Jed Kennedy knew Trae Waynes and Melvin Gordon were talented when they first came out for Bradford (Kensosha, Wis.) football. He just didn’t know they would end up as first-round NFL draft choices.
Waynes, who was a standout defensive back at Michigan State, was taken by the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday as the No. 11 overall pick. Gordon, who set the FBS record for career rushing average with 7.79 yards a carry while running for 4,915 career rushing yards at Wisconsin, was taken No. 15 overall by the San Diego Chargers.
“As a high school coach, it’s not something you think about,” said Kennedy, now the coach at Brookfield Central (Brookfield, Minn.). “It’s hard enough to be able to play Division I.”
It was the fifth time in NFL history that high school teammates were drafted together in the first round and the first time since 1990.
Gordon didn’t join Bradford until after the team’s freshman season but was the more highly recruited player as a senior, listed as the No. 24 running back in the 2011 class by Rivals.
“Melvin worked really hard,” Kennedy said. “He was a great blocker, a great runner and a great pass catcher. I think he scored a touchdown for us every four times he touched the ball. The question about him (going to Wisconsin) is how he would adapt to running inside because he did a lot of jet sweeps for us.”
Waynes was an all-state defensive back his senior year, despite breaking his leg the fourth game of the season. He had plenty of speed as he finished third in the 100 meters in the Division I state track meet his junior year. Yet, he was listed as a two-star recruit.
“Trae was an outside linebacker as a sophomore,” Kennedy said. “He was a real physical kid. He didn’t play secondary until his junior year, and we put him at safety, then corner, but he hurt his shoulder. For him, it was learning the craft of a new position.”
The team went 11-1 the players’ junior years and 11-2 and to the state semifinals their senior year.
“I communicate with both kids pretty regularly,” Kennedy said. “I’m a huge Vikings fan, so when Trae got picked by them, that made me pretty happy. It’s great to see great things happen to good kids. As good as they are as players, they’re better people. As a coach, this allows me to tell my kids, if you make the right choices, good things can happen.”
Kennedy stayed up late last night to watch his former players get drafted, then came in early for school.
“I was watching the draft at home with my family,” Kennedy said. “It was certainly an exciting night. But, this morning, we had a leadership council meeting at 7 a.m. and we’re trying to find the next Trae and Melvin. I don’t know how easy that is going to be.”
Though the players haven’t had their jerseys retired yet, they visited their old high school recently, as shown by a tweet by current Bradford coach Matt Rizzo: