John Steigerwald

Column John Steigerwald

John Steigerwald has been a fixture of TV, radio, and newspaper sports in Pittsburgh, and has a Sunday column in the Observer-Reporter.

Rankings too much when it comes to high school kids

Dose of reality needed on national signing day

February 9, 2013

Did you ever think about how many high school football teams there are in the United States?

I didn’t count them all, but I’m told that there are about 16,000.

You know how many quarterbacks were taken in the 2012 NFL Draft?


I’m also told that about 220,000 seniors played high school football last year. You know how many players were taken in the 2012 draft? About 230.

That means if you’re a senior playing high school football, your chance of being drafted by an NFL team is one-tenth of one percent.

Last Wednesday was national letter of intent day. Lots of really good high school football players signed to play at some of our finest institutions of higher learning.

Some of those signings were preceded by news conferences. A few of the news conferences included drama provided by the recruit putting on a hat or revealing a t-shirt.

I’m going to guess that even fewer included any discussions about academics.

Wouldn’t it be nice to hear a top recruit say something like this: “I chose good ol’ State U. because I plan to major in __________ and State U. has an excellent ___________ department. I talked to my parents and my high school coach and they made it clear to me that, even though I had a lot of success in high school, chances are very good that I will not be playing in the NFL. I’m glad they convinced me to make my decision based on the idea that I will not be earning a living playing football.”

Maybe somewhere a recruit said something similar to that, but I’m betting not.

I am betting that about 90 percent of the recruits who signed letters of intent in the last few days believe they are going to the NFL.

The degree to which a lot, if not most, of those kids will be exploited on their way to finding out that they’re not good enough for “the next level” borders on criminal.

• How about those recruiting sites that rank the top high school seniors and the quality of each program’s recruiting class?

Joe Butler of Metro Index Scouting Service, who has been evaluating high school players for about 35 years, put it this way, “Can you tell me who is the fifth-best right tackle in the National Football League? Probably not. There are 32 teams. So how seriously should you take someone’s claim that he can tell you who’s the fifth-best offensive tackle among 220,000 high school football players?”

If you want his assessment of your favorite school’s 2013 recruiting class, he suggests you check back with him in 2016.

• Jayson Stark of came out with his annual “Major League Baseball has more parity than the NFL” column this week, and he’s just as wrong as ever. He bases his claim on the number of different playoff and championship teams in MLB compared to the NFL. Someone needs to get this guy, who’s one of the leading baseball experts in captivity, a clue.

It’s not about the teams, and it’s not about the championships. It’s about the cities and it’s about the opportunities.

When a baseball apologist trots out the look-at-the-Tampa-Bay-Rays argument – which Starks does every time, of course – he has lost the argument. If you say that the Rays overcoming the major inherent disadvantages is proof that other teams can do it, you are admitting the existence of inherent disadvantages. You can’t have parity if some teams have major inherent disadvantages.

Stark actually tries to use the Baltimore Ravens and Orioles to make his point. He says the Ravens show up almost every year in the playoffs, and the Orioles went for the first time in 17 years last season. He somehow misses the point that the Ravens succeed because, unlike their counterparts in Major League Baseball, the city they play in makes no difference.

• There’s talk about a Ray Lewis statue in Baltimore. Statue inflation has officially arrived.

• Put me down as being in agreement with the non-holding/interference call when the 49ers had fourth-and-goal in the last minute of Super Bowl XLVII.

I’ve watched the replay 100 times. There’s some hand-checking going on between the receiver, Michael Crabtree, and Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith. It begins with Crabtree running into Smith with the obvious intent of pushing off.

Once they are engaged, Smith has no choice but to not allow Crabtree to push off. In real time, it’s only a second or two. The official was staring at them with a clear view the entire time. He was right not to throw a flag.

The only justification would have been for offensive AND defensive interference. That never happens because it would be offsetting penalties, and the offense would benefit by getting another chance to score. The best replay I saw was on NFL Turning Point on NBC Sports.

NFL wide receivers already have a ridiculous advantage over defensive backs. They should never get or expect leniency on offensive interference. That’s especially true on fourth-and-goal, whether it be in the Super Bowl or in the first game of the regular season.

John Steigerwald writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.



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