PSL’s Crockett High faces tough test in nonleague football season opener

Crockett High School’s football program is proof that if you can make it in the Detroit Public School League, you can make it to the top.
With a student body of less than 900, the southeast Detroit 9th-12th-grade school proudly points to Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Ed Johnson, Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Trevor Anderson and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham as shining examples of its strong football lineage.
All three are impact players in the National Football League after taking their first steps toward stardom on PSL turf as Crockett High Rockets.
“Three guys in the NFL, that’s one of our program’s biggest sources of pride,” says Crockett head coach Rod Oden. “Our goal is always to push guys to the next level.
“Usually, when we talk about that, we’re talking about guys going on to play collegiate ball and getting guys an opportunity to continue their careers. But we’ve done better than that because only a select few guys have an opportunity to play in the NFL. We have three.”
Oden, entering his sixth season as the Rockets’ head coach and his 11th with the program, expects the fertile pipeline of talent to continue. “Our strength this year is our overall experience,” Oden says.
“Last year, we started 13 freshmen and sophomores, so all these guys have played as young guys. Some of our sophomores have 12 varsity starts under their belts.”
With 16 starters returning from last year’s 10-2 team, Crockett opens the 2010 season Friday at 7:30 p.m. with a huge nonleague showdown against Monroe St. Mary’s at Osborn High School.
In two other key nonleague openers, King collides against Birmingham Brother Rice (Friday, 7 p.m.) at Farmington Hills Harrison High School; and Cass Tech battles Ann Arbor Pioneer (Saturday, 8 p.m.) at Eastern Michigan University.
Other nonleague openers include: Cody at Kettering (7 p.m.), Denby at Pershing (3 p.m.) and Southfield at Northwestern (7:30 p.m.) on Thursday; Finney at Hamtramck (6 p.m.), Central at Mumford (6 p.m.), Renaissance at Ecorse (7 p.m.) and Western at Grosse Ile (7 p.m.) on Friday; and Southwestern vs. Douglass at Southfield Lathrup High School (6 p.m.) and Ford at Warren De La Salle (1 p.m.) on Saturday.
The contest between Crockett and Monroe St. Mary’s is a rematch of last year’s thriller at Monroe, where visiting Crockett scored on the last play of the game to win 32-26. Both teams are perennial state playoff contenders.
Last year, Monroe St. Mary’s rebounded from its season-opening loss to the Rockets by winning 13 in a row and reaching the state Class B finals.
“It’s always important to get off to a good start, but this is a big game for us against a very good team,” Oden says. “Some schools shy away from tough openers, but Crockett will play anybody. We always like a test that first week to see what kind of team we have. This game will help us down the line to get ready for the state (championship).”
When Crockett takes the field Friday, its players will be resplendent in brand new uniforms donated by Graham, a 2006 graduate and No. 1 draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles from the University of Michigan. Johnson, who played at Penn State, donated the uniforms the Rockets previously wore. Along with Anderson, who played for Michigan State, the trio comprise only a portion of the Division I football talent the Rockets have been able to produce. The list continues to grow each year.
“Our success is attributable to the fact that we have a program, and the guys see it as a responsibility to give unconditionally to the program after they’re gone,” Oden says. “A lot of that has to do with our coaching staff. It has been together since the beginning and has remained virtually intact.
“Some schools don’t get guys until their sophomore and junior years, but our guys join the program in the ninth grade and they grow and develop with us. They drink the Kool-Aid so to speak, and wholeheartedly believe in the system. We tell them that if they do what we tell you to do, you’ll be successful. That blind faith has been rewarded.”

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