NFL Factory: Fort Bend Elkins could lead Texas with most HS players in the league in 2020 after draft
HOUSTON – Dennis Brantley remembers the first time Kenneth Murray lowered the boom on an opponent. He remembers Ross Blacklock walking in the door as a freshman and the sheer size he possessed at a young age.
The Fort Bend Elkins coach got to watch them grow up before his eyes and go off to college – Murray to Oklahoma and Blacklock to TCU – and now in two days see their lifelong dreams come true to a national audience during the 2020 NFL Draft.
"It makes me very proud," Brantley said. "Everybody knows how hard it is to get into the NFL. To know that we have that caliber of players to come through Elkins, not only with their athletic ability but also their attitude and character. It makes me proud that we are doing something right as far as the program goes and teaching kids the right way. Not just about football but about life."
Murray and Blacklock are both projected to be first round picks, which puts them among elite company in Knights' football history. Their names would then be mentioned in the same breath as Atlanta Falcon Jake Matthews and Jacksonville Jaguar D.J. Hayden. In 2014, Matthews was picked sixth overall and in Hayden 12th overall in 2013.
When they arrived at Elkins, Murray and Blacklock were a year a part.
Blacklock was the first to walk on campus and if you go back to the roster from 2013 - his sophomore season, the now projected first-round defensive tackle was listed as a running back, tight end and defensive end.
"He was such an athlete," Brantley said. "He could catch the ball as good as anyone. He could run the ball. He could throw the ball. As a freshman, I think Ross was about 280. He was so athletic. He was happy-go-lucky, always laughing. Always had a smile on his face and never took stuff too seriously. Once they turned the lights on and blew the whistle, he played with a lot of 'kid enthusiasm'."
For Murray, what Brantley remembers the most about the projected Top 20 pick, is from day one he had goals in mind and took care of business on and off the field.
"He was very serious as a youngster about the goals he had made coming in," Brantley said. "This kid never made anything less than a B, if he made a B at all. He never missed a practice in season, offseason, summer season. He came in as a leader and left as a leader. Just one of those kids that never had a write up, was never late to class. He had a mission, he had goals and he was serious about it at a young age."
Them being drafted in the first round would give Elkins a total of four first-rounders and could add to the list of active NFL players. In 2019, Elkins had four former players – Corey Thompson (Bills), Darvin Kidsy Jr. (Redskins), Matthews (Falcons) and Hayden (Jaguars) – on active rosters. If you add in practice squad, J'Mon Moore was with the Browns in 2019, bringing the total to five.
Having this many guys in the NFL does a whole lot for their program, Brantley said, because then when they come back to talk his current players have someone to look up to and aspire to be like.
"They tell them what they had to go through, things they did to get to where they are and it really helps," Brantley said. "'I and the coaches can talk about being disciplined, dedicated and hard-working all day but when it comes from guys that were in the same shoes as they are in, it's an easy motivation. They see that there is a possibility that it could happen."
According to Pro Football Reference, Elkins' four active NFL players currently ranks them second in Texas in that category. Allen currently holds the most with six, while Elkins is tied at four with North Shore – which will add K'Lavon Chaisson this week to the list – Alief Taylor, Austin Westlake, Arlington Martin and Rowlett.
Once the 2020 NFL Draft is complete, Elkins could see its number of active NFL player jump to eight, which would lead Texas.
Along with Blacklock and Murray, former players Darren Woods (UNLV) and Jonathan Giles (Texas Tech/LSU/Texas Southern) are also expected to be drafted this week.
"For me and our staff we're going to be so ecstatic and happy because we like to see our kids be successful in everything they do," Brantley said. "This is what 99 percent of kids that play football dream is. It makes us feel good that we're a part of it."