The best little football town/city in America

Most of us are proud of our roots.

I grew up in Rock Hill, S.C., the best little football town/city in America, a distinction that was punctuated once again with this year’s NFL draft and will be again next year when the 2014 draft arrives.

In the past 12 drafts, going back to 2002, 10 players who played their high school football in Rock Hill have been drafted, including first-rounders each of the last two years.

Last Thursday, receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who played one season at Tennessee, went No. 29 overall to the Minnesota Vikings. A year ago, cornerback Stephon Gilmore went No. 10 overall to the Buffalo Bills. Gilmore played at South Carolina.

That first-round streak will extend to three years in a row in 2014 when South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is expected to go No. 1 overall. In fact, Clowney would have gone No. 1 overall this year had he been eligible for the draft.

So you’re talking about 11 NFL draft choices -- and five first-round selections -- in 13 years.

That’s an impressive run for any town or city, but Rock Hill’s population isn't even 70,000, and there are only three high schools in the city, which is located about 25 miles south of Charlotte, N.C., just across the border. One of those high schools, South Pointe, didn’t open until 2005. Before that, it was a two-high school town going back to the 1970s -- Rock Hill and Northwestern.

It's more than just something being in the water.

We breed ballers in Rock Hill, and it’s a credit to the youth leagues, the coaches in those leagues who’ve volunteered so much of their time over the years and the overall quality of the high school programs in town and their commitment to taking superb talent and molding that talent into something special.