By: Matt McCullough (@jagmatt)
With all the hype leading into Friday's showdown of running backs Derrick Henry (Yulee) and Kelvin Taylor (Glades Day), this is a good time to reflect on the great Jacksonville area runningbacks of the past 3 decades. Making lists are hard to do. Ranking this list is even harder. Nonetheless, here's my fearless rankings based on the following:
Value to their team WHILE in high school, the "eye test" itself (I've personally seen 17 of the 20 play), personal stats, and some "unscientific" discussions with sportswriters and coaches
note: The list is comprised of true high school running backs. Wide Receivers or Running Quarterbacks do not qualify (thus no Tim Tebow). Some players on this list went on to college to play other positions, but for their high school careers; they were true running backs.
Casey Turner ED WHITElate 00's (Rutgers, FAMU)... Lydell Grant JACKSON early 80's... Rock Rhoden BAKER CO. mid 80's.... Jamari Smith FLETCHER Current... Eric Baker ED WHITE late 00's (South Carolina, JU currently)... Joey Lawson RIDGEVIEW early 00's ...Torin Kirtsey U.C. early 90's(Georgia, MTSU)... Malcom Thomas PAXON early 90's (Syracuse)...Damien Postell BALDWIN late 90's
20 - Antonio Roundtree, BOLLES MID 90's (Louisville) probably the smallest guy on the list, but maybe the quickest. played in 2 state title games.
19 - Chris Thompson, FIRST COAST mid 00's (FSU currently) played RB on a passing team in high school, his stock is still rising at FSU
18 - Leon Brown, PAXON late 80's (Eastern Kentucky, Jaguars Inaugural Season) once scored 5 TD's in one half!played primarily RB, but did it all for the Eagles
17 - Vannez Gooch, ED WHITE early 90's (FSU, Florida (transferred) 10-0 season in 1994, began Ed White's long reputation of having a dominant running game
16 - Mike Curry, UNIVERSITY CHRISTIAN early 90's (SouthCarolina baseball) one of the few 5,000 career yard club members in the area
15 - Gus Scott, TRINITY late 90's (Florida, Patriots (switched to defensive back) very fast, also played db. lead Trinity to State Title Game
14 - Chris Parker, SANDALWOOD mid 80's (FSU) helped lead Sandalwood to state semifinal run in 1986, first team, 5A All State
13 - Maurice Wells, SANDALWOOD early 00's (Ohio State) previously held single game area rushing record (until last week). 2005 Army All American
12 - Lavernius Coles, RIBAULT mid 90's (FSU, Jets) oddly, the game seemed to get even easier for him in the NFL than in college and high school. Lightning fast.
11 - Darius Faulk, ORANGE PARK early 90's (UCF) one of the best players on one of the best teams the area has ever seen (#14 in the nation, 1992)
10 - Stephen Mosley, PARKER early 90's ...Wing-T fullback helped quickly turn an 0-10 team to a 10-0 team once he arrived as a sophomore
9 - Terrance Flagler, FERNANDINA BEACH early 80's (Clemson, 49ers) once had 408 yds, 7 TDs in one game (and 2 50 yard TDs were called back). Has 2 Super Bowl rings
8 - Willie McClendon, UNIVERSITY CHRISTIAN late 80's (Florida) one of the more celebrated RB's to come out of J-ville, played against 1A competition though
7 - Robert Pollard, BOLLES, ORANGE PARK mid 90's (Nebraska) all purpose, but played enough RB to make the list, perhaps the best athlete to ever play for Corky Rogers
6 - Leon Washington, JACKSON early 00's (FSU, Jets, Seahawks) lead Tigers to several playoff appearances; helped Coach Sullivan get Jackson back to relevance in 2000
5 - Ciatrick Fason, FLETCHER early 00's (Florida, Vikings) finished 5th his career as 5th all-time leading rusher in FL history. Had two +2,000 yard seasons
4 - Edgar Bennett, LEE mid 80's (FSU, Packers) a bruiser ever since his High School days for the Big Blue, went on to play fullback for FSU and the Packers
3 - Frankie Franklin, SANDALWOOD mid 90's (Indiana) most reminds me of Derrick Henry, lead Saints to the State Championship game in the biggest classification there was in 1995. Had insane rushing numbers that year.
2 - C.J. Spiller, UNION COUNTY mid 00's (Clemson, Bills) made high school defenders look like they were always taking bad angles, but he was just that fast.
1 - Derrick Henry, YULEE (currently in High School) no area RB has made such an impact at such an early age (since freshman year); yet still got better every year. Set all-time single game State rushing record (502 yards). Is currently chasing the National career record (without the benefit of going deep into the playoffs every season). Tall, powerful, fast. Will hopefully become what Marcus Dupree could have ultimately been.
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