If the nation's top high school quarterback seems unfazed by his
countless college suitors, it's only because Chris Leak is an old
hand at the recruiting process. Four years ago he watched college
football coaches come through Charlotte to recruit his older
brother, C.J., who is now a junior quarterback at Tennessee. When
coaches such as Penn State's Joe Paterno and Kansas State's Bill
Snyder came to the family's home to make their pitch, Chris sat
next to C.J. on the sofa.
Chris is now 17, and his own skills as a quarterback have long
been on display. "He could get the ball to spin in a spiral at
the age of five, which was unreal for a kid that young," says
21-year-old C.J. "People were saying, 'How is this little man
doing this?' He has a gift. You see certain guys throw, and you
know they have it. Chris has it."
Chris's production at Charlotte's Independence High has been
nothing short of spectacular. After last Saturday's state playoff
game he had thrown for 15,391 career yards--the second-best total
alltime, behind Ben Mauk, who threw for 17,534 yards at Kenton
(Ohio) High--and a national-record 182 touchdowns. His team has
also won a state-record 45 games in four years and has been so
dominant that in a bit of whimsy The Charlotte Observer has
Independence ranked ahead of N.C. State in its weekly college
poll. "He can make all the throws, and he doesn't get rattled,"
says recruiting expert Tom Lemming, who ranks Chris as the No. 1
prospect in the country. "He's an 18-year-old going on 30."
Though at 6'1" he's a little short of the optimal height for a
quarterback, Chris makes up for his relative lack of height with
his arm strength. Lemming compares his size and skills with
Florida's junior quarterback Rex Grossman, with whom Chris bonded
last month during an official visit to Gainesville. Florida is
one of more than 30 schools to offer Chris a scholarship, with
one of those offers going back a long way. Before he even played
in high school, Chris was promised a free ride by Wake Forest,
and he made an oral commitment to the school, a move that drew
national headlines--and some criticism. "I still think it was a
good thing," says Chris's father, Curtis, who is a contractor.
"He would have gotten a free education, plus at the time he would
have played with his brother."
Chris's enthusiasm for Wake Forest has lessened since C.J.
transferred following the 2000 season. Because the brothers have
always dreamed of playing together, Chris has placed the
Volunteers above a group of other schools he's considering,
including Florida, Texas, USC, Iowa and Florida State. But
relations between the Leaks and Tennessee have become strained.
Three weeks ago against Georgia, C.J. started his first college
game in two years but was pulled after only two series, even
though Chris and a number of other family members were in the
"Chris wanted to be at Tennessee with his brother," says Curtis,
who was a wideout at Johnson C. Smith University before being
drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 11th round in 1976. "When
that happened to C.J., I think Chris understood why we had always
told him to take all of his [college] visits."
Chris says he's asked at least twice a day where he will play
next year, and he plans to announce his decision on national
television during halftime of ESPN's broadcast of the U.S. Army
All-America Game on Jan. 5. Till then, he refuses to tip his
hand. "I've always said I'm going to take all my official visits
and go through the process," he says. "I'm keeping all my doors
COLOR PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER A. RECORD/THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER TOP GUN In four high school seasons Leak has thrown 182 touchdown passes.
In addition to Chris Leak, here is a quintet of other high school
seniors who have been heavily recruited
Player Pos. Height Weight School
Whitney Lewis WR 6'1" 215 Ventura (Calif.) St.
Racked up 1,445 total yards and 24 touchdowns this season;
considering several schools
Greg Olsen TE 6'6" 240 Wayne (N.J.) Hills
Notre Dame has the inside track on getting him: Brother Chris is
an Irish QB
Ernie Sims LB 6'0" 220 Tallahassee North
Dad and brother played at Florida State; he's considering
Seminoles, Florida, Miami
Demetris Summers RB 6'1" 200 Lexington (S.C.) High
State's career rushing leader (8,586) is leaning toward South
Kyle Wright QB 6'4" 200 Danville (Calif.)
Had 28 touchdown passes and one interception in 2002; has
committed to Miami