Athlete Profile: Brian Orakpo


I remember back in high school when I discovered Final Fantasy 7 and my life changed forever. 10 years later I’m better than all my friends at riding chocobos and using potions. Hooray. I suppose we could compare my gargantuan accomplishment with Brian Orakpo’s if I try really hard. Seems Orakpo started as a mere basketball star, and by the time he matriculated, had discovered he was in fact one of the best defensive football players in the country. Big whoop.

Facetiousness aside, it takes a hell of a lot of work to reach the level that Orakpo has, especially in so short a time. According to Orakpo’s high school teammate Drew Kelson in an article on Inside

“Freshman football was merely about playing in front of all your classmates right on the campus football field. Simply having a uniform and getting a chance to play was cool.”

That is not the kind of atmosphere I have been led to expect from Texas high school football. Shame on you Friday Night Lights. No, I take it back; I can’t stay mad at you.

So Orakpo spent his first couple of seasons at Lamar High School in Houston impressing the ladies and looking good. Not too shabby. But there came a time for the young Orakpo when he realized that he could actually make something out of this football thing, perhaps a big something. By the time high school was over, Orakpo had been recognized throughout the country as a defensive prospect and had been recruited to play for the University of Texas.

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Athlete Profile: Jeremy Maclin

Fight or flight? Offense or defense? Burger or burrito? The duality of man is something I certainly haven’t the space to discuss here. But there is an interesting example of it in the person of Jeremy Maclin. Here we have a man enveloped in occupying two roles, and not just athletically, one who has throughout his life been straddling the border between two worlds, begging the question, “Why not both?”

Let’s start at the beginning: Maclin was born and raised in Chesterfield, Missouri and grew up in Kirkwood, which are both St. Louis suburbs. Maclin was raised by a single mom who had to work tireless hours to maintain a decent life for him and his two brothers. Fortunately, she eventually got some help from the coach of his youth league football team, Dr. Jeff Parres, who had a son the same age as Maclin.

Years of sleepovers and rides home eventually led to Maclin moving in with the Parreses during high school. They even bought him a car so he could drive to school. Maclin is still on good terms with his mother, but considers himself to have two families.

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Athlete Profile: Everette Brown

As a society, we’re always trying out the next new thing; well, not so much “new” as a combination of the old stuff we already like. They don’t always work out (Mustardayonnaise? Sparks Malt Beverage?), but we can get a great hybrid off the line every once in the while.

Most people get a look at Everette Brown’s size and speed and see what could be the first true defensive end/ linebacker to make it in the NFL. Take something more than a glance at the man, and you’ll see a hybrid of a different kind: a top-tier athlete who graduated early and still found time to do endless volunteer work. That kind of work ethic is going to be what makes him something special in the pros, and it’s that same thing that has gotten him this far already.

So where did he start out? Well, Brown was born in the small town of Stantonsburg, NC, and went to Beddingfield High School. While there, Brown started compiling some serious numbers and by his senior year he was the top defensive lineman in North Carolina, the third weakside defensive end in the country, and was ranked 78th in the nation overall. His senior year alone, Brown has 16 sacks and 120 tackles. But rather than rest on the bench, Brown iron-manned it as a tight end, catching 40 passes for 770 yards with 10 touchdowns.

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Athlete Profile: Michael Crabtree

What do you dream about? NBA Finals Game 7 with five seconds left, you catch the pass at the top of the key and…swish. Lottery numbers dropping into place on your winning ticket while you sip a martini next to Minka Kelly? Not Michael Crabtree. He doesn’t dream about being the next big NFL star or driving a Ferrari around Milan.

Michael Crabtree dreams of routes, pass coverages, and catching, catching, catching.

Growing up in Dallas, Texas, Crabtree has always had an intensity bordering on the surreal. Because of his size and physicality, Crabtree’s father chose to have him play football in leagues above his age.

“I actually cried the few times he made me play against people my age,” Crabtree said. “I was like, ‘Dad, I don’t want to hurt those little kids.”

After dominating the youth leagues, Crabtree continued showing his phenomenal ability at Carter High School by playing both basketball and football. In fact, his first scholarship offer from Texas Tech, his future university, came in the form of a basketball scholarship. In his senior year, Crabtree averaged more than 20 points a game. This is not to say he was slacking on football during his high school career. He was one of the best football players in the state as a quarterback. As a matter of fact, he only had one reception his senior year, but rushed for 646 yards and nine touchdowns on 100 total carries. He also added an interception, as well.

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Athlete Profile: Matthew Stafford

What should you know about Matthew Stafford? Well according to him, “I can dunk.” Stafford’s calm, amiable demeanor on and off the field has played an important part in his rise to the upper echelons of college football. Now that he’s on the verge of becoming, at the very least, a top 10 draft pick, those easy-going manners will be put to the test. Stafford should be able to take it though, because he’s certainly had to adapt before.

Born in Tampa, Florida, Stafford moved to Dunwoody, Georgia while his father completed a graduate degree at none other than Matthew’s own future college: The University of Georgia. But before he ever got there, his father finished school and the whole family moved to Dallas.

Getting uprooted again and bustled into the big city, however, certainly had its advantages.

In an odd stroke of coincidence, Stafford was childhood friends and little league teammates with, Clayton Kershaw, one baseball’s rising star pitchers (currently with the Dodgers). Up until high school, Stafford was pulling a solid Bo Jackson by playing baseball (as a shortstop) and football. Prior to starting his senior year though, Stafford gave up baseball in order to focus on football. Focus for Stafford being something we lesser mortals can only dream of.

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