Matthew Stafford has thrown for almost 10,000 yards and 64 touchdowns in three-plus NFL seasons with the Detroit Lions (in 2010 he lasted only three games with a shoulder injury).
He had a superb college career at Georgia, and finished on a nigh note, earning MVP honors at the 2009 Capital One Bowl game. That helped launch him to the No. 1 selection in the 2009 NFL draft.
From all his vast archive of football highlights, the 6-foot-3, 232-pound 24-year-old said his single greatest memory on the gridiron was finishing off his senior year in high school at Highland Park (Dallas)
with a state 4A championship.
Stafford hopes to create some more highlights tonight when the Lions host the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football.
"There's been no feeling better than to win a state championship with all the kids you grew up playing with," Stafford told me at the 2011 Gatorade Athlete of the Year ceremony in Hollywood. "That was the best time I ever had on the football field."
Highland Park, which has produced such athletic greats as Bobby Layne, Doak Walker, Kyle Rote, Jr., and Clayton Kershaw, didn't exactly squeak out the championship that season, defeating Marshall 59-0 in the finals to finish 15-0.
Stafford threw for more than 4,000 yards that season despite missing three games with a knee injury. Highland Park scored 722 points that season.
"A lot of people thought (Stafford) put up all those numbers because of Highland Park's great offensive system," former Dallas Morning News reporter and now MaxPreps correspondent Randy Jennings said. "Some weren't really sure how good he'd be. Obviously he's proved that he is very good."
Stafford was a baseball star at Highland Park along with Kershaw, but following a mediocre junior football season he gave up baseball. It obviously paid off.
"Everyone knew (Kershaw) was going to be very, very special," Stafford said. "He was always amazing."
Here is some video of Stafford in high school: