published Sunday, July 24th, 2011

Area’s top 20 prep players of last 20 years

The area’s top 20 high school football players of the past 20 years, as selected by the Times Free Press sports staff:

  1. Eric Westmoreland, running back/linebacker, Marion County, Tennessee, NFL: No other area player can match the accomplishments combining his prep, college and pro careers. Marion County went 56-1 during his four years as a Warrior, winning three state championships. The only loss was by one point in the state quarterfinals his sophomore season. He rushed for more than 2,000 yards in each of his last two years with Marion, was twice named the most valuable player of state finals and was Tennessee’s Mr. Football Back of the Year as well as the Lawrenceburg Quarterback Club’s player of the year as a senior.

He returned a fumble for a touchdown in his first collegiate game with the Volunteers and earned two SEC championship rings and one national title as a starting outside linebacker. He was selected by Jacksonville in the third round and had a five-year NFL career with the Jaguars and Cleveland Browns.

  1. Gerald Riggs Jr., running back, Red Bank, Tennessee, NFL, CFL: Arguably the most talented running back ever to play in the area, he was selected national back of the year by the Atlanta Touchdown Club and was named an All-American by four recruiting services after his senior season. He a state Mr. Football Back of the Year twice and led the Lions to a 15-0 record and the Class 5A state title as a junior, earning MVP honors in the title game. He rushed for 6,046 yards and 90 touchdowns at Red Bank.

At UT, he ran for more than 1,000 yards as a junior and was a preseason All-America selection as a senior, before being injured midway through that season. He had short NFL stints with Miami, Chicago and Detroit and played one year with Toronto in the CFL.

  1. Josh Bullocks, defensive back, Hixson, Nebraska, NFL: As a running back at Hixson, he took the handoff from his twin Daniel, rushed for more than 1,000 yards twice and helped the Wildcats to four playoff appearances. At Nebraska, he was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back after leading the nation with 10 interceptions as a junior. He also had 49 tackles that season and left school early to enter the NFL draft, where he was taken in the second round by New Orleans. He started 49 games for the Saints before playing one year with the Chicago Bears.

  2. Daniel Bullocks, defensive back, Hixson, Nebraska, NFL: Although he and his twin made the transition to the defensive side of the ball in college, Daniel earned prep honors as quarterback for the Wildcats. He was named Mr. Football after rushing for more than 1,400 yards as a senior. He also returned two of his four interceptions for touchdowns that season and ran for more than 3,000 yards in his prep career. He started 22 games in Nebraska’s secondary, earning second-team All-Big 12 honors twice, and went in the second round of the NFL draft to Detroit, where he played for nearly five seasons.

  3. Eddie Moore, linebacker, South Pittsburg, Tennessee, NFL: He set a state record by scoring 43 touchdowns his senior season and rushed for more than 2,000 yards, made 88 tackles and intercepted four passes that year. That followed a 1,900-yard, 29-TD junior season. He was a finalist for Mr. Football as a senior. A four-year letterman at Tennessee, he earned All-SEC honors as a senior, helping the Vols reach the SEC title game, and had 219 tackles in his career. He was the Miami Dolphins’ top draft pick and finished his five-year NFL career with Denver.

  4. Jacques McClendon, offensive line, Baylor, Tennessee, NFL: He was a three-year starter for the Red Raiders, earning Parade All-America honors and a Mr. Football Lineman of the Year award as a senior. He was a four-year letterman at UT, setting a school weightlifting record in the bench press, and started the last 19 games of his college career. He was part of a line that allowed just four sacks as a senior, the fewest in the NCAA. He was taken in the fourth round by Indianapolis and played in four games as a rookie last season.

  5. Tony Brown, defensive line, City, Memphis, NFL: After he was selected all-state as a City senior, his career took off at the next level, where he became a three-year starter at Memphis. He was selected second-team All-Conference USA as a junior and signed with Carolina in the NFL as an undrafted free agent. He also had short NFL stints with Miami and San Francisco before signing with the Titans, where he has been a four-year starter, missing just two games in that time.

  6. Terdell Sands, defensive line, Howard, UTC, NFL: After an all-state senior season at Howard, he played just one year at UTC before taking a year away from the game. He was taken in the seventh round of the NFL draft by Kansas City but spent just one year with the Chiefs and one year with Green Bay before joining the Oakland Raiders, where he played for seven seasons.

  7. B.J. Coleman, quarterback, McCallie, Tennessee, UTC: He still has a year remaining in college but already is in UTC’s top five for career yards and touchdowns. He is on the Walter Payton Award’s watch list as the nation’s top FCS player and is projected as one of the nation’s top 10 quarterback draft probabilities by several scouting services. At McCallie, he was a four-star-rated prospect and the nation’s 10th-best pro-style quarterback, according to Rivals.com, and was a Mr. Football Back of the Year as both a junior and senior. He guided the Blue Tornado to the state championship game as a senior, throwing for more than 2,900 yards and 19 TDs.

  8. Demonte Bolden, defensive line, Tyner, Tennessee, CFL: He had a combined 30 sacks and 56 tackles for loss his final two seasons at Tyner, earning Mr. Football Lineman of the Year and Lawrenceburg Quarterback Club state player-of-the-year honors. He was named an All-American by Parade magazine and USA Today, played in the U.S. Army All-America bowl and was considered the state’s top overall prospect by every major recruiting service. He had three sacks as a UT senior and played one season with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL.

  9. Dante Hickey, running back, Cleveland: Had he not squandered his talent at the college level, he would be much higher. He was a Friday night phenom who earned junior college All-America honors as a freshman before walking away from the game.

  10. Kenny Smith, tight end/defensive end, North Jackson, Tennessee: Similar to Hickey, Smith was a prep All-American choice by SuperPrep, BlueChip, USA Today and Tom Lemming. He made 110 tackles, including 52 for minus yardage, and 22 sacks as a senior. After signing with UT, he was dismissed for academic reasons.

  11. Da’Rick Rogers, receiver, Calhoun, Tennessee: Entering his sophomore season with the Vols, he is projected to be a starter. At Calhoun, he set a state record with 1,641 receiving yards and caught 22 touchdown passes. He was a Parade All-American and played in the Under Armour All-American game as a rare five-star prospect.

  12. Jacques Smith, defensive line, Ooltewah, Tennessee: He is projected as a starter at defensive end as a sophomore with the Vols. He was considered the state’s top overall prospect by every major recruiting service and earned All-America honors from Rivals.com and USA Today. He won a state Mr. Football award and played in the U.S. Army All-America Bowl.

  13. Adarius Bowman, receiver, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, CFL: He was rated the top receiver in the state and played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. After being dismissed from UNC, he set a Big 12 record with 13 catches for 300 yards and four TDs in one game. He has played for three CFL teams and currently is with Edmonton.

  14. Tana Patrick, linebacker, North Jackson, Alabama: Going into his sophomore season, he is battling for playing time in a stacked Crimson Tide linebacking corps. Alabama’s Mr. Football as a Chiefs senior and rated the nation’s No. 5 linebacker prospect by Rivals.com, he played in the U.S. Army All-Amercan Bowl.

  15. Kris Durham, receiver, Calhoun, Georgia, NFL: He was the state’s Class AA defensive player of the year after intercepting seven passes as a senior, when he also had more than 1,000 yards receiving. After starting in 15 games at Georgia, he was taken in the third round of last spring’s NFL draft by Seattle.

  16. Jason Hall, defensive line, McCallie, Tennessee, NFL: After helping the Blue Tornado win a state title, he became a second-team All-SEC performer after a seven-sack senior season at UT. He left with 11 career sacks and played briefly with the Tennessee Titans.

  17. Sean Young, offensive line, Northwest Whitfield, Tennessee, NFL: He was selected an All-American by ESPN, Reebok and USA Today after not allowing a sack in three years as a starter for the Bruins. He started 20 games for the Vols and had a brief pro stint with the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent.

  18. Greg Smith, defensive line, Tyner, NE Mississippi, Auburn, Cumberland University: After winning the state’s Mr. Football award as a senior, he became one of the state’s hottest prospects. Although he signed with Auburn, grade issues re-routed him to junior college, where he became the nation’s No. 1 juco defensive line prospect, according to Rivals.com. After re-signing with Auburn, he left after his first spring practice and finished his career at NAIA member Cumberland University.

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