In reality, it is commonly stated that only a small proportion of the players that compete in the top tier of college football were considered five-star recruits out of high school. Some of the best athletes of all time have "it" from a young age. They tend to be bigger and faster than most other kids their age. And they're usually much better students than their peers.
The majority of college football players do not become stars at their respective positions. In fact, most play several positions their first year in order to learn the system and make the team. Many move around after that, playing multiple positions throughout their careers. A few even catch on with the NFL team that drafted them.
Here are some famous college football players who did not start out as star recruits: Brett Favre, Charles Woodson, Desmond Howard, Terrell Davis, Barry Sanders, Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, John Elway, Joe Montana, Steve Young, Ricky Williams, Michael Vick, Troy Polamalu, Lyle Sendlein, Marcus Allen, Jackie Smith, Leon Hardie, Ron Dayne, and DeAngelo Williams.
Let's get back to football. There are 1,093,234 high school football players in the United States, with 6.5 percent (or 71,060) going on to play in college. The drop-off from college to pro is even more dramatic: just 1.2 percent of collegiate players are drafted into the NFL. Only 32 players picked in the entire draft come from high school talent pools.
The odds of an average high school player making it in the NFL are about one in five million.
There are about 500,000 high school athletes in the U.S., so we're talking about one in 200 athletes who make it into college sports getting drafted into the NFL. This is called "under-representation" of high school athletes in the pros.
Here's how this works: the NCAA requires that all men's basketball and football players be high school graduates or have at least two years of college eligibility remaining. The NFL has a minimum requirement of three years of college for its players, which means that most high school players don't qualify because they haven't completed their degrees.
However, some high school players do go on to play college sports other than football and basketball. Baseball has always been popular among high school students, but in recent years softball has become more popular. There are almost seven times as many girls' soccer players as boys', which shows that the sport is attractive to young women.
Football had the third-highest ratio of high school players who went on to play professionally among the six sports studied. Only baseball (0.5 percent) and men's soccer (0.09%) had a greater percentage. The study also found that high school football has the highest rate of players who go on to play in college of any sport examined.
To put these statistics in perspective, out of every 100,000 boys who play high school football, about 70 will go on to play at the college level. That's more than three times the number who will play pro ball per 100,000 boys who play basketball, the next most popular high school sport.
The study also found that black boys are less likely than white or Hispanic boys to play high school football and be drafted by a professional team. In fact, only four black boys have been selected in the first round of the NFL draft since its inception in 1967. The last black boy to be picked in the first round was Deon Grant in 1990 by the San Francisco 49ers. The last black man to be drafted in the first round is Deion Sanders by the Atlanta Falcons in 1995. Despite these numbers, there are still many black men who play football at the high school level. In fact, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations, nearly one in five boys enrolled in public high schools across the country is black.