The documentary, The Book of Manning, aired earlier this week on ESPN. The Manning matriarch, Olivia, said her favorite moments involved watching her sons play high school football. Peyton Manning also expressed his sentiment, saying that he loved playing on the same high school football team with his brother, Cooper. Of course, we all know Peyton is in the NFL, as is his little brother, Eli. This isn’t another Manning story, however, it’s about where the Manning’s played high school football. It’s about a football hotbed that’s often overlooked — Louisiana.
Texas invented the religion that is Friday Night Lights, as well as turning football into a year round sport with 7-on-7 summer football. Florida is home to “Muck City” and some of the fastest players in the NFL. California has the most players in the NFL today. A report according to USA Football listed all the demographics of what states and cities are producing the most NFL players. Not surprisingly California, Florida, and Texas topped the list with the most players. What many people don’t know is that Louisiana has the most NFL players per capita. What’s going on in the Bayou and why the hell is it producing so much NFL talent?
Before we get to the why, let's start with the who. Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Ed Reed, Matt Forte, Tramon Williams, Frank Alexander, Devery Henderson, Morris Claiborne, Rueben Randle, Corey Webster, Trindon Holliday, Tracy Porter, Brandon Stokely, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Ryan Clark, Ike Taylor, Mike Wallace, Laron Landry, and Reggie Wayne are just a few...or a lot of the current NFL players that hail from the state of Louisiana.
Here are the numbers according to USA Football.
NFL players per state:
California – 225
Florida – 186
Texas - 184
Georgia - 95
Ohio - 74
New Jersey - 63
Louisiana – 62
Pennsylvania – 58
South Carolina – 54
Virginia – 50
Alabama – 48
North Carolina - 46
Michigan - 43
Illinois – 37
NFL players per hometown:
Miami – 24
Houston – 16
Detroit – 14
Atlanta, Chicago, New Orleans, Pittsburgh – 11
Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Jacksonville – 10
NFL players per capita:
Louisiana - 1 per 73,119 people
South Carolina - 1 per 85,655
Mississippi - 1 per 92, 728
Alabama - 1 per 99, 578
Florida - 1 per 101,082
Georgia - 1 per 101,975
Montana - 1 per 109,935
District of Columbia - 1 per 120,345
Texas - 1 per 136,661
New Jersey - 1 per 139,554
Rest of the U.S. - 1 per 184,216
I've been wrapping my brain around this for a while, but here are a few reasons why Louisiana is producing the most NFL talent per capita.
The majority of the players come from the same powerhouse Louisiana schools which are St. Augustine in New Orleans; John Curtis Christian, just outside of New Orleans; Evangel Christian in Shreveport; Southern Lab in Baton Rouge; Destrehan and O. Perry Walker in New Orleans and so on. These schools have built in traditions. Winning is a habit at these high schools. They also have had the same coaches for several years. The longevity of these coaches promotes a culture of winning and consistency. John Curtis Christian High School is only 51 years old. They’ve had the same head coach for the past 45 years, J.T. Curtis Jr., and they’ve won 25 state championships during his tenure.
Most of the Louisiana high school football products go to SEC schools. The SEC, as well all know, is the best football conference in the nation. The conference had a record breaking 63 players drafted in April’s NFL Draft, with 11 in the first round alone.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, The illegal immigrant population grew by 27% between 2000 and 2009. The four most populated states in the country, California, Texas, New York and Florida contain a large amount of non US citizens and illegal immigrants. The increased population in these states, paired with the immigrants’ lack of interest or knowledge about football, only gives Louisiana an advantage to have more NFL players per capita.
You can’t take away what states like Texas, California, and Florida have meant for the game of football. But Jay Z said it best, “Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.” The numbers say Louisiana produces more NFL players than any other state and it’s not debatable.