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 Seattle Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse’s high school coach at Lakes (Tacoma, Wash.) Dave Miller.
Jason Jordan: What’s your best memory of Jermaine on the field in high school?
Dave Miller: His senior year our first game we got to play at CenturyLink Field and it was his first game since the passing of his father and it was a really tough game. He ended up scoring the game-winning touchdown in that game and he just pointed up toward the heavens as if to say, “This is for you dad.” It was such a memorable moment and it’s something I’ll never forget. It’s especially cool now that he’s scoring touchdowns for the Seahawks in that same end zone.
JJ: What’s your best memory of Jermaine off the field?
DM: Just the day-to-day interactions we had. He’s probably the best player I’ve ever had at not getting too up or too down; you saw that against Green Bay, obviously. He was always a positive leader around our school; never in to drama. He made other people better on and off the field. He was honestly a coach’s dream.
JJ: What’s something fans would be shocked to know about Jermaine?
DM: When he came in as a freshman he had talent but he was 5-foot-10, 145 pounds and a lot of our freshman coaches didn’t think he’d amount to much. The work ethic was always there though. In a lot of ways he made himself into a great athlete.
JJ: What’s the craziest story you can recall from his recruitment?
DM: It got pretty crazy between Oregon and Washington during his recruitment and Oregon was having a lot more success at the time. I think it showed a lot for Jermaine to stay home and go to Washington. He wanted to be a part of rebuilding that program back. While he was there he went to three bowls in four years.
JJ: Word is he was dominant in basketball and track in high school too?
DM: Oh definitely. He was really, really good in basketball. Our team took second in the state his junior year and I think they actually would’ve won had he not fouled out, that shows you how good he was. I also coached him for four years in track and he was a 47 foot triple jumper and a 10.7 100-meter guy. He was a great three-sport athlete!
JJ: When you saw Russell Wilson’s pass coming on that last play in overtime against the Packers did you “know” it was a catch?
DM: Oh yeah! I was so happy that he had the opportunity to make a play for his team to win the game. I knew things hadn’t gone the way that he would’ve hoped, but for him to maintain his belief in his team and himself was special. I actually had a few tears at the end of that one.
JJ: What is Jermaine’s ceiling in the NFL?
DM: Well, first I think it’s such a dream come true to be a hometown kid that plays high school, college and professional in the same area. For a guy to come in as an undrafted free agent and start out on special teams and now in his third year he’s making plays as a starting receiver. I think he’s solidified himself as a long-time member of, hopefully, the Seahawks, but in the NFL I could see him having a 10, 12, 14-year career.
JJ: Who wins the Super Bowl?
DM: Man it’s gonna be tough picking against the Seahawks after that one, but they’ve got a tough draw with New England! Still, I’ve gotta go with Seattle in a close one. I’m saying 35-31.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY