The National Football League will present an award to Lake Highlands High School Friday afternoon as part of a new program to celebrate high schools who have graduated student athletes who’ve gone on to play in the Super Bowl. The Wildcats are special in that regard – we’ve sent 11 to the NFL and had 3 play in the Super Bowl: Merton Hanks, Detron Smith and Matt Stover. All have been invited to Friday’s pep rally and Merton Hanks is a confirmed attendee.
Merton Hanks, playing safety, still holds records at his alma mater Iowa for blocked kicks – in a game (2), in a season (3) and during a career (7). He was drafted by San Francisco in 1991 and played for the 49er team that won the 1994 Super Bowl. He was selected for 4 Pro Bowl and 3 All-Pro teams and had 33 career interceptions and 6 touchdowns. He retired from play in 1999 after one year with the Seattle Seahawks.
Hanks later worked as NFL VP of Operations, overseeing everything from college relations to approving fabrics for team jerseys. In 2013, he famously fined Detroit Lion Ndamukong Suh $31,500 for a hit on quarterback Brandon Weeden (then playing for Cleveland, today leading the Cowboys while Romo’s shoulder heals). Hanks said, “I wanted to get Suh’s attention.”
Detron Smith was a star fullback for the Wildcats, scoring 15 touchdowns and averaging 7.5 yards per carry. He was a top college prospect, and his play for Texas A&M included a Southwest Conference title in 1993. The first blocking fullback selected in the 1996 draft, Smith signed with the Denver Broncos and earned Super Bowl rings in 1997 and 1998. He was chosen for the Pro Bowl in 1999.
Matt Stover graduated from LHHS in 1986, earning All-District honors at both wide receiver and kicker. He kicked a 53-yard field goal for the Wildcats, and, during his senior year at Louisiana Tech, he kicked a record-setting 57-yarder. During his college days, he scored 262 points and kicked 7 field goals of 50 yards or more.
Stover was drafted by the New York Giants in 1990, but was on injured reserve that Super Bowl-winning year. He next played five years in Cleveland, then signed with the Baltimore Ravens. He earned another Super Bowl ring in 2000 – a season in which the only Raven points were his field goals during 5 league games. Stover played 13 seasons with Baltimore and was inducted into the Ravens Ring of Honor.
He became the oldest player in Super Bowl history at 42 after he signed as a free agent with Indianapolis during the 2009 season. When he retired following that game, he was the NFL’s fourth all-time leading scorer with 2,004 points.
Note: Marshall Newhouse was on injured reserve as a rookie when the Packers won the Super Bowl in Dallas, but he didn’t suit up and play in the Super Bowl and he isn’t listed on the official roster for that game (though he did receive a Super Bowl ring and enjoyed participating in all the festivities). He figured prominently in the Packers’ winning seasons the following three years at starting left tackle. He played for Cincinnati one year before signing with New York, where he plays today. He was the state shot put champion and state 3rd place power lifter while at LHHS, and he was a difference maker all 4 years at TCU.
The following Wildcats have played in the NFL (thank you football guru Keith Whitmire for putting this together):
Marcus Coleman, DB, 1996-2001 Jets, 2002-2005, 2006 Cowboys
Derrick Cullors, RB, 1997-1998 Patriots
Phil Dawson, K, 1999-2012 Browns, 2013-2015 ‘49ers
*Merton Hanks, FS, 1991-1998 ‘49ers, 1999 Seahawks
Marshall Newhouse, OL, 2010-2013 Packers, 2014 Bengals, 2015 Giants
Reggie Newhouse, WR, 2004-2005 Cardinals
Frank Okam, DT, 2008-2009 Texans, 2010 Texans-Seahawks-Bucs, 2011 Bucs
Wade Smith, OL, 2003-2004 Dolphins, 2006-2007 Jets, 2008-2009 Chiefs, 2010-2013 Texans, 2014 Eagles
*Detron Smith, RB, 1996-2001 Broncos, 2002-2003 Colts
*Matt Stover, K, 1991-1995 Browns, 1996-2008 Ravens, 2009 Colts
Andre Tillman, TE, 1975-1978 Dolphins
The VIP group from the NFL will present the award to LHHS at the Wildcat pep rally, which begins at 1:50 p.m. Friday and will be held in the LHHS gym. Parents and other community members are welcome. The Cats play Berkner later that night. Go Cats!