football Edit

Ranking with the Stars: Rob Gronkowski

Former Arizona star and current New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski was also a high school star, ranked as the No. 4 tight end back in 2007. We thought it would be interesting, after another great playoff performance, to look at who was ranked ahead of him back in the day.

Aron White
Aron White ()

1. Aron White -- Columbia (Mo.) Rock Bridge, Georgia

The skinny: White was a four-star prospect, ranked No. 38 overall, the No. 1 tight end and the No. 1 recruit from Missouri. White trimmed his list to Georgia, Arizona State and Missouri prior to his announcement date, but with his very good friend and teammate, four-star quarterback Logan Gray, already committed to the Bulldogs, this became more of a formality. To no one’s surprise, White did commit to Georgia and never wavered on his word. In Athens, White’s career with the Bulldogs never truly panned out, as he finished his career with 34 receptions for 512 yards and 10 touchdowns. After going undrafted in 2012, he was signed by the Atlanta Falcons after a tryout, but never made the roster.

Farrell’s take: White was clearly a talent coming out of high school if he was ranked ahead of Hernandez and Gronkowski and he was expected to be the next in a line of top-notch tight ends at Georgia. As a top pass-catching tight end, it is surprising White never owned that role in Athens, although he did have some talented teammates who also did the same thing at his position. UGA was known for getting the tight end involved and White was one of the more gifted prospects at the position when it came to reliable hands, but something was clearly missing.

Aaron Hernandez
Aaron Hernandez ()

2. Aaron Hernandez -- Bristol (Conn.) Bristol Central, Florida

The skinny: Hernandez was a four-star prospect, ranked No. 66 overall, the No. 2 tight end and the No. 1 recruit from Connecticut. With his brother, D.J. Hernandez, being a quarterback at Connecticut, the younger sibling gave an early commitment to the Huskies. However, as the offers continued to roll in, Hernandez decided to re-open his process and after spending almost a week in Gainesville, he flipped his commitment to Florida in late April. Hernandez first made an impact at Florida during his sophomore season in 2008, when he finished with 34 receptions for 381 yards and five touchdowns. In 2009, which turned out to be his final season with Florida, Hernandez won the John Mackey Award, which is annually given to the nation’s top tight end, after he totaled 68 receptions for 850 yards and five touchdowns. Hernandez was selected in the fourth round by the New England Patriots in 2010, after he slipped due to some concerns regarding his drug use in college. Teaming up with Gronkowski, who was drafted a round before him, Hernandez caught 175 passes for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns in his three seasons with the Patriots. His accomplishments on the field have become a distant memory, however, as Hernandez was indicted in August of 2013 for the murder of Odin Lloyd. On April 15, 2015, he was found guilty of first-degree murder in the Lloyd case, and is serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole in Massachusetts.

Farrell’s take: Living in Connecticut, I saw Hernandez quite a bit and he was an exceptional talent for his team, usually splitting out wide and owning whoever tried to cover him. He had the size, speed and hands to be a great one and I actually pushed for a fifth star back in the day with little success. I interacted with Hernandez a ton of times as well and while I saw his success on the field was apparent, I didn’t see his future as a criminal and murderer at all. People ask me all the time about Hernandez and in my many, many meetings and interviews with him throughout his high school career, he was one of the nicest kids I’ve dealt with.

Mike Ragone
Mike Ragone ()

3. Mike Ragone -- Cherry Hill (N.J.) Camden Catholic, Notre Dame/Kansas

The skinny: Ragone was a four-star prospect, ranked No. 83 overall, the No. 3 tight end and the No. 3 recruit from New Jersey, behind only Duval Kamara and Anthony Davis. Ragone piled up the offers after his junior season, but after taking a second visit to Notre Dame for their spring game in 2006, the Fighting Irish firmly moved to the forefront. Not delaying his decision, Ragone committed to Notre Dame in late April. Ragone’s productivity at Notre Dame was greatly hampered by injuries, most notably in his knee that cost him the better part of two seasons. After being granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA because of these injuries, Ragone decided to transfer to Kansas and play for coach Charlie Weis for his final season in 2012. With the Jayhawks, Ragone played in all 12 games, including five starts and finished with two receptions for 11 yards and one touchdown. Due to concerns regarding his knee injuries and the lack of productivity on the field, Ragone’s playing career ended after his graduation from Kansas.

Farrell’s take: Ragone was a tremendous talent out of high school, a big and long kid who was an excellent target and who could stretch the field as a long strider. Success seemed like a lock for him, but injuries derailed that in many ways. He was also a very confident kid and always felt underrated or disrespected and that chip on his shoulder was something I thought would carry over to a successful career. In the end, the knee injury really did him in and it’s a shame things didn't pan out at Notre Dame.