Before Michael Jordan was making Bryon Russell fall with a killer crossover and draining the go-ahead jumper to win his sixth NBA title with the Chicago Bulls, Jordan was a skinny, determined athlete dominating the competition at Laney High (Wilmington, N.C.).
Before Adrian Peterson was trucking opposing defenses and racking up 2,097 yards in a single season for the Minnesota Vikings, he was shining bright under the Friday night lights at Palestine High (Palestine, Texas), averaging 12 yards a carry and scoring 32 touchdowns.
Before any athlete can become legendary, they have to lay their foundation in the high school ranks.
Each week I’ll chat with a high-profile athlete’s former coach, mentor, family member, etc., and reminisce about their high school playing days; everything from the greatest moment to the wackiest story.
I caught up with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck’s high school coach at Stratford (Houston) Eliot Allen.
Jason Jordan: What’s your best memory of Andrew on the field?
Eliot Allen: (Laughs) There’s a bunch of ‘em; I remember when he was a junior we felt like he was a really good player and a lot of schools were looking at him, then he made a throw against a team that was supposed to kill us in the second round of the playoffs that was amazing. It was 50 yards in the air and placed perfectly. It was a truly special throw. It was one of those moments that really sticks out.
JJ: What’s your best memory of Andrew off the field?
EA: He’d do goofy things with his friends, but I just remember how cool it was that he treated everyone on the team the same. He liked them all; no one was less than the other. He’s really a “what you see is what you get” type of guy.
JJ: What personality was he on your team?
EA: He was our rock and he balanced his moments well. He was intelligent enough to know when to be goofy and when to be serious. Whenever there was a pressure-packed situation, everyone always looked to him to pull us through and he delivered.
JJ: Rumor has it that he was really good on the basketball court?
EA: Oh yeah, he was actually all-district! I think he really enjoyed basketball so much because it was completely different from his role in football. He was a defensive guy and a really good rebounder. I think he probably could’ve played at the next level. He was just a smart player in every sport.
JJ: Smart away from sports too, right?
EA: He was the valedictorian so that tells you all you need to know. We’re a really strong academic school too. Good luck finding a smarter guy than him in the league.
JJ: What’s the craziest story you can recall from his recruitment?
EA: Probably just how much he didn’t get all worked up about it. I remember a few days in a row he had Bob Stoops, Les Miles and Nick Saban in to see him and he’d just shrug it off like it wasn’t a big deal. He was more concerned with how his teammates would feel about all the attention going to him. He was the kind of leader that wanted everyone to shine.
JJ: When it’s all said and done, do you think Andrew Luck will be a Hall of Famer?
EA: I think he’s a great player and what he does to bring his team together and produce on the field in pressure situations; I think he’d certainly got the tools to accomplish that.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY