It was draft day recently for my Fantasy Football league.
I made my one allowed keeper from last year's team Megatron, the amazing Calvin Johnson, a 6-foot-5 wide receiver for the Detroit Lions. My second draft pick was also an outstanding receiver, Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons.
With exciting spread offenses and the desire by fans to see more action and scoring, the NFL has become a passing league, which obviously makes quality receivers very important in Fantasy.
Of course, what happens in the NFL eventually trickles down to college football and then to high school football. And now we've got passing galore at both levels, which is why if I were playing "Lake County High School Fantasy Football" this season, I'd have to look first at wide receiver Cameron Green of Stevenson and wide receiver Caleb Reams of Warren, who, by the way, can't wait another minute to get their seasons started tonight. (See our previews inside.)
These two guys are the Megatrons of the North Suburban Conference, which has changed its style dramatically in the nearly two decades I've been covering high school football in this area.
Even as recently as 10 years ago, almost no team in Lake County threw the ball more than 10 to 15 times a game. Some teams, such as Stevenson, would run the ball so much that their games were often over in less than two hours. (That was nice, I'm not going to lie!)
Now, the passing game is important. Really important. It's actually central to the offenses of many teams in this area, which is why guys like Green and Reams, the forgotten wide receivers of the past, have been able to make big names for themselves. In fact, Green and Reams, who have been friends since they were on the same travel basketball team in grade school, have generated so much attention that both got multiple Division I college scholarship offers this summer.
Interestingly, they'll continue their relationship as conference rivals in college.
Recently, Green (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) committed to play football at Northwestern and Reams (6-foot-3, 240 pounds) committed to Illinois, natural in-state and Big Ten rivals that compete for the Land of Lincoln trophy each year.
I had a blast on Monday night when I sat down with both Green and Reams for an interview. They showed up in their respective team jerseys (for a fun photo shoot) and shared a laugh at the end when they pulled out their car keys and noticed that each set was attached to a long lanyard that features the colors and logos of their respective colleges.
"I didn't even think about (the rivalry continuing in college) until you brought that up," Green said to me during the interview. "And then I was like, 'Whoa, we're going from childhood friends to rivals in college.' That's pretty cool. We'll still be close buddies. After the games, I plan on always going up to him and smiling and saying 'Good game.'"
Said Reams: "Yeah, it's just crazy how all this happened. We were teammates at one point, we're rivals now, and then in college it's just going to go more. I feel like Warren and Stevenson games are always good games, and Illinois and Northwestern games are going to be good games, too. It's just really cool."
Cool was my lively conversation with Green and Reams, two of the most exciting football players to watch in Lake County this fall. They are football players to the core. Both of their fathers (Mark Green and Lewis Reams) were college football players and Green went on to play with the Chicago Bears (running back) from 1989 to 1992.
Here are some of the best excerpts from the interview:
Patricia Babcock McGraw: So let's turn up the heat on this rivalry a little bit. Which one of you is going to be the bigger star in the Warren at Stevenson game in Week 3?
(Lots of laughing)
Caleb Reams: I'll be trying to out-do everyone on the field. Not just (Green), but everyone. If you don't have the fire to be the best, you shouldn't be playing the game, or this position. I'm trying to help us win. I want that 'W.'
Cameron Green: I think we both have that competitive edge to want to be the best. Of course, you want to be the one out there who gets all the oohs and the ahhs, and you want to be the one to make the spectacular plays. But I won't go out there and say 'Well, (Reams) just made that really great play, so I need to go out and make one now.' I'm just about being the best and doing the best that I can. Hopefully, I come out on top that way.
PBM: Who's going to have better stats in college?
Green: (Smiling) Well…
Reams: Actually, it would be hard to say because we're going to be playing different positions.
Green: Yeah, that's true.
(Green has been recruited to play wide receiver at Northwestern, but the plan right now for Reams at Illinois is for him to play a flex-spot tight end, which is a tight end that usually catches more than he blocks.)
Reams: I think I will be more of a catching tight end. I hope so. I want to catch the ball a lot.
Green: Me too. But Northwestern passes a lot, so they have four receivers out at one time. You're going to have to split reps with four guys and I'm used to it being two or three guys right now. So you can't really tell yet about how things are going to go (at Northwestern). But hopefully, I'll get the ball a lot, and hopefully (nodding at Reams), he gets the ball a lot, too.
PBM: You guys got the ball a lot last year. You both had great numbers. Caleb you were at nearly 600 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns and Cameron, you finished with about 900 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Of all your great games last season, which was your favorite?
Green: Mine was the Glenbard North game (a win in the second round of the playoffs). I had only 2 receptions, but they were for about 100 yards. I also had to step up (on defense) because (cornerback) Matt Morrissey (who is now playing at Michigan State) was out with an injury. I ended up getting a pick in the end zone and forcing a fumble in the end zone. We had lost to them (the previous) two years in a row, and we finally beat them. That was a great game.
Reams: We had a great game against Libertyville last year. We beat them 59-10. I'll always remember that score because they had beaten us pretty badly (42-24) the year before. We wanted the win so much. We were out for revenge. I had my longest touchdown of the year in that game, 87 yards. My other favorite game was against North Chicago. I was coming off an injury to my Achilles against Stevenson the week before and I scored 3 touchdowns against North Chicago.
PBM: Give me a scouting report on each other. What makes the guy sitting next to you such a good receiver?
Reams: I've never seen a cornerback get the best of Cameron. He's just better than everyone else. His hands are really good and when he gets in the open field, he's really hard to stop. He's got great game speed.
Green: Caleb has something I wish I had more of and that's just toughness. He's a really strong guy and if you hit him hard, he gets right back up. I see that toughness in basketball, too. He makes big plays for his team. He's a team player.
PBM: I don't know if you guys consider yourself pretty boys, but a lot of NFL receivers are thought of as the prima donnas of the team. What's up with that?
Reams: Yeah, that comes from guys like T.O. (Terrell Owens) and Ochocinco (Chad Johnson). Maybe a little bit of Randy Moss, too. All of them were pretty boys.
Green: I think it's also because the receivers are the hype men, the big-play guys. Everyone thinks the receivers are always out there talking (trash).
Reams: Actually, it's the cornerbacks. They never stop talking. If you catch a big pass, they'll be like, 'You ain't nothin'.'
Green: I love it when those guys talk smack, though. (Laughs). They all think we don't want to get hit.
Reams: But we're the ones who get hit the hardest. Like on those slants when (the pass is) high, that kind of leaves you out to dry. You've got a linebacker right in your ribs.
PBM: Prima donna or not, who's your favorite pro receiver, perhaps someone you try to emulate?
Reams: Since I'm going to be a tight end in college, I'm looking more at them. I really like Jimmy Graham (New Orleans Saints).
Green: I love Calvin Johnson. I love the fact that he's the biggest receiver and everyone has respect for him.
Reams: Yeah, CJ is awesome. He's the LeBron James of football. I started out wanting to play wide receiver because I saw Calvin Johnson when he was playing at Georgia Tech and I couldn't believe how awesome he was. He can make plays on three defenders.
PBM: So were you guys able to snap up Megatron for your Fantasy teams like I did?
Reams: He's on my team.
Green: You guys aren't going to believe this, but I don't do Fantasy. I stay away from it. I feel like I wouldn't be able to keep up with it. I'm kind of not into technology all that much. I'm not heavy on Twitter, I've never had video games like Xbox or PlayStation. I don't even watch TV that much. I watch a lot of (game) film. That's my TV. I also draw a lot. And I listen to music, but older music.
Reams: I listen to older music, too, stuff that my dad would listen to. Notorious B.I.G., old Jay-Z, Run-D.M.C, stuff like that, that's what I listen to most.
Green: Definitely Run-D.M.C!
Reams: I have only a few of the current songs. I also watch a lot of film. I think I've watched the film of last year's Lyons game (Lyons is Warren's opponent tonight) at least seven times already.
PBM: OK then, well how about high school fantasy football in Lake County. If there was such a thing, who would be your first draft pick?
Green: I'd take him (nodding at Reams).
Reams: (Laughing) Well, if I couldn't take me, I'd take him (nodding at Green).
PBM: You guys go way back, so you can joke with each other like that.
Reams: Yeah, we started playing AAU basketball together in sixth grade. We played for NLP. We don't play anymore though. Football just takes up too much time.
(Reams and Green still play basketball for their respective high school teams, though. In fact, Green played a big role in helping Stevenson get downstate last season.)
Green: It was a lot of fun playing NLP. We'd go out to eat sometimes, hang out together at the hotel during tournaments. We've been friends ever since then.
Friends…and rivals, to be exact. And so, it will continue.
Follow Patricia on twitter @babcockmcgraw