When high school football players soak in the Friday night lights, there’s always a part of them dreaming about playing on Saturdays.
Playing college football is the payoff for years of effort, determination and overcoming frustrations. These 25 players from Tarrant County have made it.
We present some of the best football talent that Fort Worth, Arlington and the surrounding areas have to offer.
Tylin Wallace, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State University
High school highlights: At Fort Worth South Hills, Wallace finished among the top players in top players in Texas High School football history with 3,760 yards, 48 touchdowns and 20.7 yards per catch. He earned a spot on the Under Armour All-America Game following his senior season.
College impact: While he’s playing behind a very talented OSU receiver corps led by James Washington, Wallace has jumped into the rotation and played in a few of the Cowboys’ first nine games. The true freshman caught three passes for 56 yards with a long of 39. His twin brother Tracin is redshirting.
Michael Williams, Defensive Tackle, Stanford University
High school highlights: The Fort Worth All Saints product played a significant role toward the Saints winning three consecutive SPC titles. He finished off his senior season with 64 tackles and 4.5 sacks. He was listed as a Top 100 recruit in several services, including Scout. Williams received invitations to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and Semper Fidelis All-American Game.
College impact: Now a sophomore, Williams redshirted in 2015 and didn’t play as a freshman. In 2017, he’s appeared in eight games as a reserve and recorded five total tackles. The Cardinals are vying for the PAC 12 North title.
Deion Hair-Griffin, Wide Receiver, University of North Texas
High school highlights: Always an intriguing athlete at Fort Worth Arlington Heights, the then-dual threat quarterback threw for 1,895 yards and 25 yards and rushed for 1,361 yards and 23 touchdowns in his senior season. As a junior, Hair-Griffin threw for 1,595 yards and rushed for 682.
College impact: A redshirt freshman, Hair-Griffin made his Division I debut Sept. 2 against Lamar. He has spent a majority of this first season on special teams. UNT (5-3, 4-1) could win the Conference USA West Division.
Isaiah Harris, Wide Receiver, Kansas State University
High school highlights: He led the 2015 Fort Worth All Saints team to a SPC championship. Harris had 68 receptions for 1,153 yards and 17 touchdowns. That followed 920 yards and 12 scores when he was a junior.
College impact: The Wildcats didn’t wait for Harris. He played as a freshman in 2016 and caught five passes. While KSU is going through some quarterback injuries, the sophomore had only five receptions for 138 yards and a touchdown through his first nine games.
Demetrius Knox, Offensive Line, Ohio State University
High school highlights: Arguably the most decorated recruit to come out of Fort Worth proper in years, the Fort Worth All Saints standout was a national recruit in 2013. He was a consensus four-star prospect by the Rivals, Scout, 247Sport and ESPN.
College impact: Now a junior, Knox has appeared in 17 games. He became the starting right guard in October following an injury to another player. Knox was curtailed by a foot injury for most of 2016. The Buckeyes (7-1, 5-0 Big 10 East) were No. 6 in the first College Football Playoff Poll that was released Nov. 1.
Jonathan Song, PK, TCU
High school highlights: The Fort Worth All Saints product enjoyed an accurate and reliable career for the Saints.
College impact: A sophomore for the No. 7 Horned Frogs (7-1, 4-1 Big 12 through Week 8), Song has turned into a dependable kicker. He was perfect on field goals (8-8) with a long of 39 against Kansas State and was 39-41 on PAT.
Zachary Crabtree, Offensive Line, Oklahoma State University
High school highlights: Playing at Mansfield, he was a three-star recruit by both Rivals.com and Scout.com and was ranked as the nation’s No. 53 offensive tackle by Rivals. A top-100 recruit in the state of Texas, he was an all-district selection. At 6-7, 310, Crabtree also played basketball at Mansfield.
College impact: Crabtree has been a three-year starter on the Cowboys’ offensive line and a big part of the potent OSU offense. He was a Second Team All-Big 12 coaches’ selection and received the team’s leadership award as a sophomore. This year, heading into Week 10, the Cowboys were 7-2 and ranked in the top 15.
Brandon Garner, Linebacker, University of North Texas
High school highlights: As a linebacker at Mansfield Timberview, Garner was a two-time first team all-district selection collecting 70 tackles – 15 which were for a loss – and added 10 sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, an interception and a defensive score. His junior year saw him register 80 tackles and two interceptions.
College impact: Through the first nine weeks, he had 40 tackles (25 solo) and a sack. Garner had five starts last year, when he totaled 50 tackles (32 solo) and 3.5 sacks.
The Mean Green defense has been a big part of one of the best starts to a North Texas season at 6-3 and leader in Conference USA heading into their game with UTEP.
Ed Paris, Safety, Louisiana State University
High school highlights: One of the most highly regarded defensive backs at Timberview, he was selected to play in the U.S Army All-American game and was one of the four finalists for the Lockheed Martin Defensive Back Award. Although most opponents ran and threw away from Paris, he still registered 18 tackles and three interceptions in his senior year for the Wolves. His honors included first team all-district 7-5A cornerback as well as first team All-DFW area player as a senior and first team all-state recognition after he had 25 tackles, seven interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), nine pass breakups and two forced fumbles as a junior.
College impact: An experienced defensive back moved from corner to safety during the spring, Paris has played in 37 career games for the Tigers thus far with 25 tackles and a few starts. Paris is often seen on special teams, as well.
Ulaiasi Tauaalo, Defensive Tackle, University of North Texas
High school highlights: The 6-2, 290-pound defensive tackle was hard to miss even then, and quickly developed into a standout player for Keller Central. Tauaalo was a 5A all-state honorable mention as a senior when he finished with 94 tackles, including 10 for a loss, and three sacks. In high school, most knew him as “TJ.”
College impact: Until this season, only Tauaalo’s mother and grandmother called him by his given name. He said although the Tongan community is very committed to their heritage, he went by TJ in elementary school to make things easier. But when his grandmother got a TV to watch games this year, he knew she would be livid if she heard “TJ” instead of Ulaiasi.
Tauaalo finished with 27 tackles as a redshirt freshman and added 25 more as a sophomore, including three in UNT’s loss to Army in the Heart of Dallas Bowl last fall.
He’s already posted 20 tackles, including a career-high 2.5 for loss, to help lead the Mean Green to a 6-3 overall record and in first place in Conference USA. Tauaalo has been credited with two quarterback hurries and returned a fumble 27 yards.
Taylor Robinson, Defensive Back, University of North Texas
High school highlights: As a team captain for Central, Robinson was a unanimous first-team all-district 5-6A selection for three years. His senior year included 73 tackles, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He had nine interceptions as a junior. He earned a three-star ranking by ESPN.com. He also played wide receiver for the Chargers and caught 27 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns.
College impact: He’s blocked two kicks already this season and has eight tackles, playing in all eight games, helping the Mean Green to one of their best seasons thus far, at 5-3 prior to their game with Louisiana Tech. He finished last season with 18 tackles and a pass break-up.
Montrel Wilson, Linebacker, Texas Christian University
High school highlights: Recorded 115 tackles and three interceptions in his senior year at safety at Keller Fossil Ridge. He was a first team selection to the 5-6A all district team and was rated as the No. 18 safety in the state by Scout.com.
College impact: As a sophomore, he played in the season’s first two games, including a start in the opener, before missing the rest of the season with injury. Through nine games at linebacker for the Frogs this year, he’s the seventh-leading tackler (29 total, 3 for loss) while missing playing time in two games.
Anthony Villalobos, Defensive End, Navy
High school highlights: A three-time unanimous 5-6A all-district selection who earned honorable mention all-state honors his senior year at Fossil Ridge and was named to the Star-Telegram Super Team, he was also named the Newcomer of the Year his sophomore year.
College impact: Although he entered last spring as second on the depth chart at Navy, he was the recipient of the Admiral Mack Award, awarded to the most improved player during spring ball, in 2016. He’s seen action in five of the first eight games for the Midshipmen, with seven tackles.
Brandon Jones, Linebacker, Navy
High school highlights: A 2013 graduate of Keller, he was a two-sport athlete who lettered in football and track and field. He was named to the all district team in football his junior and senior years.
College impact: Thus far he has 23 tackles at linebacker, including a sack and two tackles for loss. He was back in the area when he made the start against Louisiana Tech in the Armed Forces Bowl, where he had a career-high five tackles and recovered a fumble.
Maea Teuhema, Offensive Line, Southeast Louisiana University
High school highlights: Was named a five-star prospect by Rivals.com out of Keller and ranked as the top guard nationally. He played in the Under Armour All-American game.
College impact: He spent his first two seasons at LSU and started 21 games. He was named a 2015 True Freshman All-America at LSU.
Sione Teuhema: Linebacker, Southeast Louisiana University
High school highlights: At Keller, Maea’s older brother, was named a U.S. Army All-American and competed at the all-star game where he had two tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss. In his senior year as an Indians defensive back, he had 96 tackles — 19 for a loss — and 10 sacks.
College impact: At Southeast Louisiana, he’s the second-leading tackler on the team through nine games (46) and was named to the Second Team All-Southland Conference last season and finished with 29 tackles (15 solo). Prior to arriving at Southeastern last year, he played two seasons at LSU, as did his brother.
Jared Sackett, Kicker, University of Texas - San Antonio
High school highlight: In his senior year, he made the all-district team for the Falcons.
College impact: As a walk-on at UTSA, Sackett has thus far hit 12-of-14 field goals with a long of 44 yards. He has also hit 22-of-23 PATs, with the only miss coming in the first game of the season.
Kenny Hill, Quarterback, Texas Christian University
High school highlights: Hill passed for 2,291 yards and 20 years his senior year at Southlake Carroll, while rushing for 905 yards and 22 touchdowns. He was selected as the 2012 Class 5A Offensive Player of the Year. This followed a junior campaign in which he combined for more than 4,400 yards of total offense and 49 touchdowns and led the Dragons to a state championship victory.
College impact: The Carroll alumni has led the Horned Frogs to an 8-1 record through the first nine games of the 2017 season and passed for 2,009 yards and 15 touchdowns along the way.
Patrick Vahe, Offensive Lineman, University of Texas
High school highlights: Vahe was a two-time all-state selection at Euless Trinity High School who finished his senior in 2014 with 80 knockdown blocks, allowing only one sack. He was a Junior All-American who led the offensive line that was part of a Trojans offensive unit that averaged more than 350 yards rushing per game in 2014.
College impact: Vahe has made 28 starts for the Longhorns as a third-year offensive lineman and was named a pre-season All-Big 12 selection at Guard.
Reid Harrison-Ducros, Defensive Back, Boise State University
High school highlights: Harrison-Ducros was a first team all-district selection and second team all-state player in 2015, when the Colleyville Heritage senior finished the year with 68 tackles, an interception and two forced fumbles. Harrison-Ducros was also a member of the USA Football U19 National Team that defeated Canada in the International Bowl earlier this year, where he had three solo tackles, one of which was for a loss.
College impact: In just his sophomore season, Harrison-Ducros has already made 23 tackles, including a tackle for a loss, and has a pass break-up to help Boise State to a 7-2 overall record through the first nine games.
Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Wide Receiver, University of Texas
High school highlights: Humphrey combined for more than 2,100 yards of total offense and 22 touchdowns his senior year of high school in 2015 for Southlake Carroll High School. He was a two-time all-state selection for the Dragons.
College impact: Humphrey has started six games as a sophomore and has 365 yards receiving and 37 yards rushing through nine games. He has also been used on kick returns.
Kyle Hicks, Running Back, Texas Christian University
High school highlights: Hicks rushed for 1,667 yards and 26 touchdowns his junior year of high school at Arlington Martin, and followed that up with 1,571 all-purpose yards and 28 touchdowns his senior year. He was also selected as an honorable mention all-state player.
College impact: Hicks was an Honorable Mention Big 12 player in his junior year last season, rushing for 1,042 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Horned Frogs. Hicks has combined for 448 yards and three touchdowns through nine games this season.
Shane Buechele, Quarterback, University of Texas
High school highlights: A two-time all-state selection at Arlington Lamar, Buechele passed for nearly 6,400 yards with 73 touchdowns and rushed for more than 1,800 yards and 21 touchdowns for the Vikings.
College impact: Buechele passed for 2,958 yards and 21 touchdowns last season for the Longhorns and was named to the Academic All Big 12 Rookie team for 2016-2017. Buechele has divided time with Sam Ehlinger this season and games has passed for 1,067 yards and five touchdowns.
Niko Small, Safety, Texas Christian University
High school highlights: Small was the Texas 6A Defensive Player of the Year his senior season at Arlington Bowie in 2014, finishing the year with six interceptions, three blocked kicks and 120 tackles. Small also had an interception return for a touchdown, a fumble recovery for a touchdown and a blocked PAT return for the Volunteers.
College impact: In his sophomore season in 2016, Small started 12 games and had 83 solo tackles and two interceptions for the Horned Frogs. He also had nine pass break-ups and 1.5 tackles for a loss. Small has 27 tackles so far this season.