I spent New Year's Eve in a Holiday Inn Express in Longview, Texas, watching Saturday Night Live on television, eating turkey and salami sandwiches I have brought with me from home and washing them down with Mountain Dew. How's that for a celebration.
The best town to spend New Year's Eve in is San Antonio. The Riverwalk is especially festive.
There is nothing to do in Longview. But it is better than Crowley, La., in Cajun country. One year, I met with Cajun people for dinner on New Year's Eve. I had to leave the party at 9 because I had to get up at 3 to drive to Beaumont, Texas, to meet some players. I got woke up by some shotguns going off outside my room at the Quality Inn in Crowley. They were celebrating the New Year. I haven't been back since.
I left Chicago on Dec. 26 to begin my January trip to Arizona, Arkansas and Texas. After attending the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and junior combine in San Antonio, I'll travel to Oklahoma and Missouri on my way home, then attend junior day at Iowa, fly to North Carolina to interview the top 40 players in that state, then go to Georgia, return to Austin, Texas, for another combine on the last weekend in January, then go to New York for national signing day on CBS College Sports Network.
Along the way, I plan to meet with one of the three best juniors in the nation--6-6, 190-pound wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckum of Springfield, Mo., the closest wide receiver I have seen to Randy Moss. He also is a basketball star. As a junior, he caught 77 passes. As a senior, he caught 80 for 1,700 yards and averaged over 20 yards per catch.
Green-Beckum is one of three players I rate as primary candidates for Player of the Year recognition in 2012. The others are running back Jonathan Gray of Aledo, Texas, whom I met last week in Dallas, and 6-8 320-pound offensive tackle Zach Banner of Seattle, Wash.
Gray, a 6-0, 195-pounder, has over 30 offers, more than anyone else in Texas. He has been offered by Notre Dame and Iowa. He is the best back I have seen since Adrian Peterson. The Texas Player of the Year, he rushed for more than 3,000 yards in 2010. He is the top-rated player in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He'll play in the NFL someday.
Why is it so important to go on the road and see kids? Because you have to get to know them, what they think, how they look, their passion for the game. This is what the NFL does. You can't evaluate players accurately by talking on the telephone and looking at U-Tube video. Sure, I miss holidays and New Year's Eve. But this is the only way to do it. I met the top 40 players in Houston on Sunday, then will go to San Antonio and have lunch with Texas coach Mack Brown on Wednesday. I have no time to watch bowl games.
Who are the other top players in the Dallas/Fort Worth area?
Mario Edwards, a 6-3, 230-pound defensive end from Denton, a top 25 player whose father played in the NFL. Thomas Johnson, a 6-0, 180-pound wide receiver from Dallas Skyline who has 20 offers. Johnson's teammate, 6-1, 200-pound linebacker Peter Jinkens, who has 4.4 speed. Tra Rabon, a 6-2, 185-pound wide receiver from Dallas Skyline. Curtis Riser, a 6-4, 280-pounder from Desoto who is the best offensive lineman in Texas. Jonathan Williams, a 6-0, 200-pound running back from Allen who has no offers at the moment but is the biggest sleeper in the country at his position.
Also 6-4, 185-pound wide receiver Jeff Thomas of Duncanville, another sleeper who has no offers but will be highly recruited. Jeremiah Tshimanga, a 6-3, 220-pound linebacker from North Richland Hills who has offers from Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. Corey Coleman, a 5-11, 175-pound running back/defensive back from Richardson who has been timed in 10.5 seconds for 100 meters. Michael Richardson, a 6-2, 220-pound defensive end from Desoto who has been offered by Notre Dame. Devin Rushing, a 5-10, 180-pound running back from Desoto, who has 10.5 speed for 100 meters. Damien Neroes, a 6-2, 210-pound defensive back/outside linebacker from Garland who projects to have more than 30 offers.
By the way, in case you didn't notice, Thornridge running back Mikail McCall confirmed my original report that he had committed to Iowa. The reason I got it first was because I talked to other prospects who were being recruited by Iowa. It was common knowledge among recruits, Iowa coaches and Iowa media. The Iowa Press-Citizen asked me to comment on McCall's commitment. He told everybody he had committed.