BEAVERTON, Ore. — Cameron Robinson
, the nation's No. 5 recruit, was asked about fellow players who impressed during the Lineman Challenge Wednesday at Nike's The Opening.
Without hesitation, the 6-foot-6, 320-pound offensive tackle from West Monroe (La.)
mentioned Gerald Willis
of Karr (New Orleans)
and Garrald McDowell
of Covington (La.)
"Both those guys impressed me a lot," Robinson said with a smile. "Maybe because they're really good or maybe because they are from Louisiana."
The Louisiana train continued to roll through north Oregon as that lineman trio, plus the nation's No. 2 recruit and top running back Leonard Fournette
of St. Augustine (New Orleans)
and country's top wide receiver Devante "Speedy" Noil
of Karr continued to turn heads.
Fournette was clearly the top running back at the country's top showcase, which features 161 of the nation's best recruits from the Class of 2014.
Noil had already claimed the SPARQ competition and Robinson looked very much like the best tackle in the country during one-on-ones. In the finals, he stopped Joe Henderson, of Shaker Heights (Ohio), who had 29 sacks the last two seasons, three straight times.
"What people don't know is that one-on-ones is a defensive drill," Robinson said. "If we win those, that means we're doing something really well."
But why are Louisiana football players doing so well everywhere? For a state that ranks smack dab in the middle of population — No. 25 at 4,600,000 — the Bayou State is loaded with standouts.
"The most per capita in the NFL," Robinson pointed out.
He's absolutely right. In a 2009 study, 1-per-55,862 Louisiana residents make it to the NFL. The next best rate is of all states is Mississippi at 1-per-67,730, followed by South Carolina (1-per-78,667), District of Columbia (1-per-81,723) and Alabama (1-per-83,908).
The national state average is 1-per-166,031.
"Man, football is life in Louisiana," Robinson said. "Everyone starts playing when they're 6 or 7. It's what we do and the game we love."
McDowell said a lot of the credit goes back to the Louisiana high school and youth coaches.
"We just do what they tell us to do," he said.
But it helps to be speedy like "Speedy," who also pulled off a 45.1-inch vertical jump during SPARQ testing.
And then there's Fournette, a 6-1, 225-pound beast of a running back who no doubt gets the best of coaching at St. Augustine. But when you're compared often to Adrian Peterson, coaching can take you just so far.
Fournette carries himself much like many of the Louisiana kids. Strong, quiet, polite.
Asked what player he looks up to or tries to emulate, Fournette answered immediately.
"No one," he said. "Everyone always compares me to AP. He's a great player. But I look up to no one at all."
Why did he come out to Oregon? Every school is already after him and according to 247sports.com
, he's picking between LSU and Alabama. Fournette told us he hasn't even picked his top 10 schools yet and will announce at an All-Star game next winter.
"I'm here to prove I'm the No. 1 player and No. 1 running back in the country," he said. "I want to compete with all the great players out here."
Asked to describe his game, Fournette said: "I'm big, fast and have hands. I can catch."
With 10.62 speed in the 100-meters, he's hard to catch. He's not that hard to quote because his answers are short and measured. It's sort of reflected when asked if he has any special mantra or philosophy he lives by.
"Be a man," Fournette said. "A coach of mine always reminds me of that. He says to be a leader and show your teammates the right path."
The path from Louisiana is apparently paved to the NFL with stops at every major college program in America.