Eight years ago, Rodney Hall, Donovan Johnson, Donovan Parker and Donovan Peoples-Jones met on the Southfield Falcons’ practice field. Now they are finishing up their senior seasons on the Detroit Cass Tech football team as college recruits.
Playing together for so long certainly has its benefits. Their friendship gives them some chemistry — and maybe even a sixth sense.
“Like, if he gives me a look and it’s a certain play, you know he is about to throw the ball,” Parker said of Hall, Cass Tech’s quarterback.
The Technicians (12-0) are ranked No. 1 in the state heading into their Division 1 state semifinal against Utica Eisenhower (12-0) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Troy Athens.
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Hall and Peoples-Jones will graduate in December, in order to enroll early in college. Hall is verbally committed to Northern Illinois. Peoples-Jones is one of the most sought recruits in the country, rated a five-star wide receiver by rivals.com, and is considering Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Florida and Florida State.
“I’ve always had an innate passion for football,” Peoples-Jones said. “I have a picture of when I was 2 years old, holding a football and wearing a football jersey. One time, my friend had a flyer for tackle football with the Southfield Ravens. I can remember getting so excited that I took the flyer, ran home and showed my mom. A few months later, I tried out for the team, and that was my first season of tackle football, at age 5.”
Parker and Johnson also are still deciding where they will attend next fall.
“I’m talking to a couple of schools right now, Southern Illinois and Saginaw Valley State University,” Parker said.
“I’m choosing between Penn State and Virginia Tech,” said Johnson, a four-star prospect.
Johnson, a defensive back and running back for Cass Tech, will play defensive back in college. He’ll play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January in San Antonio, along with Peoples-Jones.
Hall met the three Donovans when he switched teams in fifth grade.
“I remember … just asking them questions like, ‘Can you guys hit?’ and stuff like that,” Hall said. “Just joking around.”
It was Hall who eventually convinced the group to play at Cass Tech.
“I met coach (Thomas) Wilcher because I played basketball with his daughter, and he used to come and watch the games,” Hall said. “He saw that I was real athletic, and I was talking to him after one of the games, and he was telling me he wanted me to come to Cass.
“I told him I play football for the Falcons. Then he watched me play, and I told him I have friends that want to go to Cass, too: Donovan Peoples, Donovan Parker and Donovan Johnson. And in eighth grade, we started coming up here to work out.”
Cass Tech made history in 2010 and 2011 as the first Detroit public school to win back-to-back state championships. That attracted little league players.
“We all wanted to play at the highest level,” Peoples-Jones said. “Obviously, coming off two state championships, Cass was one of the top programs in the state. I think me and my friends kind of wanted to go to the same high school since we always played together in little league.”
Wilcher has witnessed the bond they share.
“They are great friends, they are a band of brothers and they work well with each other,” he said. “They always have each other’s back.”
The foursome hangs out together aside from football, too.
“Particularly at each other’s houses — or we go out together,” Hall said.
That makes this final high school go-round even sweeter.
“Just knowing that this is our last season together … our last time playing together, we’re going to split in college and, hopefully, do big things from there,” Peoples-Jones said. “I am going to miss seeing them every day. I think we all understand that we are separating to do great things in life. We all are chasing something, and separating can help us grow up more.”