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Hillcrest High School senior Dorial Green-Beckham is Rivals.com's top prep prospect nationwide. The team's first gamed aired on ESPNU, bringing wide attention to the Springfield school district.
Hillcrest High School senior Dorial Green-Beckham is Rivals.com's top prep prospect nationwide. The team's first gamed aired on ESPNU, bringing wide attention to the Springfield school district.

The Business of Dorial

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Dorial Green-Beckham is becoming a household name. And the business surrounding such a name is quite valuable.

As a senior wide receiver for the Hillcrest High School football team, he is a rising star and recognized by many recruitment rating sites as the top offensive prospect in the nation. Hillcrest’s first game this season was televised on ESPNU, and more than 21,000 people attended the team’s second game, held at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium at the University of Arkansas.

So far, the spotlight doesn’t seem to be impacting his play on the field. Through two games on Sept. 7, Rivals.com’s top overall prospect in the nation has averaged more than 200 yards per game in receptions.

The 6’6” 220-pound 18-year-old already has met with coaches and coordinators at some of the most successful college football programs in the country, including reigning champ Auburn, and he recently narrowed his choices down to five. His skill set has been compared to National Football League stars Randy Moss and Calvin Johnson, and many recruiting sites are predicting, short of an injury, Green-Beckham will soon be a professional himself.

Brian Perroni, a recruiting agent covering Missouri for Rivals.com, said the Springfield athlete’s future appears quite bright.

“He’s still a little bit raw right now, but still … we’ve likened him to an Andre Johnson. We think that’s a good comparison,” Perroni said.

Other top recruits picked by Rivals.com include No. 1 draft picks Adrian Peterson and Vince Young.

“I think we have a pretty good track record especially with our No. 1 prospect, who usually does go on to be a star in college and a high draft pick,” Perroni said.

According to ESPN.com, the 32 National Football League first-round draft picks signed contracts worth $525 million.

Immediate impact
The attention on Green-Beckham has not gone unnoticed by those near him.

“The notoriety that Mr. Green-Beckham has brought to our program is really new to this area,” said Darrell Johnson, Hillcrest athletic director. “As we go through this, it’s been exciting to see how important college football is to people.”

Johnson expects home game attendance to increase at least 25 percent. Last year, ticket sales at Hillcrest’s roughly 2,300-seat stadium were up roughly 30 percent. In anticipation of the school’s Sept. 16 home opener, officials are working now to develop a plan to handle the larger crowds, and they expect spectators to fill the track around the field.

In 2010, Green-Beckham’s sophomore year, the Hornets won the 5A state title in basketball, and at $4 per adult ticket for basketball and football games, that means he is generating thousands of dollars for his school.

Mark Fisher, director of athletics for Springfield Public Schools, said the district received a $500 check from ESPN for airing the Hornets’ first game, but it doesn’t receive any money for filling seats at visiting stadiums.

He said the recognition that Green-Beckham is bringing the city and district is extremely rare.

“I don’t know if we’ve seen an athlete like him in the last 50 years. He’s in a class all his own,” Fisher said.

Johnson said the Hillcrest football team has more than 100 players in grades 9–12 for the first time in the five years he’s been at the school, and that means more parent participation in the booster club, too.

Though Johnson said he believes a return to state in basketball is a possibility this year, the player’s adopted father and football coach, John Beckham, said his son will strictly focus on football at the collegiate level.

Pursuing greatness
Both Beckham and Johnson said they have received more requests for interviews from local and national media sources than they could ever grant.

At 40 pieces of mail per day, Beckham said the family is filling its fifth “big filing box” with letters of interest from colleges or media.

The Beckhams have taken eight unofficial trips to schools recruiting the star player. They’ve visited Southeastern Conference schools Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Auburn, and Big 12 sites Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas.

“We’re trying to keep this process as private as possible, but it’s difficult. I’ve said this several times: I don’t know if this is the right way or the wrong way. This thing didn’t come with directions,” Beckham said. “We’re just going day-by-day and doing what we think is best for Dorial.”

The family has easily spent hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on travel expenses, though Beckham said some visits were connected to other trips. Their visit to the University of Florida was tied to a family vacation there.

The trip to Alabama, where they met with three-time National Coach of the Year Nick Saban, came on the heels of a cancer treatment in Memphis for Dorial’s younger brother and Hillcrest sophomore Darnell Green-Beckham. Darnell was diagnosed with leukemia last year and is in the middle of a two-and-a-half year treatment plan.

That experience has kept what’s important in perspective for the whole family, Beckham said. Darnell, a gifted athlete in his own right, played varsity as a freshman in both football and basketball, and now he’s a visible presence on the sidelines at Hornets’ football games.
Dorial Green-Beckham can only take five official visits with all expenses paid by the schools, though Beckham said he doesn’t know if he’ll take them all.

Green-Beckham declined a sit-down interview request, but did answer a few questions about his experiences. He said the media attention can make him uncomfortable, and at the game held at the University of Arkansas, He skipped the hordes of reporters waiting to talk to him after the game and headed straight to the bus. He said he doesn’t mind being compared to NFL receivers, and he can see himself playing as a professional someday, but he could do without the attention.

Coach Beckham said he has been enamored at times with meeting coaching greats such as Mac Brown at Texas, Bob Stoops at Oklahoma or former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel. But he said once you get to know some of those people, the excitement of those experiences can fade fast.

Tressel, who resigned this summer from Ohio State amid controversy and is now a gameday consultant for the Indianapolis Colts, had been calling about once a week. Beckham said he let one call placed during dinner go unanswered. His wife thought this was curious, but Beckham said, “Ah, it’s just Tressel.”

“At the beginning it was cool, but now I’m like, ‘These guys are wearing me out,’” Beckham added.[[In-content Ad]]

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