Many fans know where their favorite Patriot played college football, but do you know where any of them played high school football? We did some checking, and asked people who knew the Patriots in high school to contribute photos and a little info about what they were like.
Check out what some players looked like before they were Patriots.
School: Marshall County High School, Lewisburg, Tenn.
Patriots rookie Hightower is a hometown hero in Lewisburg, Tenn., where he starred for Marshall County High School.
Before moving on to the University of Alabama (foregoing a chance to play for Tennessee), he was a stud linebacker for the Tigers. But he was also known as a down-to-Earth guy who was well liked by everyone.
“Dont’a was the type of kid that got along with everybody,” said Aaron Pitts, his high school coach. “Him being the big man on campus, Dont’a got a lot of attention. Everybody was a fan.”
School: North Platte High School, Neb.
The talent of Patriots running back Danny Woodhead was recognized pretty early on at North Platte High School in Nebraska. One of his assistant coaches, Bob McFarland, had played for Nebraska, winning a national championship in 1970 as a defensive back and had went toe-to-toe with teammate and Heisman trophy winner Johnny Rodgers.
He says Woodhead was a better athlete than Rodgers.
“[Danny Woodhead] is probably one of the best kids I’ve ever known,” said McFarland, who is a close family friend and coached Woodhead as well as his father. “He’s modest, humble, you just can’t put it into better terms. He was just an All-American kid.
“I think he just had a competitive nature. His brother Ben was a good athlete as well. His brother Ben was a very good example for him.”
Woodhead, who stands (on his tippy-toes) at 5-foot-8, has better strength than Rodgers.
“Johnny and Danny were exceptionally fast, quick, and can change directions,” McFarland said. “But Danny has the strength.”
School: Diamond Bar High School, Pomona, Calif.
Wendell took the hard road to the NFL for a lineman. Unlike many of the large men in the league with natural size to them, he worked tirelessly just to gain weight in order to gain acceptance to college on a scholarship.
“I remember I came back to work out a couple of times at the high school and I’d see him rolling around this huge roller cooler,” said Ryan Maine, former teammate and current coach at Diamond Bar High School in Pomona, Calif. “He packed all these drinks and food. He was trying to gain weight so he could get into Fresno State. Everything he used to do, he would put his mind to.”
Said Maine: “He’s always been very disciplined, that’s why he works so well with the Patriots and with Bill Belichick up there.”
School: Trinity Episcopal Day School, Natchez, Miss.
Ridley went to a small high school in Natchez, Miss., where he was a little less outlandish than his current attire of Onesies might suggest. He attended Trinity Episcopal Day School, which has a total enrollment of 260 students.
“The Onesies are new,” said football coach Josh Loy, who was an assistant coach when Ridley was at Trinity. “He’s always been a hard-working kid. Just tremendous. Probably the best that we’ve ever had.
“He’s the most famous alum we’ve had in a long time. I wouldn’t say he was a quiet kid. He was well loved. He’s got a big personality that he still has till this day. That personality transcended while he was here and it transcended in the whole town Natchez.”
School: Lincoln-Way Central High School, New Lenox, Ill.
“Back in high school he always wanted to be the best,” said Steve Provis, who was Ninkovich’s position coach in high school. “He was the first to show up and the last to leave. He was highly respected. All the success he had he would always deflect it to others. It’s the perfect fit where he is now. I think he and Bill Belichick work so well together.”
Did they see him as a Super Bowl starter?
“It’s funny, he always excelled, but we didn’t see him going beyond Division 1 in college. But he took an opportunity and ran with it.”
School: Madison Central High School, Miss.
Gostkowski was a multi-sport standout at Madison, earning four letters in soccer and football and three in baseball. He was better known for his pitching prowess — he went to Memphis on a baseball scholarship. And he was also known by another name.
“Everyone here knew him as Beav,” said Lou Callum, a teacher at Madison. “He was only Stephen when he hit the big-time, but what a great kid he was. We’re all very proud of him here.”
School: Buena Vista High, Buena Vista, Col.
“I would say the thing that distinguished him from other folks is just how humble and hard-working he was,” said coach Bob Marken.
Marken also said Solder started out playing defensive end and tight end, but moved to middle linebacker his junior and senior seasons “so teams couldn’t run away from him.” As a senior, Solder was first-team All-State and his team lost in the Class 2A final. Solder also played baseball and basketball.
School: Gwynn Park High School, Brandywine, Maryland
Arrington was three-sport athlete at Gwynn Park, which also produced current NFL players Phil Taylor (Browns) and Roc Carmichael (Texans).
“It’s not a surprise to me that Kyle made it,” said football coach Danny Hayes. “He’s a very hard worker, a student of football, and he just kept getting better and better.”
School: Rancho Cucamonga High School, Calif.
Chung spent his early years in Jamaica and was a late-comer to football, but he quickly picked up the game, making the high school freshman football team as a 12-year-old.
“We didn’t realize how young he was,” said Chris Vanduin, who coached Chung at Rancho. “He never shied away from anything, but he was giving up so much weight. At that time he was using his speed. I don’t think we treated him like a 12-year-old.”
School: St. Joseph Regional High School, Montvale, N.J.
Devin and twin brother Jason McCourty were talented high school football players, but it was Jason that carried all the hype.
“[Jason] was our starting tail back,” high school coach Tony Karcich said. “He was averaging 12 yards per carry.”
Because of a muscle tear injury, Devin was relegated to cornerback his senior year so he didn’t get a lot of publicity, Karcich said. When Greg Schiano, then coach of Rutgers, came calling for Jason, he was drawn to Devin as well. Turns out, Schiano has twin boys himself. Jason turned down Boston College to stay with his brother.
School: Mariposa High School, Catheys Valley, Calif.
In Mankins’ yearbook photo on the left, his nickname is “Lo-Lo” and his plans were pretty simple following high school.
“Go to college and play some football. Graduate, come back to Mariposa, and cut wood with Justin, Tim, and Clint. If I run out of wood I’ll hit the Rodeo trail with Johnny Mize.”
School: Servite High School, Anaheim, Calif.
Slater, a Pro Bowl player for the second straight year on special teams for the Patriots, went to Servite High with fellow NFL player Ryan Kalli (Carolina Panthers). He was a grounded person, said his high school coach Larry Toner.
“You ask him what he wanted to do, and he’d tell you: ‘I want to be a minister.’ “
Slater never played defense in high school, something he got a taste of last year, but was well equipped.
“He wasn’t a wall flower. He moved real fast and he had real good feet,” Toner said. “We tried to keep our kids on one side of the ball. And sometimes we made mistakes.”
School: Bristol Central High, Bristol, Conn.
“What a great kid, a great family,” Bob DeSantis, the Bristol athletic coordinator who has been at the school 40 years, said of coaching the whole Hernandez clan. “To see someone you know playing on TV, what a thrill, especially knowing him since he was a little boy.”
School: Santaluces Community High, Lantana, Fla.
Wilfork’s jersey No. 75 became the first to ever be retired by his high school in 2008. Wilfork also played running back and kick returner in high school. He was a USA Today All-American second-teamer after the 1999 season, and also lettered in track and field. According to a Patriots.com bio, Wilfork holds the Florida high school record for the shot put.
School: Heritage Hall, Oklahoma City
Before Welker sported the ‘stache, he was a pretty clean cut fella from Oklahoma City. And before he was the top receiver in the NFL, he was the top running back in the Sooner State, garnering player of the year honors his senior season. He scored 90 total touchdowns in his high school career, 53 rushing and 27 receiving.
School: Phillips Academy, Andover
“I’d never know who to hit,” said Stratus Falangus, Belichick’s teammate at Phillips Academy. “I’d always ask Bill, and he’d say, ‘Hit that guy over there.’ He always knew what every one of us was supposed to do.”
School: Woodland Hills High School, Pa.
“I swear, he loved pain,” his father said. “No matter how hard his brothers hit him — and there were some brutal hits — he came back for more. From the time he could walk, he’s been fearless.”
School: Junipero Serra High School, San Mateo, Calif.
Tom Brady was a three-sport star in high school, playing football, basketball and baseball. He was actually drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 18th round of the 1995 MLB draft as a catcher. He joined Barry Bonds and Lynn Swann in Junipero Serra’s hall of fame in 2003.