November 27, 2011

Elite 11: Best-in-Texas football recruits include Aledo's Gray, two Cowboys' sons

The members of the Star-Telegram's Elite 11 set some lofty standards.

One is a record-setting running back threatening to break the most hallowed of all high school marks. Another is a do-everything athlete able to hurt you in all three facets of the game. A third is a dual-threat quarterback and track star ready to go under center when his team switches conferences. Two are the sons of former Dallas Cowboys ready to make their own mark at the collegiate level.

All are members of the Star-Telegram's Elite 11, where standards are set, not strived for.



High School



Malcolm Brown




Matt Davis

Klein Forest

Texas A&M


Mario Edwards

Denton Ryan

Florida State


Kennedy Estelle

Pearland Dawson



Devonte Fields

Arlington Martin



Johnathan Gray




Thomas Johnson

Dallas Skyline



Cayleb Jones

Austin High



Curtis Riser




Dominique Wheeler


Texas Tech


Trey Williams

Spring Dekaney

Texas A&M

Malcolm Brown

DL, Brenham

(6-2, 280)

Committed to Texas over Oklahoma, TCU and Texas A&M

Reminiscent of Jonathan Babineaux, former Iowa Hawkeye now with the Atlanta Falcons

If the four-year starter's size and the fact the he doubles as a tight end wasn't enough to excite Longhorns fans, Brown's performance against Magnolia West this season was. The Under Armour All-American forced a fumble, recovered another, had three sacks, blocked an extra-point attempt and had a 50-yard touchdown reception. Given Texas' need on the defensive front, the possibility of Brown sliding into the Longhorns' starting lineup as a freshman isn't far-fetched. Rivals rates him as the fourth-best defensive tackle in the nation, No. 5 player in the state and No. 27 overall.

Why Hook 'Em over Gig 'Em, Boomer Sooner and the Horned Frogs? What mainly stuck out to me was the help they needed at defensive tackle. Oklahoma and Texas are known for sending defensive tackles to the NFL, so I looked at that.

One game to suit up and start for any football team in history, who are you rolling with? I'd have to go with the team I have right here. I really love my team and I really like to play with them. I grew up with these guys and I really love them. We all have a passion for football. They all think like I do -- we go hard.

Craziest thing that happened to you during your recruitment? Whenever I go places, people will throw up their signs and say 'go here.' I get recognized and people are like 'You should go to Texas' or 'You should go to Oklahoma.'

Player you model your game after? Ndamukong Suh. He is always making plays and he is just one of the best out there on every play.

Player in the NFL you'd want to go up against? I'd like to go up against Michael Oher. He is a really good player and I want to go up against the best of the best. I would beat him. I don't like to lose and I would fight, fight, fight, man. He might be good but I would try my best to beat him and I know I would. I'm pretty confident.

Most memorable moment of your high school career? Probably my freshman year when they called me up to varsity. All my friends were like 'What?! Varsity?' I didn't know what I would be playing -- all I cared about was being moved up.

Matt Davis

QB , Klein Forest

(6-2, 200)

Committed to Texas A&M over Oklahoma, Auburn, LSU and Oklahoma State

Reminiscent of James Franklin, Missouri quarterback from Lake Dallas

As Texas A&M makes the move to the Southeastern Conference next season, the speed and versatility Davis and fellow Elite 11 member Trey Williams bring the Aggies will be a welcome addition. Davis, who has exceptional vision and a quick release, accounted for 2,500 yards and 25 TDs this year and was part of a Klein Forest relay team that placed third in the 400-meter and 800-meter relays at the 5A state track meet in May. Davis' athleticism could allow him to play any number of positions and his friendly demeanor will help him fit in when he arrives in College Station. Rivals tags Davis as the No. 54 overall player and No. 3 quarterback.

Why Gig 'Em over the others? I really paid attention to the coaching staff and the family environment, team-wise. I like to have brothers and that is the one thing I really loved about A&M. It's a family and you can't beat the 12th Man.

Craziest thing that happened to you during your recruitment? Me and Trey [Williams] were at the A&M spring game the day we committed and we were on the field and some people in the stands started chanting our names. That may not be crazy to some people but it was crazy to me. I have had people send me letters from Washington and New Jersey saying 'Can you sign this for me?' Someone actually sent me a picture on Facebook of a Paul Bunyan statue with my face Photoshopped on it.

One game to suit up and start for any football team in history, who are you rolling with? I would have to say 1987 at The U -- at Miami when they won the National Championship. Either them or the Packers in the Super Bowl when they won it (in February of this year).

Player you model your game after? It's not one specific player. The way Cam [Newton] played on the field last year -- his confidence, his attitude, his swagger. I love the way Aaron Rodgers is playing. He is the best quarterback in the NFL if you ask me. But I also love the way Vince Young played in college.

The one player in the NFL you'd want to go up against? I'd love to go under the gun against Champ Bailey. And then I'd want to test the running game against Ray Lewis. But when DeMarcus Ware puts his hand on the ground -- that's a bad man -- so those are the ones at each level I'd like to go up against.

Most memorable moment of your high school career? The first play I ever stepped on the field, against Dallas Carter my sophomore year. First play of the game, (my coach) called a quarterback draw and it was a touchdown. I'm not going to lie -- it was divine intervention. I ran so fast that I actually ran 15 yards past the end zone because I didn't want to get caught.

Mario Edwards

DL , Denton Ryan

(6-4, 285)

Committed to Florida State, but considering other schools

Reminiscent of Darnell Dockett, former Florida State Seminole now with the Arizona Cardinals

An Under Armour All-American and the son of former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Mario Edwards, ESPNU's No. 1 overall player and Rivals' No. 2 has the size and strength college and NFL scouts salivate over. Even more appealing is his potential to add more mass. Edwards posted 18 sacks in leading Denton Ryan to the state championship game last season and double and triple teams didn't stop him from racking up nearly 30 tackles for loss this year.

Kennedy Estelle

OL, Pearland Dawson

(6-7, 300)

Committed to Texas

Reminiscent of D'Brickashaw Ferguson, offensive tackle for the New York Jets

Take another look at his size: 6-7, 300. Now consider that Estelle just turned 17. No wonder every college football powerhouse was after him. Estelle, an Under Armour All-American ranked No. 46 overall by Rivals, was sixth in the state in the shot put in May and given his strength and athleticism, he could slide in and compete for a job right off the bat for the Longhorns.

Devonte Fields

DE, Arlington Martin

(6-3, 240)

Committed to TCU over Oklahoma and Missouri

Reminiscent of Trent Cole, former Cincinnati Bearcat now with the Philadelphia Eagles

You'd be hard-pressed to find a player in Texas as versatile as Fields, who punished opposing offenses with 73 tackles, 12.5 sacks, 32 tackles for loss, a forced fumble, a safety and two interceptions (one for touchdown) this season. And that's with his hand in the dirt on the D-line, mind you. Fields can return kickoffs, lines up at tight end as a run-blocker and out wide as a lengthy option over the top. He returned a kick 72 yards for a touchdown against Arlington in October and nearly pulled off the same feat against San Angelo Central in the Warriors' area round game. The Under Armour All-American will join former Martin linebacker Deryck Gildon at TCU next season. Rivals sees him as No. 13 at his position and No. 22 player in Texas.

Why the Horned Frogs over Boomer Sooner and Mizzou? I just realized there was no need to travel far to go to a good school. And their success -- showing they are a good program and everything.

You have one game to suit up and start for any football team in history, who are you rolling with? I'd probably say the Steelers when they won the Super Bowl (in 2009). I like how they played. They were more physical and aggressive toward the ball.

Craziest thing that happened to you during your recruitment? There was a lot of stuff going on at one time and it was confusing a little bit just having everyone call and asking me questions for hours.

Player you model your game after? I'd probably say Julius Peppers and DeMarcus Ware. I like how they knock people out and not care about it.

Player in the NFL you'd most like to go up against? I'd probably choose Tim Tebow. He likes to run a lot and I would hit him one good time and make him stop running the ball.

Most memorable moment of your high school career? Probably the one-handed snag (interception for touchdown) I had in the Flower Mound game -- it was kind of crazy. I didn't think I was going to catch it with one hand and just bring it down without using my other hand and run 72 yards.

Johnathan Gray

RB, Aledo

(5-10, 190)

Committed to Texas over Texas A&M and TCU

Reminiscent of Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titan who holds the NFL record for most total yards from scrimmage and one of six NFL players to break the 2,000-yard rushing mark

If signing the state's top tailback and fullback during the last recruiting cycle wasn't enough, the Longhorns nabbed a player who still has a shot at Kenneth Hall's national rushing record of 11,232 yards -- once thought of as unbreakable. Gray has led Aledo to back-to-back state championships and has made life tough for writers, broadcasters and stat-keepers as they try and keep up with the state records he's smashed throughout his career, career touchdowns, 100-yard rushing games and the single-season touchdown mark. Gray, the son of former Texas Tech and NFL running back James Gray, has scored 198 touchdowns in his career and has 13 touchdown runs of 50 or more yards this season alone. He is the reigning Texas Gatorade Football player of the year and ESPN RISE Mr. Football USA national player of the year. But it's not just the gridiron where he excels. Gray placed fourth in the 100-meter dash at the Class 4A state meet last year. The Under Armour All-American is rated the No. 5 overall player by ESPNU and No. 6 by Rivals.

Why Hook 'Em over Gig 'Em and the Horned Frogs? Outside of the football program, I looked at the business schools as well. Texas was the best choice for me in all areas. They network all over the world.

Of the records you've broken, which one is the most meaningful? The career TD record. Growing up, you and your friends always talk about how many touchdowns everyone scored. And you add them up. To break something like that, with the team we have here, is something I will remember. It's something special to share.

One game to suit up and start for any team in football history, who are you rolling with? I'm going with Texas, the team I will suit up for next year, because of the family and tradition they have. I want to be a part of that.

Craziest thing that happened to you during your recruitment? I was down at a Texas game, and some random people yelled at me: 'Hey J Gray. What's up?' I didn't know them, but they knew me. People just know you, and invite you to their tailgating and stuff.

Player you model your game after? I don't really model after anyone specific. I try to just do what I do. I do look up to a lot of guys like Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore and LaDainian Tomlinson. I see how they play and what they do to get to their level. I watch them to see what I can do to get better.

Player in the NFL you'd most like to go up against? I would say Ray Lewis. He's a great linebacker, and he brings the wood. You want to go up against a guy like that to make yourself better.

Thomas Johnson

ATH, Dallas Skyline

(6-0, 180)

Committed to Texas over several other offers

Reminiscent of Jeremy Maclin, former Missouri Tiger now with the Philadelphia Eagles

The Big 12 will have flashbacks of Quan Cosby, Limas Sweed and Jordan Shipley when this game-breaker lines up next to Jaxon Shipley and fellow Elite 11 member Cayleb Jones for the next few years. And Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin will have a mental field-day coming up with schemes to unleash the speedy Johnson, who posted 1,625 rushing yards and 25 TDs as a sophomore quarterback at Arlington Oakridge. He found his next-level calling at receiver when he transferred to Dallas Skyline (956 receiving yards, 15 total TDs thus far this season). The Under-Armour All American is ranked by Rivals as the 30th overall player while ESPNU has him No. 35.

Why Hook 'Em over the others? Great academics, a new coaching staff and all that youth on the team -- I just wanted to be a part of it. I had been there like three times and just the energy of the fans, the people treat you right -- it was everything really.

Craziest thing that happened to you during your recruitment? People used to Facebook me other commitments' highlights from the schools. They would send me a highlight and a message and be like 'Wouldn't it be nice to play along side this dude' and 'If you came here you would probably have all the girls'... It was so crazy. That was before I committed.

Player you model your game after? I have always kept up with recruits and my idol had always been Percy Harvin when he was at Florida then in the NFL. Then it was (USC receiver) Robert Woods. I used to watch his stuff and see how I could utilize it in my game. I just try to take what he's got and try to put a little bit of my flavor in it and see what I can do.

Player in the NFL you'd most like to go up against? I want to go against Darrelle Revis. He's a shutdown corner so maybe I could see what I could do against him because he has shut down a handful of great guys in the NFL.

Most memorable moment of your high school career? The SPC (Southwest Preparatory Conference) championship my sophomore year. It was the first championship game I've ever played in and it was a great game by both teams. It really came down to the wire and I will never forget the interception that I threw that sealed the deal. I learned from my mistakes and tried to turn that into a positive.

Cayleb Jones

WR, Austin High

(6-3, 200)

Committed to Texas over Alabama, Oklahoma, Florida and Texas A&M

Reminiscent of A.J. Green, former Georgia Bulldog now with the Cincinnati Bengals

Jones has the look of a Big 12-ready wideout and, with the struggles Texas has had with some of its young receivers, don't be surprised to see him in the starting lineup in 2012. The Under Armour All-American, who had one of the nastiest one-handed leaping catches you'll ever see (43,000-plus views on YouTube), collected 1,200 yards his senior season. His 239 career receptions are fifth in state history and his 3,171 receiving yards rank 20th. His father, Robert, was a linebacker with the Dallas Cowboys and the 1992 NFC Rookie of the Year. Rivals rates him the No. 20 overall player while ESPNU has him No. 30 in the nation.

Why Hook 'Em over Roll Tide, Boomer Sooner, Gig 'Em and the Gators? I live in Austin and I love Mack Brown and the Texas family. I just couldn't see myself anywhere else. It was being in a place where I was comfortable with the guys I will be playing with for the next four years and where I could get to the next level.

One game to suit up and start for any football team in history, who are you rolling with? I'm picking the New England Patriots when they won all those Super Bowls. I'm a Tom Brady fan, I don't know why.

Craziest thing that happened to you during your recruitment? When I was at East Carolina, my dad's alma mater, the coach there, when I first met him he looked at me like I was a girl -- like I was attractive. It was funny and awkward at the same time. It's something me and my mom and dad look back and laugh at.

Player you model your game after? There's plenty of guys -- Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald. I look up to Justin Blackmon and Jeff Fuller -- a lot of bigger guys that are real physical and make plays. I like Michael Irvin a lot because my dad used to tell me about him.

Player in the NFL you'd want to go up against? Probably Ed Reed. He is a beast and I feel like if I could do work on him, I could do work on anybody. Darrelle Revis or Aaron Williams that plays for the Bills -- that would be cool to go up against an Austin guy.

Most memorable moment of your high school career? We were playing (Round Rock) Westwood and they threw a deep ball over the middle and I caught it. I pitched it to my brother and he scored.

Curtis Riser

OL, DeSoto

(6-3, 290)

Committed to Texas over LSU

Reminiscent of Logan Mankins, former Fresno State Bulldog now with the New England Patriots

It's somewhat odd to see someone with such polite manners and an agreeable demeanor transform into a possessed animal in between the lines. The Under Armour All-American, ranked No. 7 at his position by ESPNU and No. 3 by Rivals, has the mean-streak of a honey badger under the lights and the size and skill-set of a college letterman. Riser lined up at tackle for DeSoto, but could move inside once he arrives at the Forty Acres given the size of Texas' linemen and incoming freshmen, including Elite 11 member Kennedy Estelle.

Why Hook 'Em over Hold That Tiger? I had been down to Texas many a times, probably six or seven times, and I felt the same family bond in Texas like I do here at DeSoto. My goal is to go to college and graduate but I also want to go to the NFL. I wanted an offensive line coach that knew what he was talking about and coach [Texas offensive line coach Stacey] Searles came from Georgia and he had put a couple players into the NFL. I wanted somebody that knew what they were talking about.

Craziest thing that happened to you during your recruitment? Definitely the snow day in February. I was supposed to go to LSU right after I committed to the Longhorns, but we had a bad snow day down here in Dallas and I couldn't go. I was deciding whether I should drive and take that chance or not. I really feel it was God telling me it wasn't the place for me, honestly.

One game to suit up and start for any football team in history, who are you rolling with? I am picking the New York Giants when they won a Super Bowl in 2007. That's my favorite team. I love Brandon Jacobs and Plaxico Burress -- they are my favorite players. I would also want to go up against Justin Tuck at defensive end.

Player in the NFL you'd most like to go up against? I'd pick Ndamukong Suh because I was at a Nike camp up in Oregon this summer and he was coaching the D-linemen. I started feeling like I want to go up against him. I feel like I could get him. I would bring it to him. I know what would really happen but I'd still bring it to him.

Player you model your game after? I try to base myself off of Evan Washington, who graduated from DeSoto in 2010. He's at LSU right now and I look at myself like him. He is a very dominant player on the field with leadership off the field.

Most memorable moment of your high school career? When I was a sophomore and we played Duncanville. I was at left guard at the time and I pulled out on this one play. The safety was blitzing and I just cleaned him up. I knocked his helmet off and it flew to the sideline.

Dominique Wheeler

WR, Crockett

(6-1, 175)

Committed to Texas Tech over Texas and Texas A&M

Reminiscent of Robert Woods, USC receiver

Wheeler's nickname is Buddha, which is strange considering he has the look and burst of an Olympic sprinter. Any knock on this burner playing in Class 2A would be quickly put to rest with one view of the first play of his highlight video. Wheeler catches a short pass, breaks a tackle and eludes a few defenders by running backward before blazing 50-plus yards past half the opposing defense. He finishes the play by fighting through five tackles at the goal line to reach the end zone. The U.S. Army All-American could help Texas Tech at receiver, in the return game or out of the Wildcat formation (which he runs beautifully at Crockett). Wheeler is ranked No. 98 overall by Rivals and No. 44 overall by ESPNU.

Why Wreck 'Em over Hook 'Em and Gig 'Em? The program fit me perfect and I really feel comfortable with the coaches. It felt like home, like everybody is family to me.

One game to suit up and start for any football team in history, who are you rolling with? I'm going to go with the New York Giants when they won the Super Bowl (in 2007). I like Brandon Jacobs and I liked them when they had Plaxico Burress.

Player you model your game after? Michael Crabtree. When he was at Texas Tech, he set a bunch of records and he won the Biletnikoff Award two years straight. I'd like to follow in his footsteps or be better.

Craziest thing that happened to you during your recruitment? Going to the colleges and looking at some of the girls. They were pretty.

Player in the NFL you'd most like to go up against? Probably Darrelle Revis because he is one the best cornerbacks in the NFL. He'd probably get me out of most of them now but when I get to the NFL it would probably be even. Hopefully I could get him.

Trey Williams

RB, Spring Dekaney

(5-8, 175)

Committed to Texas A&M over Auburn and Texas Tech

Reminiscent of LaMichael James, Oregon running back

Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman must have breathed a sigh of relief when Williams committed during the Aggies' spring game, given his interest in possibly pursuing baseball in college rather than football. Williams, whose brother Tyson is a junior wide receiver at Texas Tech, has 3,183 yards and 36 TDs through the regional round and chose the Aggies over half the Big 12 and the elite of the SEC, including Alabama and LSU. He has everything you want out of a running back: the willingness to bowl over defenders, the ability to go around them and the smarts to know when to do which. ESPNU ranks him the No. 8 running back in the nation.

Why Gig 'Em over Wreck 'Em and War Eagle? The only reason I didn't go to Auburn was because there was a lot going on over there -- possible trouble. Tech is really not a bad school at all. I actually like Tech and my brother is over there. I just felt more comfortable with A&M and the way they run their offense. Coach Sherman is an old-school coach so I looked at the offense and the way they played and the running backs are getting the ball -- they feature the running backs. I wanted to be a part of that tradition.

One game to suit up and start for any football team in history, who are you rolling with? I'd say the 1985 Chicago Bears. I would want to go head-to-head with Walter Payton.

Player you model your game after? I'd definitely say Walter Payton. That's the guy I looked up to growing up -- his style and his cuts. He wasn't very fast but he would bring it to you. The moves that he made were ridiculous. Him and Barry Sanders -- two favorite running backs of all time. I would always look at them and say I think I could do that.

Craziest thing that happened to you during your recruitment? You can't talk direct to schools, so a friend would come up to me and be like 'Hey, you need to go ahead and commit to here. We got this and we got that and you'll get treated well' and all that stuff.

Player in the NFL you'd most like to go up against? Ray Lewis because he is bigger and he is stronger and the bigger you are, the less chance you have of catching me. I would break him down.

Related content



Sports Videos