By Joe Davidson
The football honors keep coming.
Days after Dano Graves of Folsom and Vei Moala of Grant were named to the MaxPreps All-America team as senior anchor leaders, it's time for Arik Armstead of Pleasant Grove and Shaq Thompson of Grant.
The spectacular juniors were named today to the MaxPreps Junior All-American team. Compiled by Stephen Spiewak and Kevin Askeland of MaxPreps, two of the very best in the business, the Junior All-American Team was a challenging chore with thousands of prospects from hundreds of schools.
Armstead is a major national recruit with a verbal commitment to USC, a two-way lineman whom Pleasant Grove position coach Dale Ellingsworth says could be the best the area has seen, and I am wondering the same. He has another year to emerge as an all-time great.
I've seen John Tregalles of Cordova in 1985, Jason Fisk of Davis in 1989, Tedy Bruschi of Roseville in 1990, the Bannan brothers at Bella Vista in the mid 1990s, Clyde Sanders of Grant in 1995, Manase Hopoi of Valley in 2000, Mitch Quist of Elk Grove in 2001, Andrew Jackson of Nevada Union in 2005, Sean Nill of Laguna Creek in 2008, Moala and Puka Lopa of Grant now and Armstead's skill set and upside are terrific.
Thompson is a player who just makes you sigh and go, "oh man, you see that?" He's that special. He will emerge as a National Player of the Year prospect next season for his ability to do a lot of things quite well.
Thompson can run the ball with breathtaking ability, catch it over defenders or on the fly, throw it and punt it.
He is just as superb as a defensive back and could become Grant's all-time leading recruit, higher than tailback Channing Williams in 1982 (Arizona State), defensive tackle Clyde Sanders in 1995 (Colorado), quarterback Chad Elliott in 1996 (Arizona State, Syracuse), receiver Donte Stallworth in 1998 (Tennessee), tailback Onterrio Smith in 1999 (Tennessee, Oregon), linebacker Worrell Williams in 2004 (Cal), cornerback Syd Thompson in 2005 (Cal) or any of the star-studded guys now, such as Moala.
Thompson, younger brother of Syd, is already being heavily recruited. Cal has offered (coach Jeff Tedford is no fool, as he enjoyed Syd's four-year starting career at corner and has become close with mother Patty Thompson).
Thompson is nearly 6-2 now, and 195 pounds, and expected to still grow. And he has state-meet speed with superb grades, a great demeanor and always sure to talk to kids in the community or in the hospital.
Armstead, meanwhile, frightens teams in pads. Outside of gear, he is all manners and charm, a great young man and scholar. And his athletic gifts are remarkable at 6-foot-7 and 280 pounds, a pile mover with agility.
He has bloodlines, too. His older brother Armond has been a standout defensive lineman at USC, and their father Gus, played basketball at Sacramento State and has for years been a personal trainer for athletes across the globe. This is one very tight-knit family.
Arik was a dominating lineman for Pleasant Grove's 13-1 Sac-Joaquin Section Division I title team this past fall, and he will lead a core of returners that expect to push for a State Bowl game.
In the meantime, Arik is playing basketball, where his good hands, good feet and ability to rebound, run the floor and defend make him quite the prospect in that sport, too.
The MaxPreps National Player of the Year announcement is next week, with Graves in the running after he scored a total of stunning 85 total touchdowns, a state record, and led the Bulldogs to the State Division II championship.