Several recruiting sources list Detroit King’s Donnie Corley as the No. 2 player in the state, but it took him quite awhile to reach that level.
Following his sophomore year, Corley was a rumor — a player with potential who not many people knew.
“I wasn’t highly recruited at a young age — my freshman, sophomore year,” he said. “So I kept working to keep my mind-set right and all of it came, so it all paid off.”
Between his sophomore and junior seasons, the senior wide receiver and defensive back figured if there was a local workout, he was going to be there.
And the better the competition, the better he liked it.
“I went to every workout I heard about,” he said. “Maybe Damon Webb was at a workout and his dad told me to come, so I went to everything I could. I got better working with older guys.”
Webb is the former Detroit Cass Tech all-state cornerback who played in eight games for national champion Ohio State last season as a true freshman.
Working out with and against Webb, Corley had no choice but to improve.
“Every once in a while I might catch one,” Corley said. “He’s a great corner.”
The work paid off when Corley helped King reach the state playoffs last season, catching 47 passes for 1,087 yards.
But the Crusaders were blasted out of the playoffs in the first round, 40-12, by Southfield. The loss drove Corley through another off-season of intense workouts.
Corley, 6-feet-3, 190 pounds, is the state’s top receiver, but it isn’t a stretch to say he could be one of the best cornerbacks, too. He has 4.5 speed, which helps him stay with the speediest receivers, and his size allows him to manhandle them when things get physical.
“I’m an athlete, but all growing up I focused on offense and focused on receiver,” he said. “I didn’t do a lot of DB things, working on technique and stuff like that. If the ball is in the air, I’m going to get it and stuff like that with me being athletic.”
Corley had hoped to commit by now, but is still undecided. He lists Michigan State, Ohio State, Tennessee, LSU, Georgia and Michigan as finalists and plans to sign as a receiver.
Although the Crusaders are loaded, they were dealt a blow when quarterback Mikale Washington moved to Virginia. That leaves a hole in the offense, but Corley is optimistic about sophomore QB El Julian Jordan.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he has every offer in the country when it’s all said and done,” Corley said. “He’s only going into the 10th grade, but he can make any throw on the field — he’s great.”
King has the potential to be great, especially with the addition of cornerback Lavert Hill (Penn State) and running back Martell Pettaway (West Virginia), among others. They make the Crusaders the favorite to win the Detroit Public School League championship and the Division 2 state title.
Those are expectations Corley is embracing more than trying to downplay.
“We’ve got a very great team, and we’ve got a lot of hard workers on our team,” he said. “And we’ve got the best team in the state in the first game — Warren De La Salle, they won the state championship last year — so we’ve got a chance to show what we’ve got early, and we want to win the state championship.”
Meet the Crusaders
Last season: 8-2.
Top players: WR/DB Donnie Corley, sophomore C Josh Mayberry, DB Lavert Hill, OG Melvin Sylvester, RB Martell Pettaway, sophomore QB El Julian Jordan, junior RB Kevin Willis, DE/OT Leon Page, junior Ambry Thomas, DB/WR Dontre Boyd.
State playoff record: 29-22.
Coach: Dale Harvell, seventh season at King (51-24).
Overview: The first PSL team to win a state title, King could get its second this season. Corley is a dangerous receiver, and Pettaway (West Virginia) gives King a breakaway threat. Page (Central Michigan) recorded 12 sacks last season, and Hill (Penn State) is a lockdown corner. Boyd (Western Michigan) and Thomas help give King an excellent secondary. Much will be depend on the development of Jordan.