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How every Super Bowl 53 starter rated as a high school recruit

Some were stars; others weren’t even recruited to play football.

Colorado v Michigan Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

The Super Bowl is the biggest game in football. But every player in the game had to start somewhere. And most were recruited out of high school and evaluated by scouts.

With the help of the internet, we’ve got a time machine that tells us how almost every player in Super Bowl 53’s Rams-Patriots matchup was rated coming out of high school.

Not counting kickers and punters (who’ve rarely been rated), each team has at least one usual starter who was not rated coming out of high school, either because they weren’t scouted well enough, they developed late, or they came through high school before the modern recruiting industry. Recruits have been rated publicly only since the early 2000s.

The Patriots’ players were relatively unheralded as recruits.

How the Patriots’ starters rated as recruits

Player Stars College
Player Stars College
WR Chris Hogan 0 or N/A Monmouth
LT Trent Brown 3 Florida
LG Joe Thuney 2 NC State
C David Andrews 3 Georgia
RG Shaq Mason 3 Georgia Tech
RT Marcus Cannon 3 TCU
TE Rob Gronkowski 4 Arizona
WR Julian Edelman 3 Kent State
QB Tom Brady 4* Michigan
RB Sony Michel 5 Georgia
RB James White 3 Wisconsin
DE Trey Flowers 3 Arkansas
DT Lawrence Guy 4 Arizona State
DT Malcolm Brown 5 Texas
DE Deatrich Wise Jr. 3 Arkansas
LB Dont'a Hightower 4 Alabama
LB Elandon Roberts 0 or N/A Houston
LB Kyle Van Noy 4 BYU
CB Stephon Gilmore 4 South Carolina
CB Jason McCourty 0 or N/A Rutgers
S Patrick Chung 2 Oregon
S Devin McCourty 2 Rutgers

Though 16 out of 22 Patriots starters were rated at least three-stars, the Patriots’ average star rating sits at 2.9, thanks to three unrated recruits. The average of the players who were rated is 3.2.

* Tom Brady was a recruit before recruiting rankings, but we’ve retroactively made him a four-star with an asterisk. From California, he was a Michigan signee with plenty of offers from other national powers and attention in national media outlets. In today’s landscape, he would’ve unquestionably been a blue-chip.

*Chris Hogan was actually a lacrosse player in college, for Penn State. And he was a damn good one, having been selected as a 2006 Under Armour High School All-American. Focusing on a sport other than football is a way to fall through the cracks in football scouting, obviously, though coaches often love two-sport athletes.

And some of the players on the Patriots have been stars for almost their entire lives. Running back Sony Michel was well known throughout the state of Florida scouting circles as an eighth-grader! Cornerback Stephon Gilmore was the No. 1 player in the state of South Carolina in the 2009 class. The Gamecocks offered him in September of 2007.

The Rams were rated slightly higher as recruits.

How the Rams’ starters rated as recruits

Player Stars College
Player Stars College
QB Jared Goff 4 Cal
RB Todd Gurley 4 Georgia
WR Brandin Cooks 3 Oregon State
WR Robert Woods 5 USC
WR Josh Reynolds 3 Texas A&M
TE Tyler Higbee 2 WKU
LT Andrew Whitworth 5 LSU
LG Roger Saffold 2 Indiana
C John Sullivan 4 Notre Dame
RG Austin Blythe 4 Iowa
RT Rob Havenstein 3 Wisconsin
DE Michael Brockers 4 LSU
NT Ndamukong Suh 4 Nebraska
DT Aaron Donald 3 Pitt
WLB Dante Fowler Jr. 5 Florida
OLB Samson Ebukam 0 or N/A Eastern Washington
ILB Corey Littleton 3 Washington
ILB Mark Barron 4 Alabama
CB Marcus Peters 3 Washington
CB Aqib Talib 2 Kansas
S John Johnson III 2 Boston College
S Lamarcus Joyner 5 Florida State

The Rams come in with an average rating of 3.4, higher than the Patriots.

L.A. has just one starter who was not rated out of high school. The Rams’ players who were rated have an average of 3.5.

Recruiting fans scanning the Rams’ roster will be familiar with those like Todd Gurley, Robert Woods, Mark Barron, and Lamarcus Joyner, and Dante Fowler Jr. , all of whom were rated four- of five-stars coming out of high school. I particularly remember watching Joyner and Fowler. as prep stars and thinking just how much faster they moved than the other elite players at the time.

One name they likely would not know is Samson Ebukam. Out of Portland, Oregon, Ebukam somehow fell through the cracks. He had no FBS offers and no star rating.

His bio from Eastern Washington shows that not only was he an excellent student, but he was a really good high school player.

He was a two-way starter for the Scots, and also played fullback, as a senior in 2012 ... Also played basketball and competed in track and field at David Douglas. He placed second as a senior in both the javelin (school-record 205-6) and the shot put (personal-best 55-2 1/2) at the State 6A Track Championships. He came just six inches from the javelin title and 1 1/2 inches from the shot put championship, as David Douglas finished third as a team. Ebukam was third at state in the javelin as a sophomore. He set the school record with a throw of 184-10. He also ran on the school’s 4x100 meter relay team.

Further confounding is that apparently he impressed then-Washington defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi at a camp in the summer of 2012.

In the drills he impressed as UW Coach Tosh Lupoi watched smiling at Samson’s quick feet and ability to move off the ball. Those skills translated to the 1-1 portion of the camp where he was able to beat most of the Offensive Linemen off the ball while also showing he would come back inside against the grain with a nice change of direction.

I have no idea why the college coaches in attendance did not offer.

Ebukam’s teammate at EWU and now with the Rams, Cooper Kupp, had a similar story.

Here’s the full star-rating breakdown.

  • Five-stars: The Patriots have two, while the Rams have four.
  • Four-stars: The Patriots have six, while the Rams have seven.
  • Three-stars: The Patriots have eight, while the Rams have six.
  • Two-stars or lower: The Patriots have six, while the Rams have five.

In total, 43 percent of the Super Bowl starters were four- or five-star recruits. To put it another way, about two in every five Super Bowl starters were four- or five-star recruits, but only about one in every 770 rated recruits gets that many stars — and hundreds of thousands of high school players don’t get rated at all. So, yes, your odds of starting in the Super Bowl are, unsurprisingly, much higher if you were a superstar recruit in high school.

All rankings via the 247Sports Composite.