Josh Carter has heard it.
Carter, Wichita Northwest’s standout senior linebacker, is one of the best players in Kansas but he holds only one scholarship offer. Coach Steve Martin said he knows why.
“It’s the cookie-cutter mold,” he said. “I’m a big believer that if Josh Carter is 6-foot, he’s one of the biggest recruits in the state of Kansas, but he isn’t tall enough. And if some school could look through that, they would be getting a tremendous football player.”
Carter received his first offer Oct. 25 from Southwestern College. He said he isn’t so worried about that right now.
“Why focus on that when I can focus on the controllables?” he said. “I don’t really like the spotlight. All the offers and that other stuff, it comes as a benefit of working hard for your team. So that’s been my thing is just focusing on getting a state title, and the rest will fall into place.”
Northwest is home to two of the highest-profile college football prospects in Kansas. Senior running back Breece Hall is verbally committed to Iowa State and holds offers from the likes of Michigan, Nebraska and others. And senior defensive end Marcus Hicks is verbally committed to Oklahoma. He holds offers Ohio State, Notre Dame and more.
Both have been considered All-Americans, and Hall was invited to play in the All-American Bowl alongside Blue Valley North quarterback Graham Mertz.
But Northwest isn’t into the state quarterfinals against rival Bishop Carroll because of two players. Athletes like Carter, running back Roy Johnson and receiver Kale Patterson might not be built like Hall or Hicks, but their impact is big.
Carter has 103 tackles this season. It is his second straight 100-tackle year. Johnson has 892 rushing yards with 12 touchdowns and is also among the team leaders in catches. And Patterson is tied for the team-high with eight receiving touchdowns on 486 yards. He has the most yards per game of any Grizzly receiver.
However, none of those players has received a Division I offer yet. Martin said that’s why recruiting is his least favorite thing about coaching.
“If you have a kid that looks like Tarzan, they will recruit him, but he can’t play a lick,” he said. “Right now we have a bunch of kids that have a big heart inside their chest that play with a chip on their shoulder.
“And that’s why we’re good.”
Martin said he considers Carter his No. 1 guy, above Hall or Hicks. That’s what Carter means to the program. He said if Johnson was at another school, he would be that team’s top offensive weapon and would have 1,800 rushing yards this season.
But because of the talent Northwest’s top two prospects offer, many Grizzlies go overshadowed. Patterson said they aren’t stat-chasers.
“At the end of the day, we came here for the ring,” he said. “We’re all here for a reason. So if somebody is having a game, it doesn’t make any sense to pout about it or try to hog the spotlight. We’re here to win games.”
Carter, Johnson and Patterson aren’t the only three other talented players on the Northwest roster. Junior quarterback Reagan Jones is a dual-threat who is already starting to heat up on the recruiting trail.
Offensive guard Javon Wheeler is an All-Metro contender because of a relentless motor. Wheeler is 5-10, 240 pounds; Martin said if Wheeler were 6-4, everyone in the country would want him. Joey Duncan is that tall and has started receiving preferred walk-on positions at Division-I programs.
And receivers Jamir Cupps and Zion Parks are a pair that has produced 776 yards and 11 touchdowns.
With so many weapons on the field at the same time, Martin said it makes his job easier, but he isn’t the only one. Teams have to choose to scheme for Hall and Hicks or try to account for all 11 of the field. Either choice can end — and has ended — poorly for the Grizzlies’ opponents in 2018.
“If we all come together and do our own assignment, we could be one of the greatest teams in the nation, I have no doubt about that,” Hicks said. “When we get everybody doing their one-eleventh, I know we can win it all.”
Northwest is 10-0 ahead of its state sectional matchup with Carroll. The last time the top two City League teams met was in Week 1. It came down to the final second as Northwest sophomore kicker Carson Arndt booted a field goal to give the Grizzlies a 23-22 win over the reigning Class 5A champion.
Northwest will be the favorite at home Friday, and Martin said because of the depth of raw talent the Grizzlies have all over the field, the Eagles will have their work cut out for them.
“We don’t have a lot of guys who walk off the bus and make people say, ‘Who are those guys?’ ” he said. “But I’ll take my 11 on both sides of the ball against anybody in the state or the regional. I don’t want anybody else’s kids. I want my guys.”