Like most Colorado kids, Trey McBride’s path to the NFL went through multiple sports

Nov 27, 2021; Fort Collins, Colorado, USA; Colorado State Rams tight end Trey McBride (85) runs the ball on a reception in the second quarter against the Nevada Wolf Pack at Sonny Lubrick Field at Canvas Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

There seems to be a pattern to all this.

With the 55th selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals made CSU tight end Trey McBride the latest Colorado high school product to successfully make the jump to the NFL.

McBride is the first state prep standout to get taken since 2020 when Chatfield tight end Dalton Keene was taken by the New England Patriots in the third round. Before him it was Dalton Risner and Olasibi Johnson.

The list goes on and on to the tune of 171 kids that played high school football in Colorado that had their names called on draft day.

A lot of these kids have one major thing in common. When it came to high school athletics, they diversified their abilities and their experiences.

That’s right, kids. Want to hear your name in the NFL Draft? Playing multiple sports in high school is the way to go. The data supports it and it’s really just a commonsense decision that should be made by kids. And if they need encouragement from their parents or coaches in that regard, so be it.

Look at McBride. He played four years of basketball and baseball at Fort Morgan and then turned into one of the top tight ends in the country while playing at Colorado State.

“You have to be able to master a lot of different things to be able to do the things you want to do,” CSU-Pueblo football coach John Wristen said. “I really value the people who want to go and compete, have some failure and learn to grow from it.”

That value, according to Wristen, comes from kids who are multi-sport athletes when they are growing up and when they are in high school.

A year ago, my buddy Kyle Newman at The Denver Post dove into the idea that Colorado kids were going to be passed over by NFL teams in 2021. He sought out Tim Jenkins of Jenkins Elite, a private training company that attracts high school kids throughout Colorado and Jenkins gave blunt assessment of why he feels Colorado isn’t on the same level of other states when it comes to players getting drafted.

“It’s hard to spend time on (football) when people are advising you that you need to play every sport. The normal high school kid definitely should play multiple sports and enjoy his high school experience,” Jenkins said. But kids that end up in the NFL draft aren’t normal high school kids.

“If your dad is a brain surgeon, he doesn’t go and change car tires to become more well-rounded in his skills. He keeps doing brain surgery, all the time, obsessively. So that’s where the multi-sport thing doesn’t make sense to me with the (elite) kids, and it’s showing up in the draft.”

When looking at Colorado kids, that’s a completely misguided take. Going back to 2009, 18 Colorado high school players were drafted into the NFL. Of those 18, either collegiate websites or MaxPreps will confirm that 15 of them were multi-sport athletes. The three that weren’t were The Classical Academy kicker Daniel Carlson, Mullen punter JK Scott and Chatfield quarterback Zac Robinson.

Of those 15 drafted multi-sport kids, six of them went in the top three rounds. Christian McCaffrey, the eighth overall pick in 2017 was a three-sport star at Valor Christian (football, basketball, track and field).

When asked if those numbers surprised him, Wristen was blunt in his assessment.

“Heck no,” Wristen said. “I think those people understand the value of wanting to compete and work hard and wanting to handle it all.”

If we look outside of Colorado, the data remains consistent. If we want to look at the “elite” kids that get drafted, there’s no more elite than the top overall selection in each drafted.

It doesn’t appear that Trevor Lawrence has touched anything other than a football his entire life. But Joe Burrow loved to play hoops. He averaged almost 20 points per game his senior year.

The Oakland A’s tried to throw enough money at Kyler Murray to keep him in their farm system because they loved him that much as a baseball player.

Baker Mayfield hit .305 and drove in 12 runs as a senior at Lake Travis High School.

Myles Garrett was a state qualifier in track.

Jared Goff stopped playing baseball after his junior season, so we’d have to go back to the No. 1 overall pick in 2016 to pinpoint a player who specialized in one sport (kind of).

It looks like a lot of top picks went through life as “normal high school kids.”

The elite kids are just as likely to pursue other sports in high school as everyone else. And they utilized those experiences to make them the best at the sport that would provide them long-term success.

It’s a concept that’s shared across the board. Even high school football coaches want to see their players battling in other arenas. At Fountain-Fort Carson, coach Jake Novotny can point to players such as Phil Loadholt and Morgan Fox as guys who utilized their time in multiple sports and used those experiences to get them to the NFL.

“When you look at kids who have come out of Fountain and gone on to the professional level in any sport, they were a part of something else,” Novotny said. “When our kids see that, I think it augments (the drive to compete in multiple sports). This is something those guys did. They didn’t specialize.”

McBride was no different and now he gets to suit up for an NFL team. And he did it the way the rest of the top high school players in the state got there. He built his athletic ability through multiple sports.

When trying to reach the NFL, the data says being a multi-sport athlete gives a kid his best chance of success.

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