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.
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.
We caught up with New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz’s high school coach at Paterson Catholic (Paterson, N.J.) Benjie Wimberly, now a state rep in New Jersey.
Jason Jordan: What’s your best memory of Victor on the field?
Benjie Wimberly: Wow, that’s tough. I’d have to say the game when he scored five touchdowns in one half in a game his senior year. He caught one, ran one, ran a kick back, picked off a pass and then caught another one. He went bonkers! It was unbelievable to see.
JJ: What’s your best memory of Victor off the field?
BW: He was on my first undefeated state championship team and that was just a special class. He was obviously a big part of that success. I remember Victor crying after the game. It was very emotional. It’s something we’ll all never forget.
JJ: Was he always such a great dancer?
BW: (Laughs) No, no, I think he picked that up after high school. I don’t remember too much dancing.
JJ: Did he excel in any other sports?
BW: He was a really good basketball player. He was really athletic. He really could get up and he had great explosion. If he focused on basketball he could’ve definitely gotten a scholarship for that too.
JJ: What’s the craziest thing you can remember from his recruitment?
BW: Probably that I often had more of an attitude than he did just dealing with all of the coaches that were sleeping on him. I was always saying, “Are you out of your mind?” Even down to Rutgers, they brought him in for a visit and didn’t offer him. I had a lot of heated conversations with coaches who didn’t believe. I just couldn’t believe it. It was so obvious that he was gonna be a star.
JJ: When it’s all said and done is Victor Cruz going to be a Hall of Famer?
BW: I think the next couple of years will determine that. He’s won a Super Bowl, he’s been a Pro Bowler and he had a couple of records before Odell came along. Victor’s a guy that could play for five or six more years and I think they’ll be productive years.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY