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Longhorn football commits in action, Aug. 25-27

The 2022 Texas high school football season begins tonight, and UT commits will play games in six states this weekend.

2023 linebacker Liona Lefau (Kahuku, Hawaii) waves his high school’s flag on the field at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium during his official visit to UT in June 2022.

The 2022 Texas high school football season kicks off this week, and with it, 19 of the Texas Longhorns’ 24 commits in the 2023 and 2024 recruiting classes will open their season in the next few days. Two commits have already played their first game, and the three commits from Louisiana will begin play next week.

Over the past several years, this column has provided weekly updates on how UT’s football commits and their teams were faring throughout the high school football season, and also given the times and dates for their upcoming games. In years where recruiting is in a healthy place in Austin, there have been a lot of players to keep track of, which means these posts take longer to put together.

Texas currently has commits from 21 high schools and six different states across four time zones. This includes recruits from a pair of states never before followed in this column (Hawaii and New Jersey). I’ll do my best to provide timely and accurate information, but the additional notes and background details on each week’s games that have been a hallmark of this column in years past will likely be less extensive.

A feature of these posts that will make its debut in 2022 is appending to the weekly recap on the fortunes of future Longhorns a look back at Longhorn notables of past years that you may not be familiar with. As noted in some recent posts, I’ve spent no small amount of time delving pretty deep into the histories of many individual Longhorns on teams from past decades, and learned for the first time about many UT greats that I had never heard the names of before 2021. Some of these names will be familiar ones to readers old enough to have watched or followed Longhorn football teams of the 1960s or 1970s, but many Longhorn fans of my generation who came of age during the John Mackovic or early Mack Brown era of UT football will be less likely to know about these players or their history.

I’ll be featuring bits on players from several different periods of Texas football, but probably none who played on the Forty Acres any later than the 1980s. Hopefully it will be educational.

Below is this week’s schedule for games involving UT’s football commits. All schools are in Texas unless otherwise noted, and all listed start times for the games mentioned will be according to their local time zone unless otherwise noted.

2023 QB Arch Manning — New Orleans (Louisiana) Isidore Newman
2023 TE Will Randle — New Orleans (Louisiana) Isidore Newman

This week: No game, Isidore Newman will open its season on September 2.

2023 RB Cedric Baxter Jr. — Orlando (Florida) Edgewater

This week: Friday, August 26 at 7:00, at Orlando Bishop Moore

2023 RB Tre Wisner — DeSoto
2023 WR Johntay Cook II — DeSoto

This week: Friday, August 26 at 6:00 p.m. Central, vs. New Orleans St. Augustine (at Ronaldo Field in Beaverton, Oregon)

DeSoto will begin its season in the Pacific Time Zone for a neutral site inter-state matchup with New Orleans St. Augustine as part of the Nike Kickoff Classic. The game will be played at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. Reports from this summer stated that the game would be broadcast on the NFL Network, but it’s unclear if the game is still on that network’s schedule. I always encourage checking local sources on things like that.

2023 WR Ryan Niblett — Aldine Eisenhower

This week: Saturday, August 27 at 6:00, at Katy Morton Ranch

2023 WR Jonah Wilson — Spring Dekaney

This week: Friday, August 26 at 7:00, at Klein Oak

2023 TE Spencer Shannon — Santa Ana (California) Mater Dei

Last week: Team defeated Salt Lake City (Utah) West 42-0 in their season-opener
This week: Friday, August 26 at 7:00, at Las Vegas (Nevada) Bishop Gorman

Friday night’s Mater Dei-Bishop Gorman game will be a matchup between the teams ranked second and sixth in the country by MaxPreps. Mater Dei won its first game last week in a 42-0 rout over Salt Lake City West. Spencer Shannon was not credited with any stats by the team’s MaxPreps page. Bishop Gorman dealt a 42-7 beating last week to Utah powerhouse Corner Canyon, which was the most lopsided loss in eight years for a Corner Canyon program that won three consecutive state titles in Utah between 2018 and 2020, and which produced one-time Longhorn commit Van Fillinger in the 2020 class.

UT has historically had more players from California than from any other state aside from Texas, but they’ve never had a letterman from longtime powerhouse Mater Dei. Five-star Mater Dei product Bru McCoy was very briefly a member of the Longhorn program for one semester in the spring of 2019 before transferring to USC, and linebacker Eoghan Kerry was part of UT’s 2022 recruiting class for nearly four months last year before de-committing and ultimately signing with Colorado.

Will Spencer Shannon remain in the class and become the first Mater Dei Monarch to see the field at Texas? Stay tuned.

2023 OL Jaydon Chatman — Killeen Harker Heights

This week: Thursday, August 25 at 7:00, at Killeen Ellison

Jaydon Chatman will potentially be the fourth Harker Heights Knight to win a letter at Texas. The 2014 Longhorn team had all three of the previous Harker Heights products to play for the program. Darius James, a highly-rated offensive lineman, transferred to Auburn after the 2014 season. Linebacker/defensive end Naashon Hughes was a four-year letterman and a team captain as a senior in 2017. Hughes’s brother, offensive lineman Camrhon Hughes, started six games at right tackle for the Longhorns in 2014, but was famously nicknamed “NCAA” (for “No contact at all”) by Charlie Strong’s coaching staff, and he left the program in the summer of 2015.

Should you have any worries about Chatman being another “NCAA” after he arrives in Austin, watching his junior year highlights should dispel those fears.

His Harker Heights team kicks off the season with a rivalry game against fellow Killeen ISD school Ellison. The two schools are in different classifications and won’t be district opponents for the next two years. Chatman isn’t currently scheduled to face any of his future Longhorn teammates, but if Harker Heights qualifies for the postseason it could face DeSoto in the first round of the Class 6A Division II playoffs (a scenario that would require Duncanville and Dallas Skyline to make the playoffs from DeSoto’s district and push DeSoto into the Division II bracket).

2023 OL Andre Cojoe — Mansfield Timberview

This week: Friday, August 26 at 7:00, at South Grand Prairie

Mansfield ISD has five high schools and has produced many quality athletes over the past two decades, and you can count the number of Longhorn lettermen to come from Mansfield by making a “Hook ‘em” gesture. Quarterback-turned-wide receiver John Chiles (Mansfield Summit) and defensive lineman Hassan Ridgeway (Mansfield High) are the only UT lettermen that district has produced. The 2021 roster featured Jaden Hullaby, who spent his senior year at Mansfield Timberview after previously starring at Dallas Bishop Dunne, but he did not see any game action last season and has since transferred to New Mexico.

Andre Cojoe will hopefully be the next Mansfield product to make an impact in Austin. With all of the high-level offensive linemen signed by Texas in 2022 and his fellow commits in the 2023 class, there will be a lot of competition for playing time over the next few years, but Cojoe is likely on a longer, Moro Ojomo-like timeline. He has a huge frame for the offensive line, and has the always-encouraging combination of scholarship offers from high academic schools like Vanderbilt and Purdue, and being extremely young for his grade. The incoming high school senior turned 16 in January, and will turn 17 shortly after he enrolls in college next spring.

2023 OL Trevor Goosby — Melissa

This week: Friday, August 26 at 7:30, at Argyle

Melissa, which is located in fast-growing Collin County in north Texas, was in Class 4A Division II as recently as five years ago, but will begin its first season as a 5A school on Friday. The Cardinals will face fellow 5A Division II newcomer Argyle, the sixth-ranked team in that classification going into the season. Argyle has finished with a double-digit win total in 13 consecutive seasons and won two state titles in that stretch.

UT has had one previous player from Melissa: wide receiver Kennedy Lewis, who appeared in two games in 2019, then transferred to UTSA in 2021. He did not win a letter at Texas, and Trevor Goosby could instead be the first Melissa Cardinal to do so.

2023 OL Peyton Kirkland — Orlando (Florida) Dr. Phillips

This week: Friday, August 26 at 7:00, vs. Lake Mary

2023 OL Connor Stroh — Frisco Wakeland

This week: Thursday, August 25 at 7:00, vs. Grapevine

2023 DL Sydir Mitchell — Oradell (New Jersey) Bergen Catholic

This week: Saturday, August 27 at 1:00, vs. Raleigh (North Carolina) Cardinal Gibbons

Bergen Catholic is the 20th-ranked team in the country, according to MaxPreps, and begins the 2022 season as New Jersey’s top-ranked team. The Crusaders went undefeated in 2021 and are New Jersey’s defending Non-Public A state champions.

This is the first time this column has followed the season of a New Jersey recruit. Texas has had four football lettermen from the Garden State, most recently linebacker Juwan Mitchell, who played with the Longhorns for two seasons after transferring in from Butler Community College in 2019. Chris Simms is easily the most notable New Jersey high school product to wear a burnt orange uniform, but he wasn’t the first Longhorn from that state. 1,000 points to the reader who can name the first UT letterman from New Jersey. The answer can be found at the bottom of this post.

2023 DL Dylan Spencer — Houston C.E. King

This week: Friday, August 26 at 7:00, at Crosby

2023 EDGE Derion Gullette — Teague

Injured - out for 2022 season

Gullette spent his junior season at Marlin High School, and will attend nearby Teague for his senior year, but due to injury he will not be suiting up this fall, and I will not effort to provide weekly recaps of Teague’s games. UT’s only previous letterman from Teague High School was Matt Trissel, an all-state linebacker who was one of Texas’s earliest commits in the 1999 class, and who converted to fullback (remember those?) in college and was a three-year starter at that position.

2023 EDGE Billy Walton — Dallas South Oak Cliff
2023 CB Malik Muhammad — Dallas South Oak Cliff

This week: Saturday, August 27 at 6:00, vs. Duncanville

South Oak Cliff, the defending Class 5A Division II state champion, is in a very weak district, and thus has to schedule tough opponents in non-district play in order to get anything resembling a challenge before the playoffs. The Bears will open their season against Class 6A’s fourth-ranked team, Duncanville, which last year reached the Class 6A Division I state championship but fell to Galena Park North Shore. SOC will have to punch above its weight class to win, as Duncanville is one of the state’s six largest high schools and has an enrollment over three times that of SOC.

2023 LB S’Maje Burrell — North Crowley

This week: Friday, August 26 at 7:30, vs. Arlington Sam Houston

S’Maje Burrell could be the first North Crowley graduate to letter at Texas, but not the first Panther overall to do so. Safety Bobby Tatum, a UT letterman in 2004-05, spent his first three years of high school at North Crowley before transferring to Fort Worth Dunbar for his senior year.

2023 LB Liona Lefau — Kahuku (Hawaii)

Last week: Team defeated Wai’anae 41-6.
This week: Friday, August 26 at 7:30, vs. Wahiawa (Hawaii) Leilehua

Texas has never had a football letterman from Hawaii before, so following a recruit from that state is a first for this column. Liona Lefau’s future Longhorn teammates in Texas will kick off their 2022 season this week, but he and his Kahuku teammates have not only played their first two games, they’ve also had their bye week already. Kahuku is Hawaii’s defending Open Division state champion, and has not lost a game since November of 2019 in that year’s Open Division title game. (Hawaii schools did not have a football season in 2020.) The Kahuku Red Raiders are the state’s top-ranked team and will play their third game of 2022 on Friday night.

Lefau will most likely end his season before any other commit in UT’s 2023 recruiting class, as Kahuku’s last regular season game will be on October 14.

2024 CB Jaden Allen — Aledo

This week: Friday, August 26 at 7:00, at Dallas Parish Episcopal

Aledo High School was the 800-lb gorilla in Class 5A Division II for a number of years, but moves up to the much deeper 5A Division I starting this year. The Bearcats will open their season against the state’s top-ranked private school Dallas Parish Episcopal, which has won three consecutive TAPPS Division I state championships.

Jaden Allen is the younger brother of freshman Longhorn safety B.J. Allen. As a freshman, Jaden was a member of Aledo’s 2020 team that won the Class 5A Division II state championship. His team is ranked third in Class 5A Division I to start this season.

2024 CB Aeryn Hampton — Daingerfield

This week: Friday, August 26 at 7:30, at Gladewater

Daingerfield begins the 2022 season as the fourth-ranked team in Class 3A Division II.

2023 S Jamel Johnson — Arlington Seguin

This week: Thursday, August 25 at 7:00, at Midlothian

2023 S Derek Williams — New Iberia (Louisiana) Westgate

This week: No game, Westgate will open its season on September 2.

Historic Longhorn Notable of the Week — Thomas Milik (1944)

Thomas Milik is the answer to the question posed earlier in this post: Who was the first Longhorn letterman from New Jersey? So he is, appropriately enough, the first in a series of forgotten, barely remembered, or “important but played before the lifetime of Generation-Y” Longhorn notables who will be profiled at the end of these posts in 2022.

Thomas Milik practicing with the 1945 Texas Longhorn baseball team, as seen in a photo from the 1946 Cactus yearbook.

Milik was a lifelong resident of Carteret, New Jersey, a city 12 miles south of Newark and essentially a stone’s throw to the west of Staten Island. He was one of many out-of-state student-athletes who attended the University of Texas during the World War II years due to their participation in the Navy’s V-12 officer training program. That program was in operation from the summer of 1943 until the summer of 1946, and UT was one of 130+ college campuses that hosted a V-12 program. That program brought the Longhorn football team its largest-ever contingent of athletes from California in 1943, and in the following year it brought the men who would be UT’s first-ever football lettermen from New Jersey and Wisconsin.

Before arriving at UT, Milik attended the University of New Mexico, and while there he won letters with the school’s baseball team and track & field squad during the spring of 1944. He was transferred from there to Texas during the summer and was a member of the 1944 Longhorn football team. He was a backfield triple threat, which at that time meant he could run, pass, and punt, and he started games for UT at both halfback and fullback.

He was noted as a good punter and recorded at least one interception on defense, and appears to have been the team’s primary passer at times when future superstar Bobby Layne (then a freshman) was injured. He went on to play for the Longhorn baseball team in the spring of 1945, and the Austin American reported that he was “one of the best catchers around the Longhorn corral in years”.

After his college years and military service, Milik briefly played minor league baseball in 1947 as a member of the Pawtucket Slaters, a minor league affiliate of the Boston Braves. He was an accountant in his professional life, and he served as his hometown’s tax assessor for two decades and was also a borough councilman.

Thomas Milik died in 2011, at the age of 88. For nearly 50 years he was the only Longhorn letterman to have gone to high school in New Jersey.

Craig Potts became the second when he won a letter as a walk-on defensive back in 1992. Potts, who hailed from Brick Township, New Jersey, had graduated from Brick Memorial High School and begun his college career at Albright College, a small Methodist liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. While a freshman at Albright in the 1988-89 school year, Potts had won letters in both football and wrestling. He transferred to UT at some point afterwards and was listed on the Longhorn football rosters of 1991 and 1992.