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.
In the High School Lookback, I’ll regularly 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.
Today, I caught up with former WWE and UFC champion Brock Lesnar’s high school wrestling coach at Webster (S.D.), John Schiley.
Lesnar returns to the Octagon to co-headline UFC 200 on July 9 against Mark Hunt, Lesnar’s first UFC bout in more than four years. He will return to the WWE for Summer Slam on Aug. 21.
Jason Jordan: What’s your best memory of Brock on the mats back in high school?
John Schiley: I would have to say when we were in close dual with a rival of ours, Milbank, and it came down to the last match. We had fought hard. I was all nervous and crazy and Brock came up to me and put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Don’t worry about it, we’re winning.” Then he went right out there and pinned the guy. That was a big moment!
JJ: What’s your best memory of Brock away from the mats?
JS: Probably last week. I went up to his training camp and I spent most of the afternoon with him, and that evening we just sat down on the couch and talked about everything. When you’re a coach and the boss, you’re a little hard on ‘em. Then when they get going in their career, you back ‘em and you tell them good things and pat ‘em on the back. Then you get to the point where you’re friends and we have a mutual respect for each other. That’s where we’re at now. I really enjoyed that. It’s one of those moments that will always live in my head; probably his, too.
JJ: What’s something fans would be surprised to know about Brock?
JS: He loves to farm. He liked to come over and run our equipment and help with the farm. That’s his end goal right now; when he’s all done, he’s gonna be a farmer. That’s why he’s gotta make the big money right now because you don’t make it as a farmer. Another thing is that he loves to hunt geese and coons. Now he and his wife are both avid deer hunters. He’s an outdoors guy; he’s got all the big TV’s at his house that cover the whole wall, but I’ve never seen one on.
JJ: Can you look back in hindsight and say you could see Brock taking the path he ended up on?
JS: He and I always had a special understanding; we made goals very lofty and we wanted to achieve them. People don’t understand the hunger that he has. He didn’t win the state championship his senior year, he got third place. We talked about that; had he won he may not be where he is today. He was so hungry after that and he went on to win national junior college, NCAA, WWE and MMA championships… It’s his hunger and desire to achieve his goals that is the most remarkable thing about him. That’s what made him who he is today.
JJ: He’s a rather large human (6-foot-4, 286 pounds), does he have the personality to accompany such an intimidating appearance or is he really a big teddy bear?
JS: (Laughs) He is like a good dog. You can pet him all day long, but if you pull his tail he might bite you! When you know him, you know your limits. Don’t ask a lot of questions and don’t get on his nerves! No, but he’s a great guy and he’s always there for his friends. He’ll always show up to help his friends.
JJ: Did he play football in high school?
JS: Football wasn’t his main sport. He played, but at the time he was a skinny, tall, clumsy kid. He hadn’t grown into everything yet. When he was in seventh grade, he wrestled at 98 pounds. Then he hit a growth spurt and started to fill out. He’s always been an extraordinary athlete, though. If he studies something and wants to do it, he’ll get it done. It could be bowling; he’ll be the best bowler after while. He’s that type of athlete.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY