• BEHIND THE SCENES: 'Big 22' players to watch for 2018


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Sam Howell learned of and followed "High School Football Extra’s Big 22 Players to Watch" since before he was introduced as the star quarterback at Sun Valley High School.

    Howell, a Florida State commit, has become the first-ever three-time "Big 22" nominee.

    [IMAGES: Big 22 Media Day] 

    He joined some of the best football talent in the area Thursday at the Carolina Panthers’ practice facility for the ninth-annual WSOC-TV "High School Football Extra Big 22" Media Day.



    “Being here three times is special,” Howell said. “It’s an honor. I grew up hearing about the 'Big 22' and (that) is something I’ve dreamed of.”

    WSOC-TV Channel 9 and "High School Football Extra’s Big 22" announced the 22 high school football players who have been determined as the top preseason standouts from area high school teams for the 2018 season.  

    Howell; Myers Park wide receiver Elijah Bowick, a Virginia Tech commit; Providence Day School wide receiver Porter Rooks; and Harding University running back Quavaris Crouch, a top-five recruit nationally, are the only repeat "Big 22" nominations.

    Also earning the honor are Derek Boykins, linebacker at Central Cabarrus; Khafre Brown, wide receiver at West Mecklenburg; C.J. Clark, defensive end at North Stanly; Jacolbe Cowen, defensive lineman at Providence Day; Tony Davis, cornerback at Hunter Huss; Terrell Dawkins, defensive lineman at Cox Mill; Tyus Fields, quarterback at Hough High School; Nolan Groulx, wide receiver at Hough High School; Jamario Holley, wide receiver at Northwestern; Triston Miller, offensive lineman at Charlotte Country Day; Landon Honeycutt, linebacker at Mount Pleasant; Traevon Kenion, tight end at Monroe High School; Keyon Lesane, wide receiver at Butler; Damarcus Mills, offensive lineman at Mooresville High School; Parker Moorer, offensive lineman at Mallard Creek; Caleb Ogunmola, athlete at Providence High School; Ari Rodriguez, defensive lineman at Charlotte Catholic; Garrett Shrader, quarterback at Charlotte Christian; and Lannden Zanders, safety at Crest High School.

    Many of those players are committed to playing Division I football, or have several offers from major universities.

    “It’s a blessing,” Cowan said. “I grew up watching football Friday night, so I am grateful for this opportunity. It’s definitely a blessing to be surrounded by so many great athletes.”

    Players spent the day doing photo shoots, social media campaign videos and interviews.

    They will be featured throughout the season on Channel 9’s weekly “High School Football Extra” show, along with in-depth coverage on wsoctv.com.  

    Coaches from public and private high schools located in the WSOC-TV, Channel 9 viewing area in North Carolina and South Carolina were asked to nominate three players from their team and two players from other schools to be considered for the “Big 22.”  

    The final 22 were selected by the WSOC-TV sports department after reviewing the coaches’ nominations and using a set of judging criteria.

    The "Big 22" players will also be featured on “High School Football Extra Kickoff,” a LIVE prime-time special airing Wednesday, Aug. 15, at 8 p.m. on WSOC-TV Channel 9.  

    “High School Football Extra” will air Fridays on Channel 9 at 11:30 p.m. starting August 17.

    [RELATED: Channel 9 announces 'Big 22' players to watch class of 2018]

    The players had their parents and coaches out on the field supporting them.

    This was Channel 9’s opportunity to get to know more about them, what it takes for them to dominate on the field and the impact this recognition and their achievements have on their entire community.

    “Blessed to be here. They have support. Their families come out with them, their coaches and of course the coaches are extremely proud. They also represent home, their hometown, their home area,” Sun Valley coach Tad Baucom said.

    You can see all of the photos and video from Thursday as our sports team starts introducing you to our Big 22 players, starting on Monday.

    The public can vote online for their favorite players beginning in September. Voting will continue through the season.

    Channel 9 has teamed up with ER Plumbing to give $10,000 to the school of the player of the year.

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