Today marks the return of Monday Night Football, and the Oakland Raiders’ first game of the latest Jon Gruden era. It’s an exciting time, frankly.
For football fans in the 209 area code, however, the significance of today's action doesn’t end there.
When the Raiders host the Los Angeles Rams at 7:20 p.m., they’ll do so with St. Mary’s High product Doug Martin as part of the team’s backfield. On the opposite sideline, the Rams will unveil their prized offseason acquisition, Lincoln High graduate and star wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
That’s not all. Justin Davis, another Lincoln product, is third on the Rams’ running back depth chart. And in today’s earlier game, when the New York Jets take on the Detroit Lions at 4:10 p.m., defensive back and Edison High alum Trumaine Johnson will lead the New York defense.
It’s a rather unique occurrence, with that many area products sharing the national spotlight today. At least to some of the area’s longtime football figures, it’s a event that’s not lost on this community.
“It’s neat to see these guys come out of this area, and end up playing on the biggest stage possible,” said Tony Franks, the head coach at St. Mary’s. “It’s amazing to watch those guys in that arena. It really is.”
Franks coached Martin throughout his high school career, one that culminated in a 1,234-yard senior season in 2006. The coach also went up against Cooks and Davis in their time as Trojan standouts, and spoke highly of the talent of Johnson, the former Viking.
From a coach’s perspective, a showcase like today's brings the entire athletic spectrum full circle, Franks said. The vast majority of players suiting up as professionals were once high school athletes, he said, and got their first opportunities to shine on Friday nights.
“It kind of ties everything together,” Franks said. “It makes what we do here at the high school level really important.”
Brian Gray, the current athletic director at Lincoln High and former head coach for the Trojans, coached both Cooks and Davis and was also an assistant at St. Mary’s when Martin was a Ram.
He’s watched as each area standout went on to experience success on the sport’s biggest stage. Cooks is coming off three straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons, a Super Bowl appearance last year with the New England Patriots and was the featured guest at The Record’s second annual Best of the Record All-Star Preps Awards Banquet in June.
Martin has rushed for at least 1,400 yards twice in his career, and Johnson recently signed a five-year, $72.5 million contract to be a shutdown defender for the Jets.
It’s not something Gray has had previous experience with, he said, so it is difficult to verbalize the feeling of watching these athletes excel. He will be watching, though, as will likely millions of others as these former Stockton stars take the NFL stage once more.
“It’s every coach’s dream, whether they play in the NFL or not, to see the kids you coach do well in life,” Gray said. “You’re in awe when you watch a kid on TV with your family and friends, and that kid was at your house, or in your car. It’s hard to put into words what you’re thinking when you watch that kid.
“It’ll be something special to watch.”
Contact reporter Nick Woodard at (209) 546-8272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@nwoodard25.