PISCATAWAY, NJ – Throughout the years, the Piscataway High School football teams have been loaded with supreme talent.
The Chiefs have won nine sectional championships in 16 appearances, and head coach Dan Higgins has been a part of all of them in some capacity. Higgins was a ballboy for the team in 1974 when Piscataway, coached by his father, Tom Higgins Sr., topped Colonia to win the Central Jersey, Group 4 title. Now older and a linebacker in high school for the Chiefs, Higgins won the CJG4 title in 1981 against Middletown South.
Since then, he’s come out on top once as an assistant and six more times has a head coach, including this past winter when his Chiefs got revenge against Manalapan in the Central Jersey, Group 5 championship at Rutgers after the Braves bested Piscataway a few weeks prior.
Besides countless collegiate players, Higgins has also produced three NFL first-round draft picks, one in 2009 and two in 2010, which was enough to dub PHS by some as ‘NFL High’.
With the selections of Malcolm Jenkins out of Ohio State with the 14th pick by the New Orleans Saints in 2009, and Anthony Davis (Rutgers, No. 11, San Francisco 49’ers), and Kyle Wilson (Boise State, No. 29, New York Jets) in 2010, Piscataway High School, at the time, became only the seventh program to have first-round draft picks in consecutive years since 1990. It is not known if it has been done in the last six years.
When Davis, an offensive tackle, and Wilson, a cornerback, were chosen in 2010, PHS became the first school in history to have two first-rounders in the same draft.
“I don’t know. I think it’s the water in Piscataway,” Jenkins told TAPinto Piscataway with a laugh at his Next Level Youth Football Camp held on the high school’s football field last month.
Jenkins, Wilson, and Davis all played together on varsity for one year, in 2004, and what a year it was. The Chiefs went 12-0 and edged-out Phillipsburg, 27-26, in overtime in the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 title game. Jenkins helped Piscataway win three consecutive crowns in 2002, 2003, and 2004 before ascending to play for the Buckeyes where he won the Jim Thorpe Award which is given to the nation’s best defensive back as a senior. He finished his Ohio State career with 11 interceptions.
Jenkins was drafted by the Saints as a cornerback and preceded to win Super XLIV as a rookie when New Orleans upset the Peyton Manning-led Indianapolis Colts. The Second Team All Pro and Pro Bowler in 2015 later switched to the safety position and signed closer to home with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014. So far in his career, Jenkins has six defensive touchdowns, 476 tackles, 14 interceptions, 5.5 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, and eight fumble recoveries.
But he isn’t the only one doing damage in the league. While Davis has since retired twice from the NFL and Wilson is a free agent, two other former Chiefs are currently on teams including Dwayne Gratz and Tajae Sharpe. Gratz, a cornerback, played at UConn from 2008-2012 and was drafted in the third round by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013.
Sharpe broke receiving records at UMass and was taken by the Tennessee Titans in the fifth round of the 2016 draft with the 140th pick. He became the 10th overall player to make it to the NFL in some way.
“There were three first-round picks on my high school team alone between myself, Kyle and ‘AD’ (Anthony Davis),” Jenkins said. “Dwayne Gratz, I literally grew up across the street from him and now we’re teammates on the Eagles. Steven Miller was a block behind me and he was with the (Detroit) Lions (2013-14). Tajae is on the Titans. It’s been a pipeline and it’s impressive to watch and be a part of. I brag about that all the time.”
Having numerous Piscataway guys isn’t the only thing Jenkins brags about to teammates and others. He boasts about the success the Chiefs football program has had over the years, especially being a consistent public school with tons of good players, year in and year out.
“I always try to follow them and see how they’re doing and to see the success that they’ve been able to have over the years has been impressive,” Jenkins said. “It feels great to brag about the team a little bit.
“It’s always good to be back on the map. You can’t win every year, but I’m always proud, too that we’re a public school and we still have the success that we have. I think it’s a tribute to the coaching and obviously the kids that come through the program.”
Right now, Higgins has loads of former players getting ready for college ball, including Rutgers freshman running back, Elijah Barnwell who signed with the Scarlet Knights in February.
If all things work out for the best, maybe he’ll be the next Piscataway product in the NFL.
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