The Hive is back, and I don’t mean just that Lincoln High’s rebuilt campus is open and the Hornets are fielding a football team again after a four-year absence.
Lincoln alumnus Dwayne Wright made the Buffalo Bills’ roster this season as a fourth-round draft pick and backup running back to end the Hornets’ seven-year drought of producing NFL players.
|Dwayne Wright Photo: Buffalo Bills|
It’s significant, because at one time Lincoln was second among all U.S. high schools with 24 alums who had made active NFL rosters. But the Hornets had been losing ground for almost a decade, according to numbers long tracked Gary Wright, a high school fan that is the Seattle Seahawks vice president of administration.
In 1999, when quarterback Akili Smith made the Cincinnati Bengals as a first-round draft pick out of Oregon, Lincoln was tied with McKinley of Canton, Ohio, for second in the nation with 24.
Since then, McKinley sent four more players to the NFL and stands alone at 28, a distant second to Long Beach Poly’s 47.
But now Wright has become Lincoln’s 25th NFL player, and the Hornets have moved into third place alone. Lincoln was tied with Compton and Ball of Galveston, Texas.
“I have a chance to be the first Lincoln player this century to make it in the NFL,” Wright told me last spring after he was drafted. “There is a lot of tradition at Lincoln. I want to be a bridge between the past and the future. I want to make it in the NFL be able to come back to campus and spend a lot of time with students. I want to be an example.”
The Bills have a bye this week after their agonizing Monday night loss to the Dallas Cowboys, so Wright planned to attend the game Lincoln’s home game on its beautiful campus at 7 p.m. Friday against La Jolla.
Here’s a listing of the previous Lincoln alums in the NFL:
Marcus Allen, Lew Barnes, Len Burnett, Scotty Byers, Kern Carson, Terrell Davis, Willie Franklin, David Grayson Sr., David Grayson Jr., Jimmy Gunn, Luther Hayes, Wally Henry, Doug Jones, Mike Lee, David Lewis, Saladin Martin, Martin Moss, Patrick Newman, Steve Pierce, Doug Reed, Patrick Rowe, Nate Shaw, Akili Smith and Robert West.
I know that San Diego State assistant coach LeCharls McDaniel has instructions from head coach Chuck Long to camp out at Lincoln to recruit talent. Lincoln’s coach is one of the best in the CIF San Diego Section, Ron Hamamoto, formerly a head coach at Rancho Bernardo and University (now Cathedral Catholic).
But we’ll have to wait and see if Lincoln regains its status as a San Diego football power. The tradition is there, of course.
The demographics of the neighborhood, however, have changed with more Asians and Hispanics moving in. There’s nothing wrong with that, but American football may not be the sport of choice for as many of the kids that make up today’s student body.
Changing demographics is a reason Morse High, in the neighboring Skyline district, is no longer the state football power it was under retired coach John Shacklett in the 1980s and 1990s.
— TOM SHANAHAN