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The rise of high school football in Arizona was proven by the 2024 NFL Draft

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Eight players who achieved high school football fame in Arizona have been selected in this year's NFL Draft. This is believed to be a record number for this state in a year.

It reflects how much Arizona football has grown over the years.

Just look at how many college football coaches are stopping by this spring to check out Arizona's current high school football players. Many schools count 50 to 100 colleges who come over during their three-week spring training to evaluate talent for future players.

“The reason so many college football recruiters have flocked to Arizona over the last decade is because we have good players with excellent coaching,” Chandler coach Rick Garretson said. “Our Arizona kids are given a foundation that allows them to develop football IQ, technique, strength and speed. This will allow them to be successful in college and potentially end up in the NFL.”

Arizona's eight high school players rank 11th in America, according to High School Football America, where Florida lists the most players at 30. Texas was second with 24, followed by Georgia (23), California (18) and Louisiana (11) and New Jersey (11). Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina and Ohio were tied with 10 each. Then came Arizona, which produced more than Illinois (seven), Michigan (seven), Pennsylvania (six) and Indiana (six).

In past years, Arizona players have gone higher than the two in the first round this year – former Marana offensive lineman Jordan Morgan with the Green Bay Packers' 25th pick and former Tempe Corona del Sol wide receiver Ricky Pearsall with 31 By the San Francisco 49ers.

Last year, former Tucson Salpointe running back Bijan Robinson was the eighth overall pick taken by the Atlanta Falcons.

In 1968, Phoenix Union linebacker Fred Carr was selected fifth overall in the draft by the Green Bay Packers.

Former Chandler edge rusher Dion Jordan was the third overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, selected by the Miami Dolphins. Three former Chandler High players were taken in the same draft.

This year's draft also included Maricopa wide receiver Jacob Cowing (49ers, fourth round), Pinnacle quarterback Spencer Rattler (Saints, fifth round), Sandra Day O'Connor edge rusher Bralen Trice (third round, Falcons), Peoria Centennial safety Dominique Hampton (Commanders, fifth round), Hamilton running back Jawhar Jordan (Texans, sixth round) and Hamilton wide receiver Brenden Rice (Chargers, seventh round).

“I think there's been a concerted effort to grow football here and create opportunities for kids that weren't here five to 10 years ago,” said Mesa Mountain View coach Andy Litten, who played in Rice's last two seasons For years, Morgan was the offensive coordinator at Hamilton and coached at Marana. “Spring shows, open championships, media coverage and population growth have really helped bring a ton of talent to the valley.”

Coaching has improved and more coaches are aware of the importance of player development during the high school years.

The number of personal coaches has also increased. There used to be a few personal QB trainers in the Valley. Now there are many more. Additionally, there are strength, conditioning and speed coaches that parents hire for their children. There are kicking coaches, long snaps coaches, defensive backs coaches, wide receivers coaches and line coaches. It's clear across the board how many resources there are to support children in their football development from a young age.

“High school has become a business in Arizona, and that has made the product better,” Litten said. “Brenden Rice had an incredible staff in Hamilton and also personal training with professional athletes. This is not uncommon throughout the Valley. And when you balance that with talent and size, it blossoms.”

“It also helps that children can be active here all year round and that several sports are supported across the board.”

Garretson said high school football in Arizona can be measured against out-of-state competition by competing well and sometimes beating the best in the country outside of Arizona.

“Ten years ago, only one or two schools would travel to play games out of state,” Garretson said. “Now several schools are traveling to other states to challenge themselves and showcase our Arizona teams.”

To suggest ideas for human interest stories and other news stories, contact Obert atrichard.obert@arizonarepublic.com or 602-316-8827. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter:@azc_obert

Anna Harden

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