Van Nuys (Calif.) Birmingham has won three of the last five city section titles and has clearly established themselves as one of the premier programs in the state. That's why when Patriots head coach Ed Croson calls his running back Milton Knox, 'the best player I've ever had,' it carries a lot of weight.
Knox, 5-8, 190 pounds has been one of the state's top backs since his freshman season. He earned 1st team all-state underclass honors his sophomore year and followed it up with another all-state season this past year.
Knox led the Patriots to their third city championship after rushing for 2,374 yards and 29 touchdowns. Those numbers include a 290 yard, three touchdown semi-final performance over Crenshaw and 132 yards and three more scores in the city final win over San Pedro.
"We've had some very good players here, a lot of guys playing in college right now, but Milton is already the best player I've ever coached," Coach Croson said. "He really is unbelievable and I still can't believe some of the runs he made this past season.
"He's so thick and has the ability to run around you or over you. I mean he really punishes opposing defenses. I've heard people question his speed but he broke a 75 yarder against Crenshaw and they have one of the fastest defenses I've seen. Milton has great balance and the first guy never brings him down.
"I'm always asked who does he remind me of. I'm not saying he's as good as this guy obviously, but in terms of his size and running style, he reminds me a lot of LaDainian Tomlinson. Tomlinson isn't real tall either but he's strong in his lower body and can run inside or outside. Milton can do those things too and he has great hands out of the backfield."
On the recruiting front, Croson said Knox is already hearing from everybody and three schools have stepped up with offers so far.
"He gets so much mail that I have to put his in a separate bag for him to take home every day," Croson said. "I think a lot more than three schools have offered but I don't count them unless I get something in the mail. The ones that I know he has are UCLA, Mississippi and Florida State.
"You can basically name a school though and they're looking at him and I think Milton will be able to go anywhere he wants. If I had to name a front runner right now, it would have to be UCLA. He's up there all the time because he's friends with Dennis (Keyes-UCLA safety) and UCLA has been on him for a long time now. Coach Dorrell text messages him all the time and Milton really likes him a lot.
"I don't know if he'll commit early or not. He might want to make an early decision just because I can already tell that he's tired of the recruiting process and it really hasn't even started for him yet. At the same time, he might want to take some trips and see what else is out there. When it's all said and done though, I think he'll want to stay close to home so he can be near his family so from that standpoint, I think UCLA will have an edge."