How one high school secondary beat long-shot odds to send all four players to the NFL

Jourdan Lewis (left) and Delano Hill are two of the four members of the 2013 Cass Tech secondary to be picked up by NFL teams. "Everybody was elated, our dreams were coming true," Lewis said. "We had a shot to do something that was pretty rare." ESPN

Jourdan Lewis was at a gas station when Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones called his cellphone with the good news this past weekend. After Lewis let his mom and sister know that he was the 92nd overall pick in the NFL draft, he opened up the group message he uses to keep up with his high school buddies from Cass Tech in Detroit and sent out a message.

"I'm a Cowboy," he typed. The message didn't quite sink in. "I'm a DALLAS Cowboy."

"Then everybody just went nuts," Lewis said. "You can't put it in words how everybody felt. Everybody was elated; our dreams were coming true. We had a shot to do something that was pretty rare."

Texting your buddies about making it big isn't all that rare. But the three others in the group being able to send out the same message by the end of the weekend? That might be a one-of-a-kind experience. Delano Hill, who went to Michigan with Lewis, let the guys know he was a member of the Seattle Seahawks three picks later. By Sunday morning DaQuan Pace (Eastern Michigan) and DeJuan Rogers (Toledo) had minicamp dates lined up with the Bengals and Bears. All four members of the Detroit Cass Tech 2013 defensive backfield were headed to the league. You've heard of DBU. Welcome to DBHS.

The one-on-one competitions among that crew were "legendary," according to Cass Tech's former secondary coach Jermain Crowell. The Technicians -- a fitting mascot for a hotbed of cover corners -- won back-to-back state championships with that foursome patrolling the back end of the defense. The most exciting times, according to all of them, came during practice.

Hill had the physical tools. Lewis was the playmaker. Rogers had the best football mind, and Pace was the quickest. They all got the upper hand at various points when coaches used to pit them against one another on a daily basis. The battles were usually followed by some jawing and some discussion about what it would be like when a weekend like this past one finally came.

"We always talked about it, but to see it actually happen, it's an ecstatic feeling," Rogers said. "It's an incredible opportunity. Now that this is happening, we've got to find some type of way to get on the same roster so we can play together again."

Crowell, now the head coach at nearby Belleville High School, said having to fight for their spots on a daily basis is a big reason why all four had success in college. They were scrapping for reps along with Damon Webb, a starter at Ohio State who has a good chance to join them as a pro next year, and Phillip Parham, who is playing his college ball at Lafayette. Head coach Thomas Wilcher has seen plenty of talent flow through his program, but says that the discipline that the group forced upon one another elevated them to a different place.

Hill was sitting next to Pace when the Seahawks called. All four of them got together Sunday evening to celebrate. They've stayed in touch on almost a daily basis through college and often returned to Detroit when they could to work on the basics with their old coach.

Crowell said he was in Cincinnati at a high school recruiting camp over the weekend when he started to see the picks come in. In other words, there is more talent on the way. Every starter in the secondary since he took over the head-coaching job at Belleville has received a college scholarship. He planned to take all four of his NFL-bound protégés out to dinner to congratulate them Tuesday night.

"This might be the last check that I pick up," he said. "This might have to be the last one."

After helping all four to pro contracts or tryouts, they probably owe him from now on.