Raleigh hasn’t produced an abundance of talent for the NFL draft.
High schools in Raleigh have only produced seven NFL draft picks since 2000, compared to 17 from Charlotte.
Juston Burris and Keith Marshall are hoping to boost those numbers this weekend.
Burris, a cornerback from Broughton, and Marshall, a running back from Millbrook, are projected to be the first pair of former Raleigh high school football players to be taken in the same draft in 23 years.
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Burris, a three-year starter at N.C. State, is projected to go in the fourth round on Saturday. He would be only the fourth player from Broughton taken in the draft and first since 2005.
Broughton has pumped out a U.S. Open champion in golf (Webb Simpson) and a world champion high jumper (Jesse Williams) but Junius Coston is the last NFL draft pick (fifth round, Green Bay in 2005). Danny Peebles (second round, Tampa Bay, 1989) and Jimmy Lesane (20th round, Chicago, 1952) are the only other Caps that have been taken in the NFL draft.
“It’s great any time you’re mentioned with some of the best names in school history, whether it’s football or any other sport,” Burris said.
Millbrook produced a flurry of NFL talent, by local standards, with four draft picks in 1993 and ’94 but has had none since or before. In all, Raleigh high schools (which doesn’t include Cary, Apex or Garner products) have sent 21 players to the NFL draft. Charlotte (28), Greensboro (24) and Fayetteville (23) all have produced more in the draft, which goes back to 1936.
Marshall, who is coming off of an injury-plagued career at Georgia, is projected to go in the sixth or seventh round on Saturday.
Nick Ritcher, a tackle from Ravenscroft who played at Richmond, also has a chance to go in the later rounds on Saturday.
The 1993 draft, with Millbrook’s Craig Keith, David Merritt and Everett Lindsay, is the only other time three players who played their high school football in Raleigh have gone in the same draft.
The draft starts on Thursday with the first round. If the first 32 picks go off as predicted, the in-state teams won’t be represented until possibly Friday’s second or third rounds.
Burris and Marshall have taken different routes to their pro careers.
Burris stayed home after his prep career at Broughton and went to N.C. State. A three-star prospect in 2011, Burris was ranked as the 29th-best player in the state by Rivals.
He redshirted his first season under then-coach Tom O’Brien but started three games at the end of the 2012 season and had 43 tackles and three interceptions in only five games.
You’re only looking for one team to fall in love with you. That’s all you need.
Broughton and NC State defensive back Justin Burris
Burris had an interception to start N.C. State’s comeback 17-16 win over third-ranked Florida State in 2012.
He started the last three games of the 2012 season and then 41 straight to close out his career. His production, in terms of interceptions, waned after his redshirt freshman season.
That has been a concern for his pro prospects but Burris has done his best to answer any questions about his ability.
He shone at the NFL combine in February with 19 bench press repetitions (second most at his position) and with a 36-5 vertical jump. His 40-yard dash time, of 4.53 seconds, was impressive for a corner with his size (6-0, 212 pounds).
“I got the results I wanted,” Burris said. “I was happy to show them I did have speed.”
Burris has already been labeled a “draft steal” by NFL.com. Like everyone else in the draft, he has no preference of where he ends up but hopes to hear his name sooner than later.
“You’re only looking for one team to fall in love with you,” Burris said. “That’s all you need.”
Slowed by injuries
While Burris stayed home, and was a relative unknown out of Broughton, Marshall was a five-star prospect at Millbrook and sought after by almost every program in the country.
He was the top-rated player in the state by ESPN and signed with Georgia. He had an outstanding freshman season, along side Tarboro running back Todd Gurley, in 2012.
Marshall ran for 759 yards and eight touchdowns as a freshman and looked like he was on his way to a standout career.
“But it didn’t go exactly as planned from there,” Marshall said.
Five games into his sophomore season in 2013, Marshall tore the ligaments in his right knee.
He was able to come back for three games in 2014 but was slowed by an ankle injury and wasn’t completely healthy.
In the interim, Gurley, one of Marshall’s best friends, became one of the best running backs in college football and was the NFL offensive rookie of the year last year.
Marshall returned for senior season in 2015 and ran for 350 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games but was a reserve behind Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
“Surely he would have liked to have three or four 1,000-yard seasons, who wouldn’t?” Marshall’s dad, Warren, said.
“But we don’t have any regrets about his career at Georgia. In his mind, he was as good as both (Gurley and Chubb) but everybody can’t have that starring role all the time.”
Marshall said the setbacks at Georgia made him stronger. He also said he would not have earned his finance degree if he had not gotten injured.
“I wouldn’t change anything about it,” Marshall said of his career at Georgia.
The only question now for Marshall, who’s 5-11 and 212 pounds, is about his health. The speed and talent are there but can he stay healthy?
“Everything checked at 100 percent (at the combine),” Marshall said. “It’s not even a factor any more.”
That was pretty clear at the combine when Marshall ran a 4.31 in the 40-yard dash. That time, the best of anyone at the combine, earned Marshall a $50,000 bonus check from adidas.
In an odd way, the injuries and watching Gurley and Chubb excel might have helped Marshall, who was able to save some tread on his tires for the NFL.
That’s a path that worked out well for Terrell Davis, a different running back from Georgia in the 1990s. Davis had some injury issues at Georgia and had to share the ball with Garrison Hearst. Davis wound up being a sixth round pick 1995 but was the NFL MVP, Super Bowl MVP and led the Denver Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl titles in 1997 and ’98.
“It’s not where you start in the NFL,” Marshall’s father said, “it’s where you finish.”
Just getting to the starting line and the draft has been a struggle for Raleigh high school players. Maybe Burris and Marshall are the sign of a new trend.
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
NFL draft picks from Raleigh
Tye Smith, CB
Daniel McCullers, DT
T.J. Graham, WR
Leroy Harris, OL
Junius Coston, OL
Brian Rimpf, OL
Antwan Harris, S
Bucky Brooks, CB
Everett Lindsay, OL
Craig Keith, TE
David Merritt, LB
Kevin Donnalley, OL
Danny Peebles, WR
Donald Evans, DE
Rick Donnalley, OL
Charley Young, RB
Willie Burden, RB
Ron McNeil, DE
Chuck Hinton, DT
John Baker, DE
Jimmy Lesane, RB
Sources: NFL.com, Pro-Football-Reference.com
Note: Includes only players from Raleigh high schools and players who were taken in the NFL draft.