Put the 10 current leading NFL rushers in a single room and you won't find a more impressive collection of athletes on the planet.
Speed, strength, power, quickness, durability — you name it — and these gentleman own it.
Picking who is best is always good water cooler talk and so is this: Who had the best high school career? If close, we considered their entire prep credentials – other sports included — and team success.
With that in mind, here is how I rank them.
10. Michael Turner (North Chicago Community HS, Illinois): In 1999, he led his team to a 6-4 mark and first playoff bid in 10 years by rushing for 1,392 yards and 14 touchdowns (10.5 average). His biggest game was for 295 yards on 19 carries including TD runs of 67 and school-record 90 yards in win over Zion-Benton. The Offensive Player of the Year and unanimous first team All-North Suburban Conference player, the current Atlanta Falcons' star ran for 2,732 career yards and 26 touchdowns and also lettered in track, where he was a sectional 100-meter champion. (2009 rank: No. 7, 720 yards, 4.6 average, 10 touchdowns).
9. Chris Johnson (Olympia HS, Orlando, Fla.): The speedy Titans' star and current leading rusher was known more for track than football in high school. He broke his leg as a senior but before that finished second in the state 4A 100 meters behind only Olympic bronze medalist Walter Dix. Before the injury he had bests of 10.38 and 21.30 and anchored the fastest 400 relay in the country. He was only a two-star football recruit and picked East Carolina over Eastern Kentucky and Connecticut. He missed four games with an injury but was rated one of the top 100 players in the state. As a junior he rushed for more than 1,000 yards and was also well known for his weightlifting, bench-pressing 315 pounds. The combination of speed and strength eventually landed him on top of the NFL heap. (2009 rank: No. 1, 959 yards, 6.7 average, 6 TDs).
8. Steven Jackson (Eldorado HS, Las Vegas): He had an illustrious career at Eldorado, rushing for 6,396 career yards and 81 touchdowns. His senior year his team lost in the state finals to McQueen (Reno, Nev.), which was led by Ravens’ backup cornerback Chris Carr. (2009 rank: No. 3t, 784 yards, 4.8 average, 6 TDs).
7. DeAngelo Williams (Wynne HS, Ark.): After missing his sophomore season with a broken foot, the Carolina Panthers’ standout rushed for a single-season record 2,204 yards and 34 touchdowns his senior year with a 10.4 average, leading Wynne to a state 4A title. He was even better in the postseason, rushing for 939 yards in four playoff games, including a 302-yard, six-TD performance against Greenwood. He added 194 yards and four touchdowns in the state title game against Stuttgart. Also a track star, he left the school with a state 4A record of 10.81 in the 100. (2009 rank: No. 5, 768 yards, 5.2 average, 7 TDs).
6. Maurice Jones-Drew (De La Salle, Concord, Calif.): Literally somersaulted onto the national scene with a four-touchdown performance in the first-ever meeting of No. 1 and 2 teams in the country, a 29-15 De La Salle win over Long Beach Poly in 2001. Jones-Drew drew a 15-yard penalty by somersaulting into the end zone after his first TD. His numbers were pedestrian in high school, with less than 3,000 career yards. But he scored 26 touchdowns as a senior. Scouting services rated him the No. 1 all-purpose back in the country. He led De La Salle to back-to-back mythical national championships. He also made the state track meet as a sprinter. (2009 rank: No. 6, 737 yards, 5.1 average, 11 TDs). See previous Starting Point.
5. Ryan Grant (Don Bosco Prep HS, Ramsey, N.J.): The Green Bay Packers’ star was named the New Jersey Player of the Year his senior season after rushing for 1,963 yards and 26 touchdowns while leading his team to an 11-1 record. He also had 61 tackles and seven interceptions from his safety spot. Also a fantastic basketball player and fleet track and field performer, he ran a 10.7 100 meters for the Ironmen. (2009 rank: No. 9, 621 yards, 4.2 average, 4 TDs). See previous Starting Point.
4. Brandon Jacobs (Assumption HS, Napoleonville, La.): The New York Giants’ specimen was the state 4A Offensive MVP, averaging 215 yards rushing per game his senior year in 2000 and scoring 38 touchdowns. He finished with a state-best 3,032 yards. As a junior he rushed for 1,783 yards and 18 touchdowns. He finished off his prep career by rushing for 233 yards on 26 carries in the Tri-Parish All-Star game. Jacobs was also a basketball standout. (2009 rank: No. 10, 617 yards, 4.1 average, 2 TDs).
3. Thomas Jones (Powell Valley HS, Big Stone Gap, Va.): He led PV to back-to-back state crowns starting in 1994 and still holds the VHSL mark for most rushing yards in a season (3,319). He graduated as the state leader in both single-game yards and career touchdowns (104), but both marks have since been broken. He currently ranks among the top five in state history in almost every rushing and scoring category. (2009 rank: No. 8, 704 yards, 4.7 average, 7 TDs).
2. Adrian Peterson (Palestine HS, Texas): A three-sport standout – he also played basketball and ran track – the Vikings’ superstar rushed for 2,051 yards (8.3 average) and 22 touchdowns as a junior and 2,960 yards (11.7 average) and 32 TDs as a senior. He followed that up with a excellent showing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, rushing nine times for 95 yards and two TDs. (2009 rank: No. 3t, 784 yards, 4.8 average, 9 TDs).
1. Cedric Benson (Robert E. Lee HS, Midland, Texas): A true legend in the legendary football state, the current Bengals’ workhorse rushed for 8,423 career yards – a 5A state record and fourth most in state history – and led his team to three straight state titles. In those three games he rushed for 15 touchdowns. He was the first high school player to ever grace the cover of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football annual. What set him apart further was his baseball prowess, as a senior hitting .361 with four homers and being selected by the Dodgers in the 12th round of the 2001 Major League Baseball draft. He actually played briefly in the Gulf Coast League but left the Dodgers in 2003 to focus on football. (2009 rank: No. 2, 837 yards, 4.2 average, 6 TDs).
Have a story about a professional athlete who starred at your high school? E-mail Mitch Stephens at email@example.com.