Player of the Year: Deontay Greenberry
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He’s qualified because: Set state single-season receiving records for yards (2,165) and touchdowns (33) — scoring at least once in every game — while becoming only the Central Section’s fourth representative in 121 years to be named Mr. Football State Player of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports. Ranked as the nation’s seventh best college receiving prospect in the class of 2012 by Scout.com, the Notre Dame commit caught a Central Section-record 109 passes while leading the Panthers to a 14-0 record, a repeat section Division IV title and the CIF State Championship D-III bowl crown with a 21-16 victory against previously unbeaten Campolindo of Moraga. Playing at Edison as a sophomore before transferring to Washington, he finished with three-year totals of 207 receptions for 3,953 yards and 47 TDs.
We break from the routine in presenting The Bee’s latest Player of the Year in high school football: Deontay Greenberry of Washington.
This isn’t merely the annual season’s best in the Central Section, from Chowchilla to Bakersfield, this is the best ever — statistically, for a wide receiver — in the state of California.
Greenberry stretched receptions for more yards (2,165) and touchdowns (33) than any in state history while leading the Panthers to a 14-0 record and section and state bowl championships.
The significance? Consider:
-- Prep football has been played in California for 121 years.
-- The state has harvested 14 Heisman Trophy winners — from 1946, with Army’s Glenn Davis (Bonita High of La Verne), to 2005, with USC’s Reggie Bush (Helix High of La Mesa).
-- The state has produced three NFL Hall of Fame receivers in Tom Fears (Manual Arts of Los Angeles), Lynn Swann (Serra of San Mateo) and James Lofton (Washington of Los Angeles).
Yet Greenberry — striding like a greyhound, elevating with the ease of an Olympic high jumper and clutching the ball with the strength of a vice grip — outproduced them all.
“The state records mean a lot, of course,” he says. “But it was not something I went out there to do. I just wanted to have fun on the field.”
Committed to Notre Dame, with USC and UCLA still long shots, Greenberry’s attributes have been appreciated far beyond remote Easton in southwest Fresno County.
Here are opinions from three national recruiting analysts:
Brandon Huffman, Scout.com: “The meteoric rise he’s had is just amazing. He’s one of those guys that the bigger the stage, the brighter he shines.”
Scott Kennedy, director of scouting/foxsports.com: “Greenberry combines the grace of a receiver with the raw power and leaping ability of a power forward getting rebounds. His size and ability to adjust on the ball make him an excellent target, even if he appears to be covered. Is prone to taking plays off, but the physical tools are all there; he’s as good as he wants to be.”
Greg Powers, Scout.com: “He’s a guy that impresses me every time I see him. I think I was the first one to really scout him on a personal level at the Team USA trials, and from that moment on I felt pretty confident he was a national, Top 100 type of talent. He’s passionate. He’s aggressive, and he’s dedicated. He’s very, very competitive, and that kind of edge is what I think sets him apart from other players across the country at his position.”
No one has had a more intimate look, however, than Jeff Freitas.
The Washington coach has seen — has expected, has counted on — the sensational catches. He’s heard Greenberry’s on-field trash talk. And he’s certainly felt the resulting wrath of opposition.
For all that, the coach says: “He’s a high-profile guy, a vocal guy and obviously a lot of attention has been heaped upon him. Sometimes he puts up a shield that says he’s a tougher guy than he is.
“But I know who he is and what he’s made of, I know how well he does academically and socially. He was the homecoming king, and that doesn’t happen with an arrogant jerk. Kids vote, and they voted for Deontay because they like him. He’s liked throughout campus. Administration and faculty rave about him. I wish I had more kids like him.”
The 14-year coach paused, reflected and expressed the obvious: “Kids like that don’t come through the hallways every day.”
Not even in the entire state of California.