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With junior quarterback Jake Browning of the University of Washington appearing on Heisman Trophy watch lists and sophomore offensive tackle Jonah Williams of the University of Alabama looking like one of the top linemen in the nation, it’s not a stretch to say that the two recent Folsom High grads could be future first-round picks in the NFL Draft.
Their team at Folsom in 2014 when Browning was a senior and Williams was a junior went 16-0, won the CIF Division I state title and set the national single-season scoring record with more than 900 points. So if Browning and Williams were to accomplish those draft goals, how rare would it be for one high school team to have two first-round NFL Draft picks?
We spoke to Browning on Wednesday as part of Pac-12 media days in Hollywood for an upcoming book we’re doing on California high school football. While preparing for that interview, we thought of going through our year-by-year NFL Draft lists in the Cal-Hi Sports record book for two teammates being first round NFL Draft picks and here’s what we found:
Marlin McKeever & Kermit Alexander
(Mt. Carmel, Los Angeles)
The school is defunct but there are memories of the Crusaders and it looks like based on available info that Alexander was a sophomore standout on the school’s football team in 1956, which would have been the senior seasons for Marlin and twin brother Mike McKeever. Marlin and Mike later went on to star at USC and in the 1961 NFL Draft it was Marlin who was picked at No. 4 overall by the hometown L.A. Rams. Alexander went on to UCLA and in 1963 he was tabbed at No. 8 in the first round by the San Francisco 49ers.
Earl McCullough & Gene Washington
(Long Beach Poly, Long Beach)
These are two legendary Jackrabbits who were both longtime receivers in the NFL. At Poly, though, Washington actually was the one throwing TD passes to McCullough. In the 1968 NFL Draft, McCullough was the 24th pick in the first round by the Detroit Lions. He was just much more well known for being one of the top hurdlers at USC in track as he was in football. Washington, who is still one of the greatest receivers in Stanford history, was the 16th selection in the first round in 1969 by the San Francisco 49ers.
O.J. Simpson & Al Cowlings
(Galileo, San Francisco)
Believe it or not, these two longtime friends and former Galileo teammates who captivated the entire world 23 years ago when Cowlings took Simpson on that infamous police chase in the white Ford Bronco were both top five NFL Draft choices. Simpson, the 1968 Heisman Trophy winner, was the No. 1 pick in the 1969 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. Cowlings, who also went to USC, the was No. 5 pick in the 1970 NFL Draft, also by the Bills. This isn’t to make light of the serious charges that Simpson faced for allegedly murdering two people, but just a reminder of the unique athletic abilities that both he and Cowlings possessed. The next year following Cowlings being in the first round, Norm Thompson of Galileo was the 17th pick in the first round of the NFL Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. Thompson later became the first-ever NFL free agent, but he actually went to Galileo before Simpson and Cowlings and worked as a ship painter for three years before going to Laney Junior College in Oakland.
Mark Carrier & Leonard Russell
(Long Beach Poly, Long Beach)
These are the first two we ever saw play in person who were both later first-round picks in the NFL. This was Poly’s 1985 team that won the CIF Southern Section top class title but despite being perhaps the most talented in the state didn’t rank at the top due to suffering one loss and one tie. Carrier, who later was an NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year, was the senior leader and was the No. 6 pick in the first round of the NFL Draft in 1990 (right behind USC teammate Junior Seau) by the Chicago Bears. Russell, known popularly as “8 Ball,” was the top running back on that Poly squad as a junior. He was a first-round choice in 1991 at No. 14 overall by the New England Patriots and later was AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Bryant Westbrook & Michael Booker
(El Camino, Oceanside)
We didn’t see these two in a game, but they came up to the University of Pacific in Stockton for a team camp with head coach Herb Meyer and they were both big-time defensive backs. Fast forward to the 1997 NFL Draft and amazingly the duo almost went among the first 10 picks. Westbrook was chosen at No. 5 by the Detroit Lions. Booker then went at No. 11 overall by the Atlanta Falcons. They later played in the same Super Bowl. Westbrook and Booker remain the only two teammates in state history who were both first-round NFL picks in the same year.
Alex Smith & Reggie Bush
(Helix, La Mesa)
While Smith & Bush didn’t get picked in the same first round as Westbrook & Booker, they can still easily claim as being the most prominent pair of players to have been high school teammates in state history. Smith set records at the University of Utah and was the No. 1 pick overall in 2005 by the 49ers. Bush was one year behind, but at USC he won the Heisman Trophy (later rescinded) and in 2006 he was No. 2 overall by the New Orleans Saints.
Note: 1974 No. 10 choice Bill Sandifer and 1972 No. 7 pick Willie Buchanon are both from Oceanside, but were chosen in the NFL Draft two years apart and not one. A quick search of archives was inconclusive whether they were on the same team at the same time when they were Pirates.
Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: