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.
This week I caught up with Philadelphia Eagles all-pro running back LeSean McCoy’s high school coach at Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg, Pa.) Jeff Weachter.
Jason Jordan: What’s your best memory of LeSean on the field?
Jeff Weachter: Man there’s so many! I’d probably say it was his freshman year the first day we went live. The seniors on the team couldn’t wait to go live against him. They really wanted to hit him because he was supposed to be so good. So we were scrimmaging in practice and we gave him the ball and he ran for a 7-yard touchdown run and left about four guys with their noses on the ground because he put the moves on them. We knew he was good, but we didn’t know he was that good. That’s the first time he got the ball in practice as freshman. It was amazing. He earned respect from that day on.
JJ: What’s your best memory of LeSean off the field?
JW: Again there’s so many! I’ve known Shady since he was 8 years old, his older brother played for me too. Shady used to bug me to come watch his rec games and he was 8 years old playing against 11 year olds and he was just dominating the game. Another great one was going into his senior year he had a lot of fans, of course. So right before fall camp started we had to go to a media event and that ended up running a little late. So my dad had suffered from a heart attack and was recovering at the time at home and Shady wanted to come see him. I told him he could just come another time because it was later than we thought and he wouldn’t have it. He really wanted to come visit my dad. That meant a lot to me and it meant the world to my dad. He really, genuinely wanted to come; that’s the kind of guy he is.
JJ: Did you always know he’d be a pro?
JW: When he was young you knew he was gonna be really good. I thought he had a chance at the NFL, but, I’ll be honest, I didn’t know that he’d lead the league in rushing and become the star he’s become.
JJ: Word is he had skills on the court in high school, true?
JW: I’ll tell you, going into the ninth grade he thought he was the next Allen Iverson. We talked and I told him, “Listen you’re a great basketball player, but you’re gonna be a D-I running back and you’ve got a shot at the NFL.” When he was a sophomore Ricky Watters came back to our school and watched some film on him and he told me he thought he had a real shot at the NFL. In some interviews since he’s been with the Eagles I’ve seen him reminisce about that talk we had about him thinking he was the next Iverson. I told him to know where his bread is buttered! But he was a good player and I actually think he’s gotten even better. He was a really good defender back then. He played JV and then didn’t play anymore. But he has become a much better shooter. He hit seven or eight threes in a charity game here. They were deep too!
JJ: Did he have handles like Iverson?
JW: Yeah; he definitely had a pretty good handle!
RELATED: A look back at Allen Iverson in HS
JJ: What’s the craziest story from his recruitment?
JW: Someone tipped off our local paper that a big time D-I coach was coming to see him one time and when he got there me and the coach went into my office and started talking a little bit. So I went to get LeSean out of class so they could talk and left the coach in there. When I came out I had nine D-I coaches there waiting to come see me. So I had to go get LeSean and take him back down a different stairway away from the crowd of coaches. No one ever knew we came around them. So afterwards I’m walking the D-I coach out that came to see him and he says, “You’re gonna take care of that, right?” So I started talking about what I thought he meant and he interrupted me and said, “No, you’re gonna make sure that local reporter doesn’t say that I was in their meeting with Shady.” I think, technically, it was a violation back then. He was more worried about getting reported by the paper than anything.
JJ: What was LeSean’s hidden talent away from the field?
JW: Shady’s very funny. He’s got a great sense of humor and he loves to play practical jokes. He’s good at those.
JJ: Obviously, he’s a star, but have we seen the best of LeSean McCoy? How good can he be?
JW: I think if he stays healthy he’s gonna have another unbelievable season. I hear people saying that he’s got a shot at the Hall of Fame. What people don’t realize is that his birthday is in late July and he just turned 26 so he’s got a lot of time to do a lot of things. The good thing about Shady is that a lot of times defenders don’t get real big hits on him because they’re so afraid to square him up. I think, as long as he stays healthy, he’ll have a real shot at being a Hall of Famer. He’s well on his way to 10,000 yards if he keeps on the way he’s going and that’ll be the second 10,000-yard NFL rusher from Bishop McDevitt. Ricky Watters was the first.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY