Texas is a breeding ground for NFL quarterbacks

Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill are the three highest-rated quarterback prospects in this month's NFL Draft. It isn't a surprise that the state of Texas will have three first-round quarterbacks.

The surprise is that it's a first.

"There are a lot of good quarterbacks in Texas," said Tannehill, who passed for 2,668 yards and ran for another 1,439 in two seasons as Big Spring High School's starter.

In the modern era, the closest the Lone Star State has come to matching this year's crop of top quarterback prospects was in 1992, when David Klingler went sixth overall to Cincinnati and Denver selected Tommy Maddox 25th overall. Ty Detmer was a late-round pick that year.

In the 13 drafts after that, from 1993-2005, 30 quarterbacks were selected in the first round. None were Texas-bred.

"I am surprised we had such a long gap without a Texas quarterback going in the first round," Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb said. "Football is such a big deal in our state."

There has been a run on Texas quarterbacks since.

Vince Young (Houston Madison) went third overall in 2006. Kolb (Stephenville) went 36th overall in 2007. Matthew Stafford (Highland Park) was the No. 1 overall pick in 2009. Colt McCoy (Jim Ned High) was a third-rounder in 2010. Last year, Christian Ponder (Colleyville Heritage) was the 12th overall pick; Andy Dalton (Katy) went 35th overall; Ryan Mallett (Texarkana Texas High) was a third-round pick; and Greg McElroy (Southlake Carroll) was a seventh-rounder.

This year's class has a chance to be an all-timer.

Luck, who played at Houston Stratford, is expected to be the first overall pick of the Indianapolis Colts. The Washington Redskins traded two future first-rounders and a second-rounder this year to swap places with the St. Louis Rams, putting them in position to draft Copperas Cove's Griffin second. Tannehill projects as a top-10 pick.

"Those are three exceptional players coming out," said Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak, a quarterback at Houston's St. Pius X who was an eighth-round pick of the Denver Broncos in 1983 out of Texas A&M.

"It's just good to see it happening. ...Why it's taken so long, I don't know. But all three of those guys have a chance to have great careers."

Arizona's Nick Foles (Austin Westlake), Houston's Case Keenum (Abilene Wylie), Tulsa's G.J. Kinne (Gilmer) and Yale's Patrick Witt (Wylie) also are Texas-bred quarterbacks hoping to hear their names called sometime during the draft.

"Certainly, the talent level is there," said Witt, who transferred from a Georgia high school for his senior year. "There are such large pools of kids who want to play football, where in the Northeast you might be drawn to a sport like lacrosse. In Texas, you don't have a choice. You're playing football. Then on top of that, the preparation and the expectation is very much what it is at the college level.

"I think if you're a quarterback, there's no better place to get exposure. When you think about football, you think about Texas high school football, without a doubt."

Three Texas high school quarterbacks are in the Hall of Fame, but it was a different era when Sammy Baugh (Temple/Sweetwater), Bobby Layne (Highland Park) and Y.A. Tittle (Marshall) played.

Texas is known more for its history of producing great running backs: Earl Campbell, Eric Dickerson, Billy Sims, Doak Walker, Thurman Thomas, LaDainian Thomas and Adrian Peterson. The veer, the wishbone and the power-I were popular offenses of choice in Texas for decades.

"A lot of it goes to scheme," said Baylor coach Art Briles, who coached Stephenville to four state titles from 1988-99. "There was a long period of time there were everybody was kind of doing the same thing, and that didn't include airing it out."

Many credit 7-on-7 for Texas' quarterbacks catching up to those from Pennsylvania and California. The University Interscholastic League approved 7-on-7 competition in 1995, with the first state championship held three years later.

"At one point, Texas high school players could not even go to summer camps," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "That was illegal. Then, all of sudden, they developed 7-on-7. Now, they have a state champion for 7-on-7. They give rings and championship trophies. It has become very, very big in the state, and it keeps these guys throwing year-round."

In 2005, Texas had only seven quarterbacks on NFL rosters. Now, 17 quarterbacks who attended high school in Texas are under contract, with seven of them starting. All three Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks are from Texas: Kolb, John Skelton (El Paso Burges) and Richard Bartel (Grapevine).

It isn't a passing fad, either.

"It was bound to happen," said Chase Daniel, who played at Southlake Carroll and now backs up Austin Westlake's Drew Brees in New Orleans. "There's always been a wealth of talent. Now, the offenses here in Texas are college-level schemes.

"Texas is starting to make a name for itself."

Charean Williams, 817-390-7760

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