and threw 15 TD passes, and he ran for another 323 yards and 6 TD's. He was named all-state, and even played safety on defense. A 4-time NFL Pro Bowler, Rivers is still going strong out on the west coast.
Jess Lanier High School has produced some big-time high school athletes, and Demeco is certainly one of them. His senior season saw him collect 135 tackles, 6 sacks and recover two fumbles. Ryans, thought of as too small for big-time college football, went on to become an All-SEC linebacker at Alabama, and the AFC Defensive Rookie Of The Year with the Texans. Today Ryans, after being released by the Philadelphia Eagles is an assistant with the 49'ers.
What can you say about T.O? The kid who was raised in humble surroundings in Alexander City became a star at Benjamin Russell High School. Owens was a freak of an athlete: Get this: Although he thought of quitting football going into his senior season of high school, Owens left school with 4 letters in football, 4 letters in track, 3 letters in basketball and 1 letter in baseball. To this day, he may enjoy basketball as much as football. While T.O. insists he can still play in the NFL, the local kid who went onto NFL stardom has become as much of a pop culture sensation as a famous athlete. Look for Owens to get the call from the Pro Football Hall Of Fame in the next few years.
Huffman High School has always produced great interior lineman (Ruben Studdard and his brother wrapped up the left tackle spot for 8 straight years there, and Buffalo Bills star Marcell Dareus starred at the school as well). When Andre Smith came along, he turned heads. Smith collected 88 pancake blocks his senior season with the Vikings, and was quickly identified as the nation's top offensive line prospect. An NFL first-round pick, Smith has overcome the critics of his work ethic to come back strong in the NFL. He recently signed a multi-million dollar deal with the Cincinnati Bengals.
1999 produced a huge amount of eventual NFL talent, and Woodlawn linebacker/tight end Karlos Dansby was one of them. Dansby's senior season with the Colonels produced 51 catches for 857 yards, 81 tackles, 6 sacks, 3 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries. Dansby committed to the Auburn Tigers in studio during one of my sportscasts (how times have changed on that front,) and went on to a stellar career at AU. A gifted basketball player, Dansby has played in the NFL for the Cardinals, Dolphins and Browns. He recently signed a deal to return to Arizona.
Although Croyle's senior season at Westbrook Christian was a wash due to a knee injury, the son of former Bama lineman John Croyle became a state record-setter by the time his junior season had ended. As a sophomore, Brodie threw for 3787 yards and 44 TD's- in one single game, Croyle threw for 528 yards and 7 scores. Brodie's junior season at Westbrook produced 2838 passing yards and 38 TD passes. Despite the injury, Croyle left high school with a state record 9323 career passing yards and 105 touchdowns. He owns the state marks for most passing yards in a season, most passing yards in a game, most TD passes in a season and most passing TD's in a game. Croyle went on to play at Alabama and then the NFL Kansas City Chiefs. After a stint in the lumber business, he's now back in the Rainbow City area running the Big Oak Boys and Girls Ranches with his sister Reagan.
From a mere statistical point of view, the former Briarwood Christian stand-out may be the greatest high school football player in our state over the last 27 years (remember, Bo Jackson, Bobby Humphrey, etc came before him). Castille was named first-team all-state as an 8th grader as he hauled in over 1200 receiving yards. By the time he left Briarwood, Tim had chalked up 4122 receiving yards, 3626 rushing yards, and 1121 return yards. His 9544 total yards was a state record, and he went on to a superb career at Alabama. He played for the NFL Arizona Cardinals and recently had been a grad assistant coach at UA. He has recently been coaching in the high school ranks.
While The Deuce does not own the lofty high school stats owned by the likes of Castille and Croyle, the former Jackson-Olin star was a one-man hi-light film. In 27 years, I have never seen a more exciting high school football player. My old joke was that Palmer was so good in high school that he could throw a long pass, run down the field and catch it himself. Palmer ran for over 2,000 yards and 19 TD's while with the Mustangs- he passed for 1960 yards and 16 scores. He went on to win our state's Mr. Football award, and became a do-everything QB/WR/RB/KR/PR at Alabama. Gene Stallings was smart to get him on the field at any position he could. The Deuce finished third in the Heisman voting in 1992 and helped the Tide win a national championship. He played for the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL and now lives in the Birmingham area and works with autistic children.
And now for Three For The Road: Remember these three stand-out players from each of the 28 years that FOX6 Sideline has aired? We enjoyed showing you their highlights, which were many.
Yes, I have no doubt forgotten many great athletes who have appeared on the show (that's what happens when you get to be my age), but here's a sampling of 87 other "Sideline" greats!
2016: Taylor Hayes, Piedmont/Terrance Dunlap, Maplesville/Brian Robinson, Hillcrest
2015: Jarrion Street, Hewitt-Trussville/Ben Davis, Gordo/TaDarryl "TD" Marshall, Leeds
2014: Ty Pigrome, Clay-Chalkville/Tre Nation, Leeds/Kerryon Johnson, Madison Academy
2013: Roc Thomas, Oxford/Ronnie Clark, Calrea/Nick Gibson, Pinson Valley
2012: Jordan Sims, Homewood/Marlon Humphrey, Hoover/Rock Thomas, Oxford
2011: Jameis Winston, Hueytown/Ernest Robinson, Pinson/Chris Rabb, Hueytown
2010: Jaylon Denson, Hoover/Vinnie Sunseri, Northridge/Troymiane Pope, Anniston
2009: Jake Holland, Pelham/Fabian Truss, Shades Valley/ Jamarcus Nelson, Midfield
2008: Dre Kirkpatrick, Gadsden City/Deion Belue, Deshler/Quinton Dial, C-Chalkville
2007: Barrett Trotter, Briarwood/Tyler Love, Mt Brook/Brad Smelley, ACA
2006: William Vlachos, Mt Brook/Ross Wilson, Hoover/Jerrell Harris, Gadsen City
2005: Ryan Pugh, Hoover/Tim Hawthorne, Homewood/Chris Smelley, ACA
2004: Cory Reamer, Hoover/Andrew McCain, Briarwood/Montez Billings, Pelham
2003: John Parker Wilson, Hoover/Tony Dixon, Parrish/Simeon Castille, Briarwood
2002: LeRon McClain, County High/Chad Jackson, Hoover/Jamarcus Russell, Williamson
2001: Brandon Cox, H-Trussville/Ben Obomanu, Selma/Cornelius Rogers, Homewood
2000: Spencer Pennington, Fayette Co/Taylor Britt, Cullman/Brodie Croyle, Westbrook
1999: Evan Mathis, Homewood/Wesley Britt, Cullman/Bill Flowers, Pelham
1998: Phillip Gargis, Homewood/Alonzo Ephraim,Wenonah/Saleem Rasheed, S-Valley
1997: Terry Jones, Central/Derrick Nix, Etowah/Tyler Watts, Pelham
1996: Jason Standridge, H-Trussville/Rob Pate, Erwin/Mac Campbell, Alexandria
1995: Richmond Flowers, Vestavia Hills/Griff Redmill, Walker/Bart Hyche, Winfield
1994: Cornelius Griffin, Pike Co/Montressa Kirby, Anniston/Dawud Rasheed, SV
1993: Dennis Riddle, Central/Rod Rutledge, Erwin/Thomas Banks, West Jefferson
1992: Freddie Kitchens, Etowah/Lance Tucker, Fayette Co/Marcellus Mostella, Gadsden
1991: Bart Yancey, Briarwood/Robert Davis, Homewood/Jeremy Pruitt, Plainview
1990: Pat Nix, Etowah/Dameian Jefferies, BB Comer/Chad Key, Walker
1989: Jay Barker, H-Trussville/Tyrone Nix, Etowah/Brandon Moore, Springville