football Edit

Super Bowl LIV: How Chiefs, 49ers stars ranked in high school

Patrick Mahomes
Patrick Mahomes (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.

It’s Super Bowl Sunday and the matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers is anticipated to be a memorable one. Here’s a look back at five key players from each team and how we viewed them out of high school.


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Patrick Mahomes

The skinny: With in-state offers from Texas Tech, Houston and Rice, Mahomes committed to the Red Raiders during the spring after his junior season. After passing for nearly 10,000 yards and 77 touchdowns during his final two seasons in Lubbock, Mahomes decided to forego his senior season for the NFL Draft. Selected by Kansas City with the 10th overall pick, he has continued to put up schoolyard numbers in the league. Coming off an MVP season in 2018, Mahomes dynamic play this season has led the Chiefs back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1970.

Farrell’s take: Mahomes was a prolific stat-stuffer in high school with a cannon of an arm but certainly not the magician you see today as evidenced by so many schools taking a pass on him. We had him as a high three-star and he was ranked in the top 15 at his position but this was still clearly a miss. Some thought he was a system quarterback even at Texas Tech and that he improvised and took too many chances but that’s clearly what makes him great. He’s one of the best young quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen.


Tyreek Hill

The skinny: Taking the JUCO route, Hill committed to Oklahoma State over offers from Alabama, Florida State, USC and others during the spring leading up to his final season at Garden City C.C. He however was dismissed from the program during the 2014 season after a domestic violence arrest. Finding a new home at West Alabama for one season, Hill was then selected in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft by Kansas City. Initially a return specialist, he gradually made his move to wide receiver, where he has established himself as one of the elite playmakers in the NFL.

Farrell’s take: Hill was a highly regarded four-star JUCO prospect who was known for — what else? — his speed coming out. He flashed a bit of that in college for sure but off-field issues led him to slide in the draft. Now he’s one of the most dynamic playmakers in the league and has improved on his amazing speed out of high school and JUCO.


Travis Kelce

The skinny: With his brother, Jason Kelce, playing at Cincinnati, Kelce committed to the Bearcats over offers from UConn, Pittsburgh and a few MAC programs. He initially arrived as a quarterback, but after making the move to tight end he began to flourish, finishing his final collegiate season with 45 receptions for 722 yards and eight touchdowns. Selected in the third round of the 2013 draft by Kansas City, Kelce has become one of the elite tight ends in the NFL during his time with the Chiefs. This includes five trips to the Pro Bowl and four All-Pro honors.

Farrell’s take: Kelce was a two-star athlete out of high school who was a big quarterback and showed athleticism but was not a polished passer at all. He wanted a chance at QB and got it but most felt his future was at TE or DE. However it’s stunning to see his development. This is one of those projections that no one got right and the Bearcats took a chance on a legacy.


Tyrann Matthieu

The skinny: Despite an outstanding high school career, recruiting was somewhat of a struggle for Matthieu. After making a name for himself at a Tennesse camp, where he did not pick up an offer, a similar impressive performance at LSU earned him one from coach Les Myles. A commitment to the Tigers came soon after. Mathieu’s time in Baton Rouge was memorable, especially the 2011 season when he was a Heisman Trophy finalist. Selected in the third round by Arizona in 2013, he has spent time with the Cardinals, Houston and now Kansas City, where he has played at an elite level for the Chiefs this season.

Farrell’s take: Mathieu was a four-star coming out of high school despite a lack of Power Five offers because of his natural instincts, which jumped off the film and jumped out at you in person. He wasn’t very big or tall in high school but he could blanket anyone. The Tennessee summer camp was his coming out party.


Chris Jones

The skinny: This was a battle between Mississippi State and Ole Miss until the end. After committing to the Bulldogs during the summer leading up to his senior season, there were plenty of rumors of a possible flip to the Rebels leading up to NSD. However, he stayed true to his word and signed with Mississippi State. He enjoyed a productive, yet non-dynamic, collegiate career before foregoing his senior season and being drafted in the second round by Kansas City in 2016. In the NFL has has taken his game to a new level, earning second-team All-Pro honors in 2018 and a Pro Bowl invite this season.

Farrell’s take: Jones was a late discovery out of Mississippi for us and one of many prospects who earned that fifth star at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game. He was a defensive end at the time but grew into a tackle who could change direction and pursue the passer. He’s a key to the KC defense even if he doesn’t get as much attention as some others.




Nick Bosa

The skinny: Following his brother, Joey Bosa, Nick pulled no surprises and committed to Ohio State after also taking a quick look at Florida and Florida State. Dominant during his time in Columbus, Bosa was the No. 2 overall pick in 2019 by San Francisco. As a rookie he continued to dominate with the 49ers, totaling 47 tackles, nine sacks, one forced fumble and one interception, while further establishing the team’s defensive line as one of the more imposing in the league.

Farrell’s take: Unlike his brother Joey, we got this one right. Now Joey was a very high four-star out of high school and missed most of his senior year but with Nick we weren’t going to mess around. Some felt he was better than his brother at the same stage and that was quite the debate but we know the athleticism, power and determination were there to make him a superstar.


Jimmy Garoppolo

The skinny: Playing mostly linebacker until late in his high school career, Garoppolo’s college interest mainly came from FCS schools when he decided to commit to Eastern Illinois. His development in college pushed him all the way into the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, where he was selected by New England. Backing up Tom Brady during most of his time with the Patriots, he was traded to San Francisco during the 2017 season, where he has since established himself as the offensive leader of the 49ers.

Farrell’s take: Jimmy G was not a polished quarterback at all and his arm strength was average which is why so many teams passed on him. But he did play physically and had a strong drive and determination. But did we think he’d end up as a Super Bowl starter? Never.

George Kittle

The skinny: Kittle committed to Iowa over Air Force after receiving a last-minute offer from the Hawkeyes. After totaling 42 receptions for 604 yards and 10 touchdowns during his last two seasons at Iowa, he was selected in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft by San Francisco. Arriving in the league with little fanfare, Kittle has quickly become one of the top young tight ends in the league, which included a record-breaking season in 2018. He continued his tremendous level of play this season with 85 receptions for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns to this point.

Farrell’s take: Iowa saw something in this tall-but-gangly wide receiver out of Oklahoma that most others didn’t see and helped develop him into a monster. He was a solid high school football player against weak competition but nothing about him screamed potential All-Pro and Hall of Famer.


DeForest Buckner

The skinny: Oregon was considered Buckner’s heaving favorite for several months, so despite a late push by both UCLA and California, he ended any speculation with a commitment to the Ducks at the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl. After an impressive collegiate career in Eugene, he was selected with the seventh overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft by San Francisco and quickly earned a starting job for the 49ers. Finishing his fourth season in San Francisco, he totaled 61 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks and two forced fumbles as part of a defensive line that dominated most opponents.

Farrell’s take: Buckner was a tall, skinny defensive end out of high school who played awful competition in Hawaii. We liked his upside and athleticism but he was very raw and we had no clue how he’d develop at the college level. Well, he turned out to be an athletic freak and first-rounder, and is one of the best interior pass rushers in the league.


Richard Sherman

The skinny: Sherman was long-considered a Stanford lean before he finally committed to the Cardinal during an official visit to Palo Alto in mid-January. He did take an official visit to Washington the week before Stanford, but the Huskies never offered. After a successful collegiate career, Sherman was selected in the fifth round of the 2011 draft by Seattle. While he long ago made a name for himself in Seattle during his seven seasons with the Seahawks, he has now done the same in San Francisco after a move prior to the 2018 season. Enjoying one of his best professional seasons, with 61 tackles, 11 pass break-ups and three interceptions, he will undoubtedly be tested by the Kansas City pass defense.

Farrell’s take: Sherman was a talented two-way player out of high school who was tall but very skinny and didn’t do anything to amaze. However he was very smart and supremely confident. He took those skills to Stanford and grew into one of the elite cornerbacks in all of football. Many schools were kicking themselves that they passed a few years into college.