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 St. Louis Rams quarterback Austin Davis’ high school coach at West Lauderdale (Collinsville, Miss.) Stan McCain.
Jason Jordan: I know Austin was the most accomplished player in West Lauderdale history so this will be hard; what’s your best memory of him on the field?
Stan McCain: You know there were so many; he really came into his own by the end of his sophomore year. He was our starter and played OK, but wasn’t doing what I thought he could do. Then he turned it on in the playoffs and took us all the way to the state title game. He could really throw the ball man! We were a Wing-T team so we didn’t throw the ball as much as some other schools. We used his legs and his arm.
JJ: What’s your best memory of Austin off the field?
SM: He had a group of about eight or nine friends that all came up together and they were always together fishing and hanging out and all that stuff. For the most part he was all about ball; if he wasn’t in the batting cage he was throwing the football.
JJ: What’s the craziest story you can recall from his recruitment?
SM: He didn’t get all the loads of offers because, like I said, we had a Wing-T offense so that hurt his stats a little. The thing I remember is that he made the Mississippi-Alabama All Star game and Southeastern Louisiana really wanted him bad. They saw his value before any other school saw it and wanted him to come in and start as a freshman, but he decided to sign a baseball scholarship with Southern Mississippi and walk-on to the football team. The best thing that happened to him was when Coach Fedora came in and gave him a legitimate shot at starting. When he did that they couldn’t get him off the field.
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JJ: What was his personality on the team?
SM: He was the leader. He was the guy that the guys on the team looked up to. They knew he could get them wins and they did what he said. He’s a great leader and he knows how to get his teammates to play for him as hard as they can. You’ll start seeing it more and more.
JJ: What’s something about Austin that people would be shocked to know?
SM: Well, he was one of our slower quarterbacks; he ran about a 5.2 40 and that didn’t set well with him. At the end of the football season he was starting baseball and after baseball practice you’d see him stretching a running sprints. By the time he finished baseball season four months later he was down to a 4.7. Another thing is that he went his whole senior year without throwing one interception; I’m talking in games and in practice. Think about that. I mean he never threw one pick. Then the week of our playoff game he threw one in practice. We literally just stopped and all looked at each other because we’d never seen that all year. We pass a lot in practice too; plenty of opportunities to throw interceptions and he never threw one. Not one. Then he threw it on that last practice. He ended up throwing one in the game too!
JJ: Do the Rams have their quarterback of the future in Austin Davis?
SM: You better believe it. I knew that all he needed was a chance. I knew if he were to get a chance it’d be hard to get that joker out of there. He got his chance and he’s not letting go! I know there are great quarterbacks in the NFL, but none of them will outwork him or study harder than him. Somebody’s gonna have to beat his tail back out to put him on the bench. I think he can will them to wins too. He’s just that type of player. I’ll tell you what; if they don’t make the playoffs it won’t be because of him. He’ll more than do his part.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY