You know your favorite NFL stars, but did you know them in college? Probably so. Did you know them in high school, when they were just beginning their careers as recruits? Probably not.
Probably the most famous recruiting story from this game involves the starting 49ers quarterback. The 6'4, 172-pound Colin Kaepernick received only an offer from Nevada before committing to the Wolf Pack. Kaepernick was a three-star pro-style quarterback and was ranked 34th overall by Rivals. Many believed Kaepernick was headed to Major League Baseball, and were reluctant to offer him to play football.
Michael Crabtree was a four-star athlete from Dallas and top-25 recruit from the state of Texas in 2006. The 6'1, 190-pound Crabtree committed to Texas Tech over plenty of welcome suitors like Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Baylor and others.
Aldon Smith also flew under the radar a bit, and was the 27th-best strongside defensive end according to Rivals. The 6'5, 235-pound Smith committed to Missouri over schools like Kansas, Kansas State and Nebraska.
But since this is the Super Bowl, let's expand this out a bit.
Guard Alex Boone came to Ohio State as one of the top rated players in the entire country and the top player in Ohio. His career with the Buckeyes was up and down, and while the five-star at times lacked the footwork to play tackle, he has found a home at guard for the 49ers.
The 49ers linebacking corps is similarly loaded with former star recruits.
Navorro Bowman was one of the highest rated linebackers in the class of 2006, carrying a four-star rating, and committing to play for Penn State. And Ahmad Brooks was one of the highest rated players Virginia ever signed. Brooks was the top rated linebacker in the country in 2002, and a top-30 player nationally regardless of position. While his career at Virginia was a disappointment due to self discipline problems, he's turned it around in San Francisco.
Meanwhile, superstar linebacker Patrick Willis was not as highly recruited. A three-star out of Tennessee, the in-state Volunteers, who at that time were riding high, didn't want the three-star. Willis chose Ole Miss over Mississippi State and Memphis. Willis discussed his disappointment with NBC Sports.
"I was a Vols fan growing up," Willis said. "That was like America's Team. I wanted to go there so bad. After every game my dad and I would get in the car and drive five hours to go to Knoxville to watch them play on an unofficial visit. This was on our gas money and our time. I just wanted to show them how bad I wanted to be there. I can't forget being there and you have all these other big-time recruits there and they are shaking their hands and the coaches are talking to them. The coaches never shook my hand. They never talked to me. One day I just got tired of doing that. My senior year, I remember going up and saying, ‘Coach I see all of the other guys getting love. I really want to come here. I'm interested in coming here. Do you have something for me? Maybe a scholarship offer? Maybe something just saying you want me?' But I didn't get that. I got, ‘Well you're having a hard time. We're recruiting two other linebackers, Ernie Sims and Daniel Brooks. Those are the two guys we want.'"
Safety Dashon Goldson had to attend a community college in Kansas, but while there, blossomed into a four-star recruit, earning offers from Florida, Arkansas, Ohio State, USC and his eventual choice, Washington. His defensive backfield partner, safety Donte Whitner, was the No. 3 rated cornerback in the country in 2003 as well.
Carlos Rogers was similarly a star recruit, rated as the No. 3 cornerback recruit in the entire country in 2000, and would go on to play for one of the best Auburn teams of all time. Opposite him, corner Tarell Brown was rated as the No. 4 cornerback nationally in 2003, and chose Texas, where he won a national championship in 2005.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was a three-star, 6'5, 200-pound pro-style quarterback in 2003 who committed to Pitt. He was the 39th best pro-style quarterback prospect, and transferred to Delaware after 2004.
Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith was actually a 6'1, 184-pound dual-threat quarterback back in 2007 when he was recruited by Maryland. The offer from the Terps was the only one reported by Rivals. He was the 28th-best dual-threat quarterback in that class and managed three stars overall.
Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was a 6'5, 310-pound defensive tackle from Salt Lake City and was considered the second-best recruit in 2002 behind Vince Young. Ngata committed to Oregon and was a five-star recruit, also enjoying offers from BYU, Nebraska, Texas A&M and Washington.
Ngata's linemate was similarly a star recruit. Out of Fulton (Miss.) Itawamba Community College, Pernell McPhee was a four-star recruit and one of the top defensive end recruits in the country. He chose Mississippi State over Florida, Georgia and Michigan.
At receiver, Anquan Boldin was one of the top recruits in the country out of Pahokee (Fla.) High School. Boldin did it all for Pahokee, and had offers from all of the nation's best schools.
Courtney Upshaw is yet another highly recruited member of the Ravens defense. Out of Eufaula, Ala., Upshaw was a four-star and one of the top linebackers in the country in the class of 2008.
The two most recognizable members of the Ravens defense, Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, had very different recruitments. Reed was a two (or three) star recruit depending on what story you believe, and the Miami Hurricanes did a great job scouting him. Lewis was an All-American linebacker according to Wikipedia, and a state champion wrestler.
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