There are 18,654 high schools in the United States, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. There will be 106 players on the field for Super Bowl XLI. Two of the players — Chicago Bears tackle John Tait and defensive tackle Tank Johnson — graduated from Tempe McClintock High School.
Guess who assistant principal Art Wagner will be rooting for come Sunday.
“I’ve gotten quite a few calls from newspapers in Chicago looking for stories,” Wagner said. “It’s great for the school.”
The high school careers of Tait and Johnson aren’t celebrated on the walls of the athletic facility or inside a trophy case. Nor are a majority of the school’s students aware that two of their alums will be on sport’s grandest stage, Wagner said.
McClintock’s football team, however, is reveling in Tait’s and Johnson’s success. The Chargers players were at the all-city banquet last week when someone asked what year the Bears teammates graduated. Hands went up around the table.
The answer: Tait in 1993; Johnson in 2000.
Johnson, who went by his given name, Terry, in high school, gave McClintock some national recognition before Chicago’s Monday Night Football game against the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 16. Normally, players say their name and the college they attended.
Johnson, who played at the University of Washington, introduced himself and then gave props to McClintock.
“Terry comes by all the time,” said boys volleyball and girls golf coach Jeff Dunn, who’s been at McClintock since 1993. “He was here real quick before that Monday game. He popped his head in and all the kids were like, ‘Who’s that? He’s huge.’ They didn’t know he played here before.”
Tait was the Big Man on Campus. He competed in football, wrestling and track, and was a freshman class officer. His teachers and coaches knew then he’d succeed at whatever he did.
“Everybody knew who he was,” Wagner said. “He was the hard-working, straightlaced kid who made the most out of what he had.”
Johnson played football, basketball and, believe it or not, boys volleyball. He also was a junior ROTC officer.
“He didn’t really stand out in high school,” Dunn said. “He had a big body, but he wasn’t an overachiever.”
Wagner, who first started working at McClintock in ’93 as a security guard, said he’ll make a school-wide announcement Monday, letting students know what Tait and Johnson will be doing this coming weekend.
Then he’ll sit back and, like millions of other Americans, watch the Super Bowl.
Only he’ll be beaming with school pride.