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The top 100 high school athletes of all time: Olympic medalist, Jeter, Gibson among those listed on Nos. 21-30

By: Tom Markowski, August 17, 2017, 1:29 pm

(PHOTO CREDIT: Daniel Smith)

The following is a list of the top 100 male athletes in the history of Michigan high school athletics. This list was created after hours of compiling facts and opinions. In analyzing data and comparing athletes of the 1920s to those of the 1990s and beyond we found difficulty in imagining how the athletes of the past would compare and compete against the present-day athlete. The adage, ‘bigger, stronger, faster’, must be applied but one cannot overlook the records and achievements of those in the 1930s, ‘40s and earlier.

It is the intent of State Champs to expose and honor the achievements of athletes, some of whom our readers might not be familiar with and to create conversation on just who were some of the best. 

We have a few guidelines for athletes to be considered for this list. One is they had to attend high school, for at least one school year, in Michigan. They also had to compete in sports at the high school they attended. Playing for club teams and travel teams outside of the school are not within these guidelines.

Athletes like boxers Joe Louis and Chris Byrd, for example, did not, as far as our research could ascertain, compete in athletics, at least in boxing, their main sport, in high school.

Other athletes, like hockey standout Mike Modano, who did not play for his high school team, are excluded as well.

State Champs would like to thank Wikipedia, MHSAA historian Ron Pesch, Detroit area historian Bill Hoover and others, like Michigan sports writers Denny Grall and Bill Kahn, for their expertise. These, and others, provided so much of the information and opinions about these athletes that made this project possible.  

It must be noted that much of the information obtained, especially on some of the Negro League players, was sketchy.

The following is a list of the athletes ranked Nos. 21 through 30. Next week we will release the athletes ranked Nos. 11-20.


  1. Peter Vanderkaay, Rochester Adams, Michigan, Olympics: Vanderkaay is a two-time state champion in the 500-yard freestyle (2001, 2002), and is the 2001 state champion in the 200 freestyle. He holds a total of six NCAA titles and 14 Big Ten Big Ten titles. He also won a silver and two bronze medals at the 2003 World University Games. In his first year in college, he was Big Ten Champion in the 500-yard freestyle and the 800-yard freestyle relay. He also was NCAA All-American in the 500 and the mile. He won four conference titles in each of his final three seasons at U-M. He was named Big Ten Swimmer of the Year his junior season and was named All-America. At the 2004 Summer Olympics Vanderkaay was a member of the 4×200-meter freestyle relay, along with Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Klete Keller that beat the favored Australian team. The next year this same team set the U.S. record in the 4×200 (7:06.58) and two years later this same team set the world record (7:03.24) in this event. That same summer of ’07 Vanderkaay, at the U.S. Nationals, beat Michael Phelps to take first place in the 400-meter free. Vanderkaay won his first Olympic individual medal, a bronze, in the 200 free in 2008. Vanderkaay was part of the 4×200 freestyle that set the world record as the Americans finished first with a time of 6:58.56. The Americans were the first team to break the seven-minute mark and broke the previous record, set in Melbourne, by more than 4.5 seconds. After eight years of training in Ann Arbor, Vanderkaay went to Florida to train with former Olympic coach Gregg Troy. Vanderkaay then made his third Olympics by qualifying in the 400 free with a winning time of 3:47.67. At the 2012 Olympics in London, Vanderkaay won a bronze medal in the 400 free with a time of 3:44.69.
  2. Frank Tanana, Detroit Catholic Central, Angels, Red Sox, Rangers, Tigers, Mets, Yankees (MLB): Tanana was first team all-state in basketball and baseball and is considered one of the greatest athletes to compete in the Detroit Catholic League. He received scholarship offers from U-M and Michigan State to play basketball but chose baseball after the California Angels selected him No. 13 in the 1971 MLB Draft. Tanana was 32-1 at C.C. with an ERA of 0.30 and he struck out an average of two batters per inning. He scored 2,500 points in his high school career and his father, Frank, Sr., also played both sports at Detroit St. Andrew and led his team to the Class C state basketball championships in 1951 (Class C) and ’52 (Class B). The Catholic Central Tanana spent 21 years as a pitcher in the major leagues, most notably with the Angels and the Detroit Tigers in route to winning 240 career games.  Along with Nolan Ryan, the two were the aces of the Angels the pitching staff from 1973-79. This led to the saying, "Tanana and Ryan and two days of cryin”. In 1976 Tanana and Catfish Hunter of the Yankees both pitched 13 scoreless innings and neither one received a decision. Tanana had another 13-inning shutout with a no-decision in 1975 against the White Sox, and is the only pitcher with two such outings. He was selected to three All-Star games and he led the major leagues in strikeouts in 1975. Arm problems resulted in Tanana losing his 100 mph fastball but he continued his career as more of a control pitcher. After stints with Boston and Texas, Tanana returned home to pitch for the Tigers in in ’85. On the final day of the 1987 season, Tanana pitched a 1-0 complete game shutout over the second place Blue Jays to clinch the American League East title. There was a saying that Tanana threw 90 mph in the 70s and 70 mph in the 90s. His career record is 240-236 with a 3.66 ERA and 2,773 strikeouts. He threw 34 shutouts. Tanana is a member of the Catholic League, National Polish-American and Michigan Sports Halls of Fame.
  3. Grant Fisher, Grand Blanc, Stanford: Born in Calgary, Alberta, Fisher holds the state record for the 1,600-meter run (4:00.28). He also started playing soccer at age four, and played for the Michigan Wolvers, an elite soccer team, and he also played for his high school team. As a freshman Fisher joined both the soccer and cross country teams, where he made varsity for both (in the same fall season). In the fall of 2013, he had personal bests of 15:02 at the Foot Locker Midwest Regional to win the event. Fisher then went on to the Foot Locker Nationals, which he won as well. In the spring of his junior year (2014), Fisher set personal bests of 1:55.76 in the 800 meter run, 3:49.62 in the 1,500 meters at the World Junior Championships, a 4:02.02 in the mile to win the event at the Adidas Grand Prix, 8:55.75 in the 3,200 meter run to win JD’s Invitational, and an 8:51.28 in the two mile run to win the event at the Brooks PR Invitational. The fall of his senior year, Fisher ran a 14:43.00 to win the Portage Cross Country Invitational and a 15:03 to win Foot Locker Nationals. In the spring of 2015 Fisher became the 7th high school athlete to break the four-minute mile (3:59.38). He later ran a 3:59.18. He’s the three-time state champion in the 3,200 run. His best time in this event is 8:53.41. He won the Division 1 cross country championship twice, in 2013 (15:13.7) and 2014 (14:52.5).  The Detroit Athletic Club named him the Male Athlete of the Year for 2014-15. After graduating from Grand Blanc in 2015, that fall, while running for Stanford, Fisher placed 17th at the NCAA DI XC Championships in 30:07.9. During the winter indoor season, Fisher won the 3,000 meters in Seattle (2016 Husky Classic) with a personal best 7:50.06.
  4. Derek Jeter, Kalamazoo Central, Yankees (MLB): Born in New Jersey, Jeter and his family moved to Kalamazoo when he was four-years-old. He batted .557 in his sophomore year and .508 as a junior. In his senior year (1992), he hit .508 and with 23 RBI, 21 walks, four home runs, a .637 OBP and a .831 slugging percentage. Jeter was 12-12 in stolen base attempts and struck out once in 99 plate appearances. Kalamazoo Central inducted Jeter into its Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003 and renamed its baseball field in his honor in 2011. Jeter also ran cross country in the fall and started on Central’s basketball team in the winter. He signed with Michigan to play baseball but he never made it to Ann Arbor. The Yankees selected him as the No. 6 player overall in the 1992 MLB Draft fulfilling Jeter’s life-long ambition to play for the Yankees. He spent four seasons in the minor leagues and made his MLB debut on May 29, 1995. He became the starting shortstop in ’96 and was named Rookie of the Year on all 28 ballots. Jeter hit 314 that season with 10 home runs, 104 runs scored and 78 RBI. In ’98 he was selected to the first of 14 All-Star Games. He won five World Series and was named World Series MVP in 2000. For his career he batted .310 with 260 home runs and 1,311 RBI. He is the Yankees’ all-time career leader in hits, doubles (544), games played (2,747), stolen bases (358), plate appearances (12,602) and at bats (11,195).
  5. Glenn Doughty, Detroit Pershing, Michigan, Colts (NFL): Doughty was a three-sport star in high school and though football would be the sport that would dominate his future, he started on one of the greatest basketball teams in state history. In 1967 Pershing, coached by the legendary Will Robinson, won the Class A title with Spencer Haywood and Ralph Simpson leading the charge. Future major league baseball player Marvin Lane and future NFL player Paul Seal also started on that team. Doughty was a center fielder and helped lead the Doughboys Baseball team to the 1968 Eastside Baseball Championship with a 427 batting average. Dr. John Telford author, world-class runner and Pershing track coach of the ’60’s and 70’s called Doughty "the most versatile athlete in Pershing’s sports history". As a senior Doughty made first team all-state in football at the age of 16. In his first two games as a starting sophomore running back in 1969 for Bo Schembechler at U-M Doughty had 44 carries for 337 yards and two TDs. An injury slowed Doughty down and he lost his starting spot to Billy Taylor. But that didn’t stop Doughty. U-M used him more as a receiver, a wingback much of the rest of his college career. Doughty started on Schembechler’s first co-championship team (1969) and his first championship team (8-0) in 1971. He gained 2,347 all-purpose yards including 1,464 rushing yards, 518 receiving yards, and 365 yards on kickoff returns. Schembechler named Doughty the most versatile member of the 11-0 Big Ten Championship Team. He led the team in receiving. In 1972 Doughty was named to the College All American Team’s game in Texas and to the College All Stars to play against the 1971 Super Bowl Champion Dallas Cowboys. The Colts selected Doughty in the second round of the 1972 Draft, 47th overall. He played his entire eight-year career with the Colts. He appeared in 103 games for the Colts, totaling 219 receptions for 3,547 yards and 24 touchdowns. In 1973 Doughty was awarded the Colts Offensive Player of the year. Doughty led the AFC with a 23.5 yards per catch average.
  6. Kirk Gibson, Waterford Kettering, Michigan State, Tigers, Dodgers, Royals, Pirates (MLB): Gibson played four sports at Kettering but football was his favorite. He signed to play football at MSU and in his sophomore season Gibson had 39 receptions for 748 yards, which led Big Ten that year. In his junior year he was convinced to play baseball as well. In his only season playing college baseball, he batted .390, hit 16 home runs, batted in 52 runs, and stole 21 bases. He set school records for home runs and RBI. After that season, he was drafted by the Tigers in the first round. His senior season at MSU Gibson was named an All-America receiver. Gibson led the Spartans to a tie for the Big Ten title and he set school and conference receiving records. He starred in the Hula Bowl and Senior Bowl. In January of this year Gibson was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. He was also selected by the St. Louis (football) Cardinals in the seventh round of the NFL Draft. He chose baseball. He led Detroit to the 1984 World Series climaxed by his dramatic home run in Game 5. Gibson finished in the top 10 in home runs three times in his career and ranked in the top 10 in stolen bases four times. Gibson fell one home run short of becoming the first Tiger in the 30-30 (HR/stolen bases) club in 1985. He signed with the Dodgers in 1988 and, again, hit a dramatic home run in the World Series to help his team, this time the Dodgers, win the series. In his only plate appearance of the series against the A’s, with two outs Gibson hit a 3-2 pitch from Dennis Eckersley into the seats in right for a two-run homer and a 5-4 victory. That was in Game 1 and it was the defining moment as the Dodgers won the series, 4-1. That season Gibson was named National League MVP. He was also named MVP of the ’84 World Series. He played 17 seasons and hit 255 career home runs with a .268 batting average and 870 RBI. In 2010 he became the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks and in 2011 guided them to the West Division title. He was subsequently named Manager of the Year.
  7. Jerome Bettis, Detroit Henry Ford, Detroit Mackenzie, Notre Dame, Rams, Steelers (NFL): Bettis made all-state his junior and senior seasons at Mackenzie. He played running back and linebacker, and excelled at both positions. He also played one season of basketball at Mackenzie. The Detroit News named Bettis its No. 1 Blue Chip prospect in 1990. Bettis finished his collegiate career with 337 rushing attempts for 1912 yards (5.7 yards per attempt), and had 32 receptions for 429 yards. In his last game as a junior, a 28-3 win by Notre Dame over Texas A&M in the 1993 Cotton Bowl, he rushed 20 times for 75 yards, including three TDs. In his sophomore year, he set the Notre Dame TD record with 20 in one season, with 16 rushing, and 4 receiving (23 total touchdowns including the 1992 Sugar Bowl, a record which still stands). ND trailed Florida 16-7 at halftime in that Sugar Bowl and the Irish had 34 rushing yards. Bettis scored on TD runs of three, 49 and 39 yards, all in the fourth quarter, and ND came back to win, 38-29. The Rams selected Bettis as the No. 10 pick overall in the 1993 Draft. He was selected to six Pro Bowls, was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year in 2001, he was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 1996. He played 14 NFL seasons and led the Steelers to victory in Super Bowl XL in Detroit. His 13,662 rushing yards has him sixth on NFL’s all-time list. 
  8. Vince Banonis, Detroit Catholic Central, University of Detroit, Chicago Cardinals, Steelers, Lions (NFL): A pillar of strength as the center on the great C.C. teams of the 1930’s, Banonis earned All-Catholic and All-State honors in football in 1937.  He also played baseball at C.C. for two seasons. Banonis then went on to be named a Collegiate All-America at the University of Detroit in 1941.  Drafted in 1942, 29th overall, by the NFL’s Chicago Cardinals, Banonis played in 11 games his rookie year before serving three years in the U.S. Navy. He returned to St. Louis in 1946. He earned All-Pro honors in 1947, the same year the Cardinals won the NFL Championship. He made All-Pro twice more before going to the Lions in 1951. Banonis helped Detroit win the 1952 and 1953 NFL Championship.  A member of the Catholic League Hall of Fame, Vince was also inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.
  9. Brandon Graham, Detroit Crockett Tech, Michigan, Eagles (NFL): Graham was a multi-sport athlete having competed in the discus and shot put, and in the 100-meter dash and relays. He began playing football when he was seven-years-old. Twice Graham was named first team all-state and after his senior season he was named the No. 1 Blue Chip prospect (2006) by The Detroit News and the No. 2 prospect in the Midwest by the Detroit Free Press. As a junior, Graham played linebacker, offensive guard and was the team’s place kicker and punter. Graham led Crockett to the Detroit Public School League Division 1 title and then took a 12-0 record into the Division 5 state semifinals before losing to Jackson Lumen Christi, 9-0. Entering his senior season longtime recruiting analyst Tom Lemming rated Graham as the top linebacker in the country. His junior season saw Graham make 91 tackles, 20 for loss. He was elected captain of the East team at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and recorded four tackles as well as a blocked field goal in the game. Graham received many honors. Among the recognition he received are Parade Magazine All-American and USA Today High School All-America first team. At U-M he played linebacker, defensive end and defensive tackle as a freshman. He started six games as a sophomore and led the team in sacks (8.5). His junior year he was ranked second nationally in tackles for loss, tied for eleventh in sacks and was named team MVP. Graham was named Co-MVP in the Big Ten Conference Player of the Year becoming just the second defensive player in 25 years to be so honored. He was selected first team All-America by ESPN, Rivals and Scout. Philadelphia selected Graham in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft (13th overall). He was named second team All-Pro last season and continues to play for the Eagles. 
  1. Pete Gent, Bangor, Michigan State, Cowboys (NFL): Gent was a standout, four-sport athlete at Bangor and led his team to the 1960 Class C basketball championship. He earned 14 varsity letters.  In the semifinal Gent scored 24 points and had four of his team’s five points in overtime as Bangor defeated Gwinn, 54-49. He averaged 22.6 points that season and was named Retro Mr. Basketball by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan with the help and expertise of MHSAA historian Ron Pesch. Gent was named first team Class C All-State in basketball. He played first base in baseball and competed in events such as the high jump, broad jump and relays in track. In football he was named UPI all-state honorable mention. Gent played basketball, but not football, at Michigan State and twice was named All-Big Ten. He averaged 21 points his senior season and was known as a clutch player, in high school and in college. He became the first player in school history to lead the team in scoring three consecutive seasons. Considered an NBA prospect (the Bullets selected him in the 14th round of the 1964 NBA Draft), Gent decided to try football. He signed as a free agent with Dallas and played five seasons. He had 68 receptions in his career and was part of the Cowboys teams that lost to the Packers in consecutive NFL Championship games (’66, ’67), including the infamous Ice Bowl. After football Gent wrote the controversial and highly acclaimed book, “North Dallas Forty”.    


Here are Nos. 31-100


  1. Adam Coon, Fowlerville, Michigan (wrestling)
  2. Spencer Haywood, Detroit Pershing, Trinidad State, University of Detroit, Rockets, Super Sonics, Knicks, Jazz, Lakers, Bullets (ABA, NBA), Olympics
  3. Carl Banks, Flint Beecher, Michigan State, Giants, Redskins, Browns (NFL)
  4. Chuck Holloway, Detroit Northern, Lawrence Tech, Junior College, UCLA (track, football, rugby), Calgary (CFL)
  5. Earl Morrall, Muskegon, Michigan State, 49ers, Steelers, Lions, Giants, Colts, Dolphins (NFL)
  6. Shane Battier, Detroit Country Day, Duke, Grizzlies, Rockets, Heat (NBA)
  7. Tim Shaw, Livonia Clarenceville, Penn State, Panthers, Jaguars, Bears, Titans (NFL)
  8. Chris Webber, Detroit Country Day, Michigan, Warriors, Bullets/Wizards, Kings, 76ers, Pistons (NBA)
  9. Dick Rifenburg, Saginaw Arthur Hill, Michigan, Lions (NFL)
  10. Glen Rice, Flint Northwestern, Michigan, Heat, Lakers, Hornets, Knicks, Rockets, Clippers (NBA)
  1. Alexi Lalas, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, Rutgers, Revolution, Galaxy (MLS)
  2. Adam Coon, Fowlerville, Michigan (wrestling)
  3. Greg Jennings, Kalamazoo Central, Western Michigan, Packers, Vikings, Dolphins (NFL)
  4. Charles Rogers, Saginaw, Michigan State, Lions (NFL)
  5. Jon Runyan, Flint Carman-Ainsworth, Michigan, Oilers/Titans, Eagles, Chargers (NFL)
  6. Don Lund, Detroit Southeastern, Michigan, Dodgers, Browns, Tigers (MLB)
  7. Casey Rogowski, Detroit Catholic Central (baseball, football, wrestling)
  8. Willis Ward, Detroit Northwestern, Michigan (track, football)
  9. Todd Lyght, Flint Powers, Notre Dame, Rams, Lions (NFL)
  10. John Smoltz, Lansing Catholic Central/Lansing Waverly, Braves, Red Sox, Cardinals (MLB)
  1. Kevin Grady, Jr., East Grand Rapids, Michigan (football)
  2. Courtney Hawkins, Flint Beecher, Michigan State, Buccaneers, Steelers (NFL)
  3. Rodney Culver, Detroit DePorres, Notre Dame, Colts, Chargers (NFL)
  4. Herb Washington, Flint Northern, Flint Central, Michigan State, Oakland A’s (MLB)
  5. Ed Budde, Detroit Denby, Michigan State, Chiefs (AFL/NFL)
  6. Drew Stanton, Farmington Hills Harrison, Michigan State, Lions, Jets, Colts, Cardinals (NFL)
  7. Charlie Gehringer, Fowlerville, Michigan, Tigers (MLB)
  8. Jim Abbott, Flint Central, Michigan, Angels, Yankees, White Sox, Brewers (MLB)
  9. Lynn Chandnois, Flint Central, Michigan State, Steelers (NFL)
  10. Stuart Schweigert, Saginaw Heritage, Purdue, Raiders, Redskins, Giants, Lions (NFL)
  11. D.J. LeMahieu, Birmingham Brother Rice, Louisiana State, Cubs, Rockies (MLB)
  12. Tim Thomas, Davison, Vermont, Bruins, Panthers, Stars (NHL), Olympics     
  13. John Rowser, Detroit Eastern, Michigan, Packers, Steelers, Browns (NFL)
  14. Joe DeLamielleure, Center Line St. Clement, Michigan State, Bills, Browns (NFL)
  15. Sergio Perkovic, Birmingham Brother Rice, Notre Dame (lacrosse)
  16. Gabe Dean, Lowell, Cornell (wrestling)
  17. Bill Simpson, Royal Oak Shrine, Michigan State, Rams, Bills (NFL)
  18. Nick Perry, Detroit Mackenzie, Detroit King, Southern California, Packers (NFL)
  19. Draymond Green, Saginaw High, Michigan State, Golden State Warriors (NBA), Olympics
  20. Wayne Schwalbach, Escanaba, Central Michigan (football)
  21. Prescott Line, Oxford, Southern Methodist, Michigan State (football)
  22. William Gholston, Detroit Mumford, Detroit Southeastern, Michigan State, Buccaneers (NFL)
  23. Sammy Gee, Detroit Miller, Negro League Baseball, Globetrotters
  24. Darnell Dickerson, Detroit King, Pittsburgh (football)
  25. Jason Richardson, Saginaw Arthur Hill, Michigan State, Warriors, Hornets, Suns, Magic, 76ers (NBA)
  26. Dan Majerle, Traverse City High, Central Michigan, Suns, Cavaliers, Heat (NBA)
  27. David Bowens, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, Michigan/Western Illinois, Packers, Bills, Redskins, Dolphins, Jets, Browns (NFL)
  28. Brent Metcalf, Davison, Iowa (wrestling)
  29. Don Coleman, Flint Central, Michigan State, Cardinals (NFL)
  30. Tony Dungy, Jackson Parkside, Minnesota, Steelers, 49ers (NFL)
  31. Chet Walker, Benton Harbor, Bulls (NBA)
  32. Donovan Peoples-Jones, Detroit Cass Tech, Michigan (football)
  33. Clay Youngquist, Battle Creek Lakeview, Texas (swimming)
  34. Joe Barksdale, Detroit Cass Tech, Louisiana State, Raiders, Rams, Chargers (NFL)
  35. George “The Gipper” Gipp, Calumet High, Notre Dame (football)
  36. Curtis Jones, Detroit Northwestern, North Idaho Junior College (basketball)
  37. Walt Owens, Detroit Northwestern., Western Michigan, Negro League Baseball, Globetrotters
  38. Andy Greene, Trenton, Miami (OH), Devils, (NHL)
  39. Rudy Tomjanovich, Hamtramck, Michigan, Rockets (NBA)
  40. Charlie Justice, Hamtramck/Detroit Northern, Negro League Baseball, Globetrotters
  41. George Goeddeke, Detroit St. David, Notre Dame, Broncos (AFL/NFL)
  42. "Jumpin’ Johnny" Kline, Detroit Northwestern/Detroit Northeastern, Wayne State, Globetrotters (track, basketball)
  43. Earl Brown, Jr., Benton Harbor, Notre Dame (basketball, football)
  44. Harry Kipke, Lansing Central, Michigan (basketball)
  45. Gary Hoogeboom, Grand Rapids Northview, Central Michigan, Cowboys (NFL)
  46. Steve Beck, Southeastern, Arizona State (basketball)
  47. Wilbert "Wilbur" King, Detroit Pershing, Negro League Baseball, Globetrotters
  48. Steve Fraser, Hazel Park, Michigan, (Olympic wrestling)
  49. Phil Regan, Wayland Union, Western Michigan, Tigers, Dodgers, Cubs (MLB)
  50. Mike Kadish, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Notre Dame, Dolphins, Bills (NFL)