TYLER — John Tyler and Longview have played each other 96 times.
But Thursday night was different.
Cameras surrounded the field as the game was televised by ESPN2.
What brought the ESPN family of networks to East Texas?
“Obviously you’re looking for great matchups and having No. 1 quarterback in the country in Haynes King is always a good reason to show up,” said Craig Haubert, who is the ESPN college football national recruiting coordinator.
Haubert said a company called Paragon Marketing Group works in conjunction with ESPN to provide the high school showcases, something he has been involved in for six seasons now. Haubert has worked at ESPN since 2005 overall.
More than an hour before Thursday’s matchup, Haubert commented on some of the prospects on display on Earl Campbell Field at Christus Trinity Mother Frances.
First up was King, who is the No. 18 ranked prospect by ESPN and the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the country.
“Just heading into his senior year, there’s still plenty to see,” Haubert said. “I think the signs are there that he has a chance to be special. First of all, it starts with natural ability. He’s a phenomenal athlete He’s the type of guy that you get him in a testing setting, and he will wow you. I was looking today at his testing numbers from a Nike camp, and they were comparable, and I mean comparable down to the tenth of a second to the numbers that Justin Fields put up when he was a senior, and people thing of Fields as a phenomenal athlete. Haynes King was very parallel to him in his testing type of numbers.”
Fields was the No. 1 overall player in the ESPN rankings in the Class of 2018, and he is the current start quarterback for Ohio State.
Haubert continued on his assessment of the Texas A&M commit: “He’s a phenomenal athletes, got a strong arm and is a coach’s kid, so he’s kind of got a feel around the game. And I think what’s most important when you want a quarterback that’s going to be successful is do they have the physical ability and do they have the intangible qualities where his teammates kind of rally around him.
“So when you put the physical with the mental, I think you have the recipe to have a really successful player. I think he checks all of those boxes right now, so I think he’s got a chance to really be one of those guys like a Kyler Murray, like a Matthew Stafford that has a really bright future ahead of him.”
On the other side of the football was John Tyler running back/cornerback Kitan Crawford, who ESPN has ranked as the No. 85 recruit in the country and the No 6 athlete. Crawford is a University of Texas pledge.
“For us and I believe for Texas, he projects in the secondary,” Haubert said. “Obviously when you’re at the high school level, you want to get the football in your best player’s hands. I think when you’re looking at why he’s a highly rated corner. He’s got a great frame. He matches up well with big receivers. He’s got tremendous feet, and he is a really quick-footed player.
“I had a chance to visit with him yesterday, and when you see him in person, he’s got kind of a broad build. He’s really kind of well put together. He’s physical, but he’s also athletic enough to turn and be able to run with receivers and he’s got good ball skills. I think he’s a type of guy who could really be scheme versatile but more importantly, he can match up with big receivers.”
Two other players Haubert was looking forward to watching Thursday was Longview defensive lineman Sawyer Goram-Welch and John Tyler quarterback/linebacker/defensive back Isaiah Johnson.
Goram-Welch is a three-star recruit with offers from SMU, Illinois, Oklahoma State, Purdue, Texas Tech, Air Force, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Monroe, Memphis, Rice, Southern Miss and Tulane.
“He’s got some Power 5 offers. He just visited Oklahoma State, and he’s visited SMU,” Haubert said. “He’s got a wide powerful lower body. Watching him on film, I kind of felt like he was a Power 5 guy. He’s got a good initial burst. The things he needs to work on are teachable things like his hands and his pad level. He can get off the football, and he’s naturally strong.
“I think he’s a guy who is definitely a Power 5 guy. SMU is obviously hoping they can change his mind on that, but I would not at all be surprised for him to be a Power 5 player and for him to be a really productive college player.”
Johnson plays quarterback for the Lions, but Haubert was looking forward to seeing him on defense after talking to John Tyler head football coach Ricklan Holmes and Crawford.
“Coach Holmes at John Tyler has raved about him, raved about him to the point that he now a guy I want to see,” Haubert said.
Crawford and Johnson both intercepted passes in the first half.