PSL football a glimpse into potential NFL future

Chuck Johnson
Media Information Director
DPS Office of Athletics

The winners of tonight’s Detroit Public School League football semifinals at DCP-Northwestern High School will earn the opportunity to play for the PSL championship on an NFL field.

For a select few, next Friday’s Oct. 25 championship game at Ford Field could also be a memorable part of their journey to an NFL career.

PSL logo photoAccording to an article in USA TODAY that analyzed players on 2013 National Football League opening-game rosters, only two cities – Miami (24) and Houston (16) – produced more current NFL players than Detroit (14). And of the 14 players listed from Detroit, 11 formerly played in the Detroit Public School League.

“I think that’s representative of the talent level of the players and the caliber of coaching in the PSL,” Mumford High coach Donshell English said.

“Getting athletes prepared and ready to go to the next level, that’s what we’re about.  We’re trying by any means necessary to provide an avenue for kids to not only reach their full potential, but go beyond.”

English formerly coached at Southeastern, where he helped launch the careers of New York Giants defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end William Gholston.

In fact, all four coaches in tonight’s PSL semifinals – featuring Coach Dale Harvel’s unbeaten King Crusaders vs. Mumford at 5 p.m. and Coach Thomas Wilcher’s unbeaten Cass Tech Technicians vs. Coach Rod Oden’s East English Village Bulldogs at 7 p.m. – have had players advance from their high school team into the NFL logo

“I think it goes in cycles and right now there’s an up cycle for the PSL,” Harvel said. “There’s a lot of talent from the PSL going to the NFL because they’re going to top universities and getting a shot.

“A lot of our kids are playing college football at a high level and that has a lot to do with it.”

In addition to Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Nick Perry and Denver Broncos defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, Harvel notes that cornerback Chris Greenwood, another King alum, is back with the Detroit Lions.

“That’s three just from King,’’ Harvel said. “The coaches in this league do a great job with these kids. They’re not a finished product when we get them, but our coaches help prepare them both academically and athletically so that when they do go to the next level, the colleges have something they can work with right now.”

Of course, an NFL career is not guaranteed for any player. “It takes a little luck, too,” English said. “But our kids know that once they play and succeed here that they can fulfill any dream possible.

“I feel proud to be part of a movement in Detroit that’s helping mostly young black men realize their potential. It’s a humbling experience. But what we try to do as coaches is be there for some of the guys who may not have fathers. It’s more than just coaching and it’s not just football all the time.

“This is our way of trying to give back. And maybe one day, these players will come back and guide some other kids toward realizing their dreams.”

PSL players on 2013-14 NFL opening rosters (with college in parenthesis)

Joe Barksdale, Cass Tech, offensive tackle, St. Louis Rams (LSU)

William Campbell, Cass Tech, offensive guard, New York Jets (Michigan)

Larry Foote, Pershing,  linebacker, Pittsburgh Steelers (Michigan)

Antonio Gates, Central, tight end, San Diego Chargers (Kent State)

William Gholston, Southeastern, defensive end, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Michigan State)

Brandon Graham, Crockett, outside linebacker, Philadelphia Eagles (Michigan)

Johnathan Hankins, Southeastern, defensive tackle, New York Giants (Ohio State)

Nick Perry, King, outside linebacker, Green Bay Packers (USC)

Ronald Talley, Renaissance, defensive end, Arizona Cardinals (Delaware)

Marcus Thigpen, Mumford, running back, Miami Dophins (Indiana)

Kevin Vickerson, King, defensive tackle, Denver Broncos (Michigan State)

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