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National Signing Day -- Looking Back 10 Years At 2007's Top 100

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  • National Signing Day -- Looking Back 10 Years At 2007's Top 100

    Following The Signs
    Everyone is a star on National Signing Day. A look back at 2007's top recruits shows anything can happen from there.
    WaPo
    A decade ago, they were the best of the best, by all accounts, on the precipice of greatness. They’d been graded, assigned stars and sent off to college with the highest of expectations. So 10 years later, what became of the elite group of high school football players who were tabbed as the nation’s top 100 prospects?

    Football offers no guarantees, even to the most promising high school seniors of 2007, as designated by the recruiting site Rivals. This Wednesday is National Signing Day, the first day recruits can commit formally to a college program. On that day every year, they’re all promising athletic stars, but a decade later, their paths have splintered in all directions. They’re celebrities, coaches, cops and convicts. They sell cars and houses, and many have had to reinvent themselves several times over.

    Of the top 100 in 2007, 39 were eventually drafted into the NFL. Twenty are still in the league. Seven made the Pro Bowl. Four are dead.

    Twenty-six transferred to other schools. And at least one-third obtained degrees from the school they committed to on signing day 10 years ago.

    Some names are familiar, including No. 66 Aaron Hernandez (prison for murder), No. 2 Joe McKnight (killed last month in apparent road-rage incident), No. 28 Cam Newton (NFL MVP), No. 54 Dez Bryant, No. 3 Eric Berry and No. 59 Joe Haden (all Pro Bowl honorees).

    Many lived briefly on the NFL fringe — practice squads, training camp rosters, midseason tryouts — but others are obscure, such as No. 46 Austin Box, who died of an overdose before his senior season and was found with five different painkillers in his system, and No. 86 Mike McNeil, who spent the past three years in prison for his role in a home invasion.

    Many still feel the remnants of their football careers. No. 23 Ryan Miller suffers from post-concussion syndrome and battles sleeplessness and migraines he said feel like a war zone in his head. A handful are involved in concussion-related litigation. And then there’s No. 62 Michael Keck, who died from cardiac arrest at age 25. Researchers later were alarmed by the chronic traumatic encephalopathy they found in his brain — levels they’d never seen in someone so young.

    They were all connected by football and teenaged promise. Ten years later, their paths, lives and dreams have diverged in a variety of different ways — good, bad and everything in between.

    1. Jimmy Clausen, QB

    Commitment: Notre Dame

    Clausen left school after three years and was a second-round pick of Carolina in 2010. He started 14 games in six seasons, throwing twice as many interceptions as touchdowns.

    2. Joe McKnight, RB

    Commitment: USC

    A fourth-round pick by the Jets in 2010, McKnight struggled to find a steady role in the NFL. He spent 2016 in the CFL and was killed in December in an apparent road-rage incident.

    3. Eric Berry, DB

    Commitment: Tennessee

    Berry left school after three years and was picked fifth overall by the Chiefs. The five-time Pro Bowler was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma in Dec. 2014 but returned to action the next season.

    4. Ryan Mallett, QB

    Commitment: Michigan

    Mallett transferred from Michigan after one season and spent two years at Arkansas. A third-round pick in 2011, he has started eight games in six NFL seasons and last season was a backup in Baltimore.

    5. Carlos Dunlap, DE

    Commitment: Florida

    After leaving school a year early, Dunlap was drafted by the Bengals in the second round in 2010. He since has started 65 games in seven seasons.

    6. Everson Griffen, DE

    Commitment: USC

    The Vikings' fourth-round pick in 2010, Griffen has twice made the Pro Bowl and has started 48 games in seven seasons.

    7. Marvin Austin, DL

    Commitment: North Carolina

    The Washington native was suspended his senior year for receiving improper benefits, and the Giants drafted him in the second round in 2011. He lasted four years in the NFL but never started a game.

    8. Ronald Johnson, WR

    Commitment: USC

    A sixth-round pick in 2011, Johnson bounced around to a few teams but never caught an NFL pass. He tried the CFL and spent last season in the American Indoor Football League.

    9. Torrey Davis, DT

    Commitment: Florida

    After two trouble-filled seasons, Davis transferred to Jacksonville State and went undrafted in 2010. He bounced around other leagues and was most recently on the Arena League's suspended list.


    Josh Oglesby was the top-rated offensive lineman coming out of high school, but he needed six knee surgeries during his collegiate career. (David Stluka/Associated Press)

    10. Josh Oglesby

    Offensive line, Wisconsin

    Growing up in Milwaukee, Oglesby was excited to attend nearby Wisconsin as the nation’s top-rated offensive lineman.

    “Football was everything for me,” he said. “At that point, you think you’re invincible. You read all the press clippings, so you think you’re a lot better than you are. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see myself playing in the NFL.”

    Oglesby was a standout lineman, but one who required six knee surgeries in college to stay on the field, which left him with virtually no cartilage in either knee. At the NFL Scouting Combine, 31 of the 32 teams gave him a bad medical grade and he went undrafted. The Washington Redskins gave a short-lived audition, but Oglesby had to accept that his knees wouldn’t hold up to the rigors of professional football.

    “That was a miserable plane ride back to Wisconsin,” he said.

    The crossroads for Oglesby looked like this: a six-figure job in sales or a low-paying gig as a graduate assistant coach back at alma mater. Even if his bank account doesn’t have as much cushion, Oglesby said he has no regrets about his choice.

    “I would’ve just hated my life every day sitting at a desk,” said Oglesby, now the offensive quality control coach at Oregon State. “I graduated with people who are making a lot more money than I am right now. But to me, it’s not about the money; it’s about the impact I’m having on these guys’ lives.

    “Everything happens for a reason. I can honestly say I’m happier now in the coaching side of things than I ever was as a player.”

    11. Chris Galippo, LB

    Commitment: USC

    His college career was slowed by injuries, and he lost his starting job as a senior. According to a LinkedIn profile, he worked at a drug and alcohol treatment center.

    12. James Wilson, OL

    Commitment: Florida

    He underwent four knee surgeries, which extended his college career to six years. Wilson is now a physical education teacher and coach in Florida.

    13. Terrance Toliver, WR

    Commitment: LSU

    Undrafted in 2011, he bounced between four NFL teams and never appeared in a game. He has played in the CFL since 2015.

    14. Chad Jones, ATH

    Commitment: LSU

    A two-sport athlete, he was a third-round pick of the Giants in 2010 but was involved in a devastating car accident and never played a down. He returned to baseball, where he was drafted by the Reds in 2013.

    15. Noel Devine, RB

    Commitment: West Virginia

    A hightly touted prospect with ties to Deion Sanders, Devine was undrafted in 2011. He played briefly in the CFL and returned to school last year to finish his degree.

    16. Tray Allen, OL

    Commitment: Texas

    After college, Allen played briefly in the Arena League. Most recently, he has been an educator and high school coach in San Antonio.

    17. Marc Tyler, RB

    Commitment: USC

    Tyler never heard his name called in the 2012 draft. He signed a free agent deal with the Packers but didn't last long.

    18. Chris Donald, LB

    Commitment: Tennessee

    Donald left Tennessee after two seasons and transferred to nearby Tennessee-Chattanooga. But after just one season there, he quit football, citing a wrist injury.

    19. Chris Culliver, WR

    Commitment: South Carolina

    The 49ers selected Culliver, as a cornerback, in the third round in 2011. He made headlines mostly because of Injuries and off-field issues and was waived by the Dolphins last November.

    20. Ben Martin, DE

    Commitment: Tennessee

    Martin lasted four years at Tennessee but never got a sniff of the NFL. He was part of a 2013 class action lawsuit against the NCAA related to concussions.

    21. Curtis Brown, DB

    Commitment: Texas

    Brown was a third-round pick by the Steelers in 2011 and spent three seasons as a role player. He played in the CFL last season.

    22. Dwight Jones, WR

    Commitment: North Carolina

    Jones went undrafted in 2012 and failed to catch on with a team. He returned to his native Burlington, N.C., where in 2015 he was arrested and charged with felony killing of a dog by starvation.


    Ryan Miller played in eight games as a rookie with the Cleveland Browns in 2012, but concussions forced him out of football. (John Kuntz/Associated Press)

    23. Ryan Miller

    Offensive line, Colorado

    More than four years have passed since Ryan Miller last played in an NFL regular season game, but he is reminded about his football career daily. There are the constant migraines, difficulty sleeping, memory problems and trouble maintaining his balance.

    Looking back, he said, there was no way to know all the ups and downs that a professional football career would entail. His family and friends gathered at his grandparents’ house for a party the day the Cleveland Browns called to inform the big offensive linemen they had made him their fifth-round pick.

    “I was ecstatic,” he said.

    The Colorado product appeared in eight games as a rookie in 2012. In the opening days of training camp the following season, Miller suffered a concussion during practice. He was carted off the field and hospitalized. He ended up missing the entire season.

    He was eventually released and spent parts of the next season on the Broncos’ and Chargers’ practice squads. A week after the Chargers added him to their active roster, though, Miller suffered another concussion when he slipped on a rain-slicked path and hit his head while walking out for practice.

    The symptoms lingered, and Miller — like most football players — didn’t exactly leave the game on his own terms.

    “I was in some very dark places because I was still very big, very strong, very fast. But my brain — my head was no longer in position to take a hit,” he said. “It wasn’t worth it to risk something that I might not wake up from.”

    He still suffers today from post-concussion syndrome and battles the symptoms on a daily basis. For two years, he was unable to work or plot a post-football life. His focus was on getting healthy. He found a community in a Denver-based non-profit called Parkers Platoon, which helps people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. Today he relies on cannabidiol (CBD) hemp oil, group therapy and a newly launched business venture to help navigate the daily struggles.

    Last fall he started a catering business out of his garage called Iron Spoke BBQ, which he says “gave me purpose again.”

    “I think it’s really helping to turn all this post-concussion stuff around,” he said. “It’s still rolling the dice. There are still some days I’m cooking and I have to call on other people to come help and step in.”

    Knowing what he knows now, would Miller go back and do it again, put his head in harm’s way?

    “I probably would,” he conceded. “Look, I loved it. I miss it dearly. I do think I could still physically do a lot of stuff, so it’s bittersweet.”

    24. Arrelious Benn, WR

    Commitment: Illinois

    He decided to leave school a year early and was drafted in the second round by the Bucs in 2010. Despite injuries, Benn has made 24 career starts, most recently playing with the Jaguars.

    25. Donovan Warren, DB

    Commitment: Michigan

    After leaving school early, he went undrafted in 2010. Warren bounced among four NFL teams but never played. He is involved in commercial real estate, according to his Twitter bio.

    26. Martez Wilson, DE

    Commitment: Illinois

    A third-round pick of the Saints in 2011, he had one start in three NFL seasons. After a year in the CFL, Wilson is now in real estate in the Dallas area, according to his LinkedIn profile.

    27. Tyrod Taylor, QB

    Commitment: Virginia Tech

    The Ravens' sixth-round pick in 2011, Taylor was a backup in Baltimore before signing with Buffalo, where he was the starter the past two seasons.

    28. Cam Newton, QB

    Commitment: Florida

    After transferring to Auburn, Newton won the Heisman Trophy and was the first overall pick in 2011. He has been named rookie of the year, MVP and also earned his bachelor's degree in 2015.


    Kris O’Dowd suffered shoulder and knee injuries while at Southern California, leading him on a different career path. (Darron Cummings/Associated Press)

    29. Kris O’Dowd

    Offensive line, Southern California

    Dowd suffered his share of injuries in college — shoulder, knees — but still felt he had done enough to impress NFL teams. His life always had been pointed toward a football career, and he had hoped to hear his name in the first round of the draft, maybe the second. But all seven rounds passed, and Dowd never heard his name called. The friends and television cameras left his home, and Dowd was alone.

    “I remember just sitting there, my dreams totally crushed,” he recalled. “It turned out I failed an MRI at the combine.”

    He had earned his bachelor’s degree in three years at USC but still had no Plan B.

    “I had been focused completely on football. I put all my chips in one pile, and I busted,” he said. “I fell on my ass”

    A year-long depression followed. He leaned heavily on a network of USC alumni but went through seven months of interviews before securing a job offer. He used the same ambition and work ethic from his football days to rise up the ladder. He now splits his time between Los Angeles and Dubai, is a partner with an international cryogenics company, in addition to working with a truffle farm in Italy and a telecommunications cloud company.

    “It took me a while to restructure myself, physically, mentally, confidence-wise,” Dowd said.

    He said his sense of self has been an evolution, and he just recently has begun to embrace his unpredictable post-football life.

    “Football was something I was good at, but it wasn’t who I am,” he said. “I’m meant for something special in this world, and I’m really looking forward to figuring that out.”

    30. Enrique Davis, RB

    Commitment: Auburn

    Davis never enrolled at Auburn and instead spent a year at prep school before signing with Mississippi. He now runs a sports performance company in Georgia.

    31. John Chiles, QB/WR

    Commitment: Texas

    Once touted as the next Vince Young, Chiles instead moved to wide receiver at Texas. He never played in the NFL but dabbled in the Arena League and CFL.

    32. Cliff Matthews, DE

    Commitment: South Carolina

    The Falcons drafted Matthews in the seventh round in 2011. He played in 35 NFL games, including three last season before his release.


    Doug Wiggins, right, transferred from Miami to Western Michigan. He returned to South Florida after school and is now an officer in the Medley Police Department. (Michael Conroy/Associated Press)

    33. Doug Wiggins

    Defensive back, Miami

    A decade later, Wiggins feels like he is still part of a team, the most important one of his life, in fact. An officer with the Medley Police Department outside of Miami, he always figured he would get involved in law enforcement — but not until after a long NFL career.

    “It happened earlier than I expected,” Wiggins said, “but it’s one of the best decisions I ever made.”

    Ten years ago, things didn’t work out at Miami, and he transferred to Western Michigan after his freshman season. Wiggins experienced some culture shock moving so far from home, but looking back, he said the unfamiliar surroundings taught him how to navigate different spaces, cultures and people, a skill that serves him well now that he carries a badge each day.

    He never lived up to the potential many saw in high school, but he returned to Florida with a degree in criminal justice. “That was something my mom said I couldn’t come home without: that degree,” he said.

    He considered his professional football options, but with a daughter to care for, he said, “I couldn’t play around. I had to turn the page.”

    He enrolled in a police academy where he felt a familiar sense of camaraderie and discipline. He now patrols streets not too far away from where he grew up and learned to play football. And around the station, other officers know where to turn when they want to talk sports.

    “I loved football, but my passion always was helping others,” he said. “I feel blessed to be in position where I am. I can help people, I’m still part of a team, and I still have a voice. I can be a role model to young people and show them that football is not everything.”

    34. Duval Kamara, WR

    Commitment: Notre Dame

    After a disappointing college career, Kamara failed to catch on with an NFL team. He is now a fleet manager for a transportation logistics company in Omaha, according to his LinkedIn profile.

    35. Rolando McClain, LB

    Commitment: Alabama

    After McClain left school a year early, the Raiders made him the eighth overall pick in 2010. He has spent time with three NFL teams but was suspended indefinitely in 2016 for repeated substance-abuse violations.

    36. John Clay, RB

    Commitment: Wisconsin

    Clay left school early but was undrafted in 2011. He signed a free agent deal with the Steelers but appeared in just two games in two NFL seasons.

    37. Jerimy Finch, DB

    Commitment: Florida

    Finch orally committed to Michigan and then Indiana before settling on Florida. He later transferred to Indiana -- and then transferred to Marian University. He was arrested in 2014 for burglary of a liquor store.

    38. Aron White, TE

    Commitment: Georgia

    A team leader, White was the backup tight end as a senior. He had a brief stint on the Falcons' offseason roster but never played in a game.

    39. Michael Huey, OL

    Commitment: Texas

    Undrafted in 2011, Huey spent time with four NFL teams but never made an active roster. After some success in the Arena League, he is now a car salesman in Texas, according to his LinkedIn profile.


    Dionte Allen, left, spent three seasons at Florida State and then two seasons at Ohio State. He now works with the American Football Academy and the American Football League of China. (Steve Cannon/Associated Press)

    40. Dionte Allen

    Cornerback, Florida State

    Allen started playing football when he was 8 years old. His college career took him to two powerhouses — Florida State for three seasons and then Ohio State for two — but at no point could he have envisioned where the sport ultimately would send him.

    When he graduated, he knew the NFL wasn’t in his future, but he had no idea what might be. He worked as a valet, a bartender, a bouncer. He did door-to-door sales for a cable company. Allen had a daughter who was born three months premature and learned quickly that making ends meet wasn’t easy.

    “I was just trying to find myself,” he said. “And then you see guys you played with getting drafted into the NFL and living that dream, it’s tough.”

    Allen finally landed a steady job as an assistant manager at a Walmart in Columbus, Ohio. It gave him stability and peace of mind but didn’t scratch every itch. A former high school teammate, Chris McLaurin, stayed in Allen’s ear about a venture he had been working on: promoting and teaching football in China.

    Curiosity got the best of Allen last year, and he made a leap of faith, quitting his job at Walmart and packing two suitcases for Shanghai, where he now works with the American Football Academy and the American Football League of China.

    “We don’t just want to put footballs in the kids’ hands,” he said. “We want to build a culture.”

    At the academy, Allen helps train future coaches and teaches the game to people as young as 3. They start with coloring books to learn the vocabulary, watch movies such as “Little Giants” to better visualize the game and eventually hit the field. Allen has an interpreter, but he already has learned to say some important words in Chinese: “run,” “go” and “faster.”

    “When I was 17, I was like, I’m going to Florida State. I knew what I wanted. Well, here I am now in China,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t know where it came from, but it’s been amazing. I never in a billion years could’ve envisioned any of this.”



    41. DeAngelo Benton, WR

    Commitment: Auburn

    Benton was suspended his senior season after admitting to using synthetic marijuana and being present at a house party where three men died of gunfire.

    42. Marcus Gilchrist, DB

    Commitment: Clemson

    A second-round pick of the Chargers in 2011, Gilchrist has appeared in 91 NFL games and has played the past two seasons with the Jets.

    43. Major Wright, DB

    Commitment: Florida

    Wright left school a year early and was drafted by the Bears in the third round in 2010. He was a solid contributor and signed in 2014 with the Bucs, who released him last season after just two games.

    44. Aaron Corp, QB

    Commitment: USC

    Stuck behind Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley, Corp transferred to Richmond after three seasons. After failing to catch on in the NFL, he turned to coaching and is on the staff at Norfolk State.

    45. Kendall Smith, LB

    Commitment: Florida State

    Following a four-year career at Florida State, Smith began to focus on the weight room. He is now an assistant strength coach for the Cowboys.

    46. Austin Box, LB

    Commitment: Oklahoma

    WIth one season remaining, Box died in 2011 of an apparent accidental overdose. He had an injury-filled career, and according to news reports, had five prescription painkillers in his system at the time of his death.

    47. John Brantley, QB

    Commitment: Florida

    An heir apparent to Tim Tebow, Brantley played but never shined at Florida. He failed to catch on in the NFL, and today is involved with medical sales, according to his LinkedIn profile.

    48. DaJohn Harris, DT

    Commitment: USC

    Harris tried the Arena League after failing to stick with an NFL team. He returned to school to finish his public policy degree and was recently pursuing his master's in social work at USC, according to LinkedIn.

    49. Deonte Thompson, WR

    Commitment: Florida

    Thompson signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2012 and has played for three NFL teams in five seasons, last year appearing in all 16 games for the Bears.

    50. Brandon Saine, RB

    Commitment: Ohio State

    Signed by the Packers as an undrafted free agent, Saine appeared in 14 games in 2011-12. He is now a senior customer business partner at Kimberly-Clark, the consumer goods company.


    Following an NFL career that lasted just one game, Jordan Bernstine now lives in Denver where he helps others train and prepare for professional football careers. (Courtesy of Jordan Bernstine)

    51. Jordan Bernstine

    Safety, Iowa

    His first professional game was also his last, and Bernstine’s entire NFL career produced one statistic: one game played.

    On a routine kickoff early in the fourth quarter of the season opener at New Orleans, the Redskins’ seventh-round draft pick in 2012 felt his knee explode. He left the field on a cart. His knee was mangled — medial collateral ligament, anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligament — “tore everything,” he said.

    “There wasn’t a doubt in my mind, though, that I would be back on the field at some point,” he said.

    Mike Shanahan, the Redskins’ coach at the time, told reporters the very next day: “He’ll do a great job in rehab and be ready to come back next year.” But the following summer, as training camps opened, the Redskins released Bernstine.

    He continued rehabbing on his own, hopeful his phone would ring. He graduated from Iowa with a sports management degree but didn’t have a backup plan. Everything always had pointed toward football.

    “I did everything I could do to get to the NFL, get drafted and then to just have that taken away from me so fast, it was so tough,” he said. “I finally had to come to the conclusion, the knee won’t hold up for a full season. Can it make it a game? Yeah. But not the wear and tear over a long season. I had to figure out how to move forward.”

    At the gym, rehabbing and working out with college athletes and NFL hopefuls, Bernstine found himself doling out advice, offering tips on technique and drills. He was suddenly spending more time monitoring other peoples’ workouts than his own and realized he was loving it.

    Based out of Denver, Bernstine founded his own sports performance company and spends his time working with football players and football hopefuls. He wants them all to get the chance that he had — and hopefully to have a bit more luck.

    “Would I love to go lace them up and bang some heads a bit? I wouldn’t mind that,” he said. “But I’m content with what I’m doing. I’m loving it.”

    52. Armando Allen, RB

    Commitment: Notre Dame

    After going undrafted in 2011, Allen signed a free agent deal with the Bucs and appeared in 17 games in 2011-12 for the Bears. He is now an assistant coach at Texas Southern.

    53. Chris Strong, DE

    Commitment: Mississippi

    After playing nine games as freshman, Strong transferred to Northwest Community College. He also played for Arkansas Tech.

    54. Dez Bryant, WR

    Commitment: Oklahoma State

    Bryant left school after three years and was a first-round pick of the Cowboys in 2010. This year marks his third Pro Bowl appearance.

    55. Matt Romine, OL

    Commitment: Notre Dame

    Romine transferred to Tulsa after three years at Notre Dame. He is now an oil/energy consultant.

    56. Kerry Murphy, DT

    Commitment: Alabama

    After struggling to qualify academically, Murphy enrolled at Alabama in 2009. He played two seasons before injuries cut short his career. He now sells cars in Alabama.

    57. Lennon Creer, RB

    Commitment: Tennessee

    Creer transferred to Lousiana Tech after two seasons. He hopped around to a couple of NFL teams but never made an active roster.

    58. Sidell Corley, DE

    Commitment: LSU

    Following two seasons at LSU, Corley transferred to Troy but quit football in 2011 for medical reasons. He is now involved in medical equipment sales.

    59. Joe Haden, DB/QB

    Commitment: Florida

    The Washington-area native left Florida after three seasons and was drafted in the first round by the Browns in 2010. The two-time Pro Bowler has 19 interceptions in 90 NFL games.

    60. Eugene Clifford, DB

    Commitment: Ohio State

    After getting in trouble as freshman, Clifford was dismissed from Ohio State and transferred to Tennessee State. He failed to catch on in the NFL and played briefly with an indoor league.

    61. Lee Ziemba, OL

    Commitment: Auburn

    After starting every game of his college career, Ziemba was a seventh-round pick of the Panthers in 2011. He played six games in 2011 and now does sales for a packaging company.

    62. Michael Keck, DE

    Commitment: Missouri

    Keck appeared in one game at Missouri and transferred to Missouri State, where he played one season. He died in 2013 at age 25 of cardiac arrest, and researchers were surprised by the CTE in his brain.

    63. Stefoin Francois, DB

    Commitment: LSU

    Francois suited up for four seasons at LSU but came off the bench as a senior. He never played beyond college.

    64. Brian Price, DT

    Commitment: UCLA

    The Pac-10 defensive player of the year in 2009, Price left school early and was drafted in the second round by the Bucs in 2010. He was traded after 20 games and never played another NFL game.

    65. Antwane Greenlee, OL

    Commitment: Florida State

    After injuries derailed his Florida State career, he transferred to North Alabama. He is now an account executive for a cargo freight company in Tallahassee.


    Aaron Hernandez spent three productive seasons with the New England Patriots before he was charged with murder in 2013. Hernandez was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. (Charles Krupa/Associated Press)

    66. Aaron Hernandez

    Tight end, Florida

    7 a.m.: The Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Mass., stirs to life for most inmates. There is the morning headcount, followed by medication and breakfast.

    Inmate No. W106228 is one of more than 1,000 male inmates at the maximum-security prison. He formerly wore No. 81 in the NFL, a promising career that ended with a murder conviction.

    Around 9 a.m.: Most prisoners at Souza are allowed two hours of free time. The facility is located barely an hour north of Foxborough, Mass., where Hernandez’s former New England teammates are preparing to return to the Super Bowl. Hernandez’s daily reality is much different.

    Prison officials can’t comment specifically on his routine, but most inmates are free to visit the prison yard, the gym, attend religious services or a variety of programs — educational, vocational, treatment. Some of the men work prison jobs. Some spend time in the prison’s library.

    11:30 a.m. Lunch is served. The food might change, but the routine won’t. Hernandez can expect much of the same every single day. He was sentenced to life in prison for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd. He is still awaiting trial on unrelated murder charges, marking one of the most spectacular and surprising falls the sport has seen.

    12:30 p.m.: More free time. Some inmates might choose to spend the bulk of the day in their cell, a sparse space with a toilet, sink, a bed and a small desk. They’re allowed to display photographs of family.

    Hernandez won a national title in college with the Florida Gators. He reached the Super Bowl in his second season with the Patriots. The world was limitless. Now his daily options include: anger management classes, learning to cut hair or cook food, a prison book club, a toastmasters group and a meeting called “Relaxation and Peace for Daily Living.”

    5 p.m.: Dinner.

    10 p.m.: Inmates must be back in their cell for the evening headcount.

    There are windows where way off in the distance the world carries on. But in between are layers of tall, menacing fences, motion-detection sensors, nearly 400 security cameras and nine guard towers.

    Ten years ago, Hernandez was the nation’s 66th-best high school football prospect, the second-best tight end. Now he is just inmate No. W106228.

    67. Joseph Barksdale, DT

    Commitment: LSU

    Barksdale was drafted by the Raiders in the third round in 2011. On his third NFL team, he has started for the Chargers the past two seasons.

    68. Anthony Davis, OL

    Commitment: Rutgers

    Davis left school early and was the 49ers' first-round pick in 2010. He was a five-year starter who retired in 2015 (and again last year) to protect his mental and physical health.

    69. Richetti Jones, DE

    Commitment: Oklahoma State

    Jones was a four-year contributor in college who never made it to the NFL. He now lives in the Dallas area, according to his Twitter bio.

    70. Bryan Bulaga, OL

    Commitment: Iowa

    Bulaga was the Packers' first-round pick in 2010, after leaving Iowa a year early. He has been a regular starter for Green Bay ever since.

    71. LaMark Brown, WR/RB

    Commitment: Kansas State

    After three seasons at Kansas State, Brown transferred to Minnesota State-Mankato. He was undrafted but played in the CFL and Arena League.


    Andre Jones committed to the University of Texas but was ousted from the program after an arrest for his role in an armed robbery. He died at age 24 in 2014. (Mark Lambie/Associated Press)

    72. Andre Jones

    Defensive tackle, Texas

    Three hats were laid out on a table, featuring the familiar logos of Notre Dame, Texas El Paso and Texas. But Jones’s parents’ attire killed any suspense that day 10 years ago when the hotly recruited player announced his college choice. They were decked out in the Longhorns’ burnt orange.

    “Ever since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to play for Texas,” Jones told Lenny Jurado, a reporter from the El Paso Times who covered the 6-foot-4, 305-pound teenager in high school. “I feel like Texas is going to benefit me for the rest of my life.”

    Jones never played a down at Texas, his athletic potential and promising young life cut tragically short.

    He graduated high school early and enrolled in college classes, just 17 years old when he arrived in Austin in the spring. Shortly before the Longhorns began fall practices, though, Jones was arrested and charged for his role in an armed robbery. He was suspended and later ousted from the Texas program.

    “There’s no doubt that he hooked up with the wrong crowd,” his lawyer later told the Austin American-Statesmen. “After [the arrest], he started to spiral out of control.”

    Jones was eventually sentenced to 30 days in jail and 10 years’ probation. He went into a depression and tried to revive his football career, first at UTEP in 2008 and then Tarleton State, a Division II school in Stephenville, Tex., a year later.

    His mother later told KVIA-TV, El Paso’s ABC affiliate, that Jones began using synthetic marijuana and taking medication for anxiety and a sleeping disorder in 2010. And in 2012 Jones was arrested for possession of crack cocaine with the intent to distribute.

    On Feb. 14, 2014, his body was found lying face-up and unresponsive in an El Paso hotel room. His death was ruled an accident, and an autopsy later found Jones had marijuana, cocaine, prescription painkillers and sedatives in his system, according to news reports, in addition to hardening of the arteries and a thickened heart. He was 24.

    “He was too young,” his mother told KVIA. “He hurried in academics just to achieve that, to get out. And that was his downfall: going too young, going too fast.”

    Jones was buried in El Paso wearing his maroon high school football jersey with a single white rose laid across his chest.

    “Everyone had super-high hopes for him,” said Jurado, the former El Paso sportswriter. “He was kind of like a bastion of hope for kids getting out of the city. To see him fall so quickly was extremely surprising and so disconcerting. That downward spiral was just so tragic.”'

    73. Niles Paul, WR

    Commitment: Nebraska

    A fifth-round pick by the Redskins 2011, Paul moved to tight end and has been a special teams contributor. He finished 2016 on injured reserved.

    74. Myles Wade, DT

    Commitment: Oregon

    Wade never qualified at Oregon and played at an Arizona junior college, Texas Tech and Portland State. He failed to catch on with an NFL team.

    75. Martin Coleman, OL

    Commitment: USC

    Coleman battled injuries but lasted five years at USC. He never caught on in the NFL but in 2013 earned his degree in American studies and ethnicity.

    76. Derrick Morgan, DE

    Commitment: Georgia Tech

    The ACC's defensive player of the year in 2009, Morgan left school a year early and was the Titans' first-round pick in 2010. He has been a regular starter there in 91 games.

    77. Robert Hughes, RB

    Commitment: Notre Dame

    Signed by the Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2011, Hughes spent time with six NFL teams. He played in 23 games from 2012 to 2014.

    78. Gary Gray, DB

    Commitment: Notre Dame

    After an underwhelming college career, Gray recently worked in sales for a freight shipping company, according to his LinkedIn profile.

    79. Chaz Powell, DB

    Commitment: Penn State

    Powell signed with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent in 2011 but never appeared in a game. He worked as a plumber when he later returned to school, according to news reports.

    80. Malcolm Williams, WR

    Commitment: Texas

    Williams was a starter for the Longhorns but left school after three years to tend to family issues, according to news reports at the time.

    81. Caleb King, RB

    Commitment: Georgia

    King was academically inelgible for his senior season and was later signed as an undrafted free agent by the Vikings. He was active for one game but was released shortly after an arrest on assault charges.

    82. Mike Paulus, QB

    Commitment: North Carolina

    Paulus lost the starting job to T.J. Yates and transferred to William & Mary. He is now an athletic administator at Mount St. Mary's.

    83. Mike Ragone, TE

    Commitment: Notre Dame

    Ragone missed two full years because of season-ending injuries. He finished his college career at Kansas.

    84. Morgan Burnett, DB

    Commitment: Georgia Tech

    Burnett left school a year early and was drafted in the third round in 2010 by the Packers. He has appeared in 90 NFL games and has been a regular starter for Green Bay.

    85. Raymond Carter, RB

    Commitment: UCLA

    After tearing an ACL as a freshman, Carter transferred to Colorado State. He most recently worked for Southwest Airlines, according to social media posts.

    86. Michael McNeil, DB

    Commitment: Auburn

    McNeil was one of three members of the Tigers' 2010 national title team charged with armed robbery and dismissed from the team. He received a three-year prison sentence.

    87. Gerald Jones, ATH

    Commitment: Tennessee

    After playing four seasons at Tennessee, Jones drew no interest from NFL teams.

    88. Ben Wells, DB

    Commitment: Texas

    Wells transferred to Stephen F. Austin. He signed with the Redskins as an undrafted free agent in 2012 but didn't catch on and has spent some time in the CFL and Arena League.

    89. Chris Rainey, RB

    Commitment: Florida

    Rainey was drafted in the fifth round by the Steelers in 2012. After one season, he was released following a domestic violence arrest and struggled to catch on with another team.

    90. Stephen Garcia, QB

    Commitment: South Carolina

    Garcia faced five team suspensions during his time at South Carolina. Undrafted, he has spent some time in the CFL and Arena League.

    91. Toney Clemons, WR

    Commitment: Michigan

    Clemons transferred to Colorado and in 2012 was drafted in the seventh round by the Steelers. He appeared in four games that season and later bounced around the NFL and CFL.

    92. Marshall Jones, DB

    Commitment: USC

    Jones played four years at USC and earned his degree in public policy. He is now an investment associate with a commercial real estate brokerage firm.

    93. Drake Nevis, DT

    Commitment: LSU

    Nevis was drafted in the third round by the Colts in 2011. He played 26 games for three teams and spent the past two seasons in the CFL.

    94. Jahvid Best, RB

    Commitment: California

    Best left school a year early and was a first-round pick of the Lions in 2010. Concussions stalled his career, and he retired in 2013. He now runs track and competed in the 2016 Olympics.

    95. Allen Bailey, DE

    Commitment: Miami

    The Chiefs' third-round pick in 2011, Bailey has been a regular contributer ever since, appearing in 72 NFL games.

    96. Travian Robertson, DE

    Commitment: South Carolina

    Robertson was drafted in the seventh round in 2012 by the Falcons. He logged 14 NFL games for three teams. He was recently hired as an assistant coach at Georgia State.

    97. Keenan Robinson, LB

    Commitment: Texas

    Robinson was drafted in the fourth round in 2012 by the Redskins and has appeared in 52 NFL games. He spent last season with the Giants.


    Quarterback Willy Korn didn’t live up to the hype at Clemson. He is now a wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator at Charleston Southern. (Patrick Collard/Associated Press)

    98. Willy Korn

    Quarterback, Clemson

    Korn grew up attending Clemson games with his family, dreaming about one day running down the hill himself and leading the Tigers’ huddle. By time he finally arrived on campus as a highly touted prospect, he was already among the school’s most recognizable students.

    “It was the strangest thing being 18 years old, walking into a class, and they go through roll — and every single person already knows who you are,” he said.

    In naming Korn the top football prospect in the south, the Orlando Sentinel dubbed him the “Can’t Miss Kid.” Just two years into his career there — in Dabo Swinney’s first game as Clemson coach, in fact — Georgia Tech linebacker Derrick Morgan didn’t miss when he set his sights on the young quarterback.

    “When he thrashed my shoulder, it was really the greatest thing I could’ve asked for,” Korn said today. “Now 19-year-old Willy would say, ‘No way, let’s stay healthy.’ But now I’ve got a different perspective, obviously.”

    Korn tore his labrum, and his throwing arm was never the same. He graduated from Clemson in 31 /2 years and finished his playing career at North Greenville, a Division II school in South Carolina. That’s where football became fun again, where he met his future wife, where he began to realize his calling.

    “These injuries I went through, they can eat away at you,” Korn said. “You get bitter. But now, holy cow, I wouldn’t change any of this. This is where I’m supposed to be. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

    Korn wanted to stay around football and considered broadcasting. But coaching felt like the more natural fit, and he is now entering his fifth season working with the receivers at Charleston Southern, where he is also the recruiting coordinator.

    “There’s no doubt this isn’t a career or a job,” he said. “It’s a calling.”

    99. Quintin Richardson, OL

    Commitment: South Carolina

    After a couple of troubled years at South Carolina, Richardson transferred to Hampton. He never caught on with an NFL team.

    100. Brandon Gibson, WR

    Commitment: Alabama

    Lining up opposite Julio Jones, Gibson struggled to make an impact. He recently has worked in medical equipment sales, according to his LinkedIn profile.
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