CHICAGO - As you drove South into Chicago along Lake Shore Drive on Thursday, magnificent skyscrapers towered over a crisp, clear and sunny skyline.
However, almost as breathtaking was the amazing collection of blue-chip recruits at both Harvey (Ill.) Thornton Township and Chicago Morgan Park.
Thornton Township coach Bill Mosel hopes to set an Illinois record for the amount of players that he sends to Division I in the Class of 2005. Mosel has at least seven, yes that's right, seven players that should get Division I attention.
"It's all pure luck," Mosel said with a laugh. "We work the kids extremely hard, and their hard work is a big reason why we're so lucky to have kids that can take their game to the next level."
And even to the next level after that - the NFL.
Thornton Township has sent prospect after prospect to the NFL with names like Antwaan Randle El, Napoleon Harris, Winfield Garrett and Tai Streets on the alumni list. In all, Mosel isn't sure how many kids he's sent to Division I in his years at Thornton Township, but Rivals100.com Midwest analyst Tim O'Halloran estimates that more than 125 players have gone to Division I from Thornton Township.
Four-star defensive end Tim Jamison and three-star athlete Marcus Randle El highlighted the Class of 2004, and Jamison's younger brother Terrance Jamison has a shot at becoming an elite recruit like his brother.
At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Jamison looks taller and might be more athletic than his four-star brother.
He was out on the basketball court Thursday afternoon showing the athletic ability that allowed him to play on the offensive line as a junior but will allow for him to project as a defensive end in college. He already has an early scholarship offer from Wisconsin.
But Jamison isn't the only prospect for the Wildcats.
Mosel has an impressive collection of offensive line talent with tackle prospects Eric Smith (6-foot-5, 280) and Dwayne Stallings (6-5, 280) and guard prospect Brad Davis (6-4, 295). All should give Thornton Township plenty of beef to run behind and with bodies like that, you can bet that college coaches will be sure to take a long look at each one of them when the spring evaluation period begins.
On defense, defensive end Keyon Brown (6-3, 225) and linebacker Malcolm Wilson (6-2, 210) should be especially deadly with their solid athletic ability and receiver Markus Murry (5-11, 180) looked athletic on the basketball court and definitely has a shot.
Down the road at Morgan Park, assistant coach Keith Brookshire was excited to showcase his talented defensive backs and linebackers.
"I think you're going to like what we have," Brookshire said as he popped the tape into the VCR. "I think it's really possible that we might have two of the top cornerbacks in the nation, and don't even get me started on our linebackers."
But cornerbacks Melvin Rice Jr., and Pagel Williams both have a shot to land on the Midwest Major 50 for the Class of 2005 and Rice could even be a high four-star type prospect.
On film, Rice (6-0, 180) doesn't make as many athletic plays as Williams, but the deal is that Rice just makes plays after play. He's physical, strong and can stick to receivers with his coverage ability. He's also very rangy and isn't afraid to stick his nose into the tackle.
Rice has a shot at being a very highly recruited prospect with a 2.9 grade-point average. He also just looks like a stud recruit - he definitely passes the eyeball test.
Williams is the more athletic of the two cornerbacks. He's slick and unstoppable on punt returns. With his size (5-9, 180), he might end up becoming a better all-purpose threat in college. His balance and game-breaking ability on returns are a sight to see.
Williams should be a full-qualifier with a 3.5 grade-point average, and both players are also high quality track stars for Morgan Park.
After reviewing Rice and Williams, Brookshire then switched the tape to his star linebackers - Phillip Brown and Sam Porter.
Brown, who is 6-0 and 215 pounds, is known as Mr. Decleater by his teammates and coaches for his ability to separate quarterbacks and running backs from the ground with his vicious hits.
"He just doesn't quit," Brookshire said. "Watch how he never gives up on a play and always finds the football."
Sure enough as play was pushed on the VCR, a No. 52 jersey could be seen streaking across the screen making big play after big play - even on special teams where he would often be in the backfield attempting to make blocks.
As good as Brown has a shot at being, strongside defensive end Sam Porter has a shot at being even better. The 6-2, 235-pound defensive end/outside linebacker is relentless and fills out a uniform a little bit better than Brown.
"The kid is also a big-time player in big-time games," Brookshire said. "He played the entire Hinsdale South game with a broken hand. That shows you his toughness right there. He's also a very good kid off the field. He's a yes sir, no sir type of kid. You just ask him to go out there and do something, and he goes out there and does it.
"Just watch him after a big play. He doesn't dance around or get in your face. He just goes back to the huddle and gets ready to do it again."
And you can't talk about Morgan Park without talking about receiver Orlando Moore. The 6-foot, 180-pound receiver already has earned a scholarship offer from Michigan State.
Moore is a speedy and extremely athletic two-sport (basketball) athlete for the Mustangs, and Moore has impressed with his summer camp performnances, as well as his performance on the field during the 2003 season as a junior.