FOXBORO, Mass. — Sunday’s matchup between the New England Patriots and Houston Texans will double as a town meeting of sorts.
Two Patriots players and two Texans players hail from Rock Hill, S.C., aka Football City USA. Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, 27, and Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, 25, are South Pointe High School alums, while New England wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, 27, and Houston cornerback Johnathan Joseph, 34, went to rival Northwestern High School.
Gilmore was two grades above Clowney, but he knew the two-time Pro Bowler was a “freak” before anyone else.
“We were close,” Gilmore said Tuesday. “We went to the same high school. We stayed two minutes down the road from each other. We grew up with each other and Johnathan Joseph, same way. I grew up five minutes from him, so it was always good seeing those guys on the other side.”
Gilmore and Clowney go way back to the Small Fry and Pee Wee football days. Since Clowney was so big, he would wind up moving into Gilmore’s age group, where he played running back.
“He was killing the little kids,” Gilmore said. “So, yeah.”
Gilmore didn’t play on the same youth teams as Clowney, and fortunately, he never had to tackle him. Gilmore played quarterback through high school.
“I played offense then, but everybody knows he’s a freak athlete, freak player,” Gilmore said.
Gilmore and Clowney joined forces in high school and then in college at South Carolina.
Gilmore gave his explanation for why so many NFL players come from the same small city in South Carolina.
“Something in the water, I don’t know,” Gilmore said. “That’s something we do, play football growing up. It’s super competitive, everybody goes to see football games, so maybe that’s what brings the best out of us.”
The city’s Wikipedia page lists 19 current or former NFL players as notable people. That list includes Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and former Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson, both Northwestern High School products.
Thumbnail photo via Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports Images