High School Football: Top 8 players in Dunbar history

Originally slated to open in 1933 as a junior high for Negro students, the first “open enrollment” school in the Dayton Public School system was met with such celebration that a week before its doors opened the school was designated as Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School instead. There were 850 students (grades 7-10) the first year.

Since its inception, Dunbar has been a Dayton staple and housed one of the state’s most well-known athletic programs. The Wolverines basketball and track teams have claimed multiple state championships, and while its football team hasn’t, the Wolverines have produced plenty of gridiron greats.

Tabbed Dunbar’s first football coach in 1933, Stanglaws Slater selected “Wolverines” as the school’s mascot and chose the original colors of maize and blue to honor his alma mater – the University of Michigan.

In those first days of competition, there were no games against white high schools either in or out of Dayton. Games were played against segregated schools in Covington (Kentucky), Louisville, Evansville, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Indianapolis. On October 14, 1933, Dunbar made its football debut playing Lincoln-Grant (another all-Negro team) from Covington, KY.

Since joining the Dayton Public League in 1947, Dunbar has won numerous league titles. The first came in 1950. The last in 2022.

One of the program’s most notable runs occurred during head coach Tom Montgomery’s tenure. From 1982 to 1998, Montgomery’s teams won 11 City League championships and made the OHSAA playoffs four times. The crown jewel was a 1986 state playoff game at Centerville. The Elks – led by Ohio State recruit Kirk Herbstreit – entered that contest 10-0. Centerville was ranked No. 1 in the state in the final AP poll (only time in program history) and No. 4 in the nation. Dunbar won 19-14.

“It was the shot heard ‘round the world,” Montgomery told the Dayton Daily earlier this year.

This is the ninth in a season-long series of the top high school football players in Dayton area history. The Dayton Daily News received recommendations and nominations from athletic directors and readers to help compile our list.

Drake Garrett, HB/DB, 1964

Was a two-time Class AA All-Ohio and three-time first team All-City selection that led the Wolverines to back-to-back City League football championships in 1961 and 1962. Selected to play in the Ohio North-South All-Star Game. Also a stand-out basketball player that earned first team All-City honors and broke the then-City League scoring record with 45 points against Covington Central. In track, he helped lead the Wolverines to three straight City League titles and tied a district record in the 180-yard low hurdles. Went to Michigan State where he earned three letters under legendary coach Duffy Daugherty. Was part of the Spartans fabled 1965 and 1966 national championship teams, the latter of which tied Notre Dame 10-10 in the “Game of the Century.” Garrett led the 1965 team (considered the school’s best ever) in punt and kick-off return yardage and interceptions. Drafted in the fourth round (102nd overall pick) of the 1968 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. Started 13 of the 15 games he played (from 1968-1970) making two interceptions, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and three kick returns for a 25.7 average.

Na’Shan Goddard, OL, 2001

Named first team D-III All-Ohio as a senior. Went to South Carolina where he played under head coaches Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier. Earned SEC All-Freshman and Freshman All-America honors in 2002. Was also named preseason All-SEC in 2005. Played center, guard and tackle with the Gamecocks. Signed as an undrafted free agent with the New York Giants who he played for for three years. Had a brief stint with the New York Jets and later played with the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints. Earned Super Bowl rings with the Giants (2008) and Saints (2010). Also played with the Calgary Stampeders (Canadian Football League) and Florida Tuskers and Virginia Destroyers (United Football League). Is currently the Offensive Line Coach/Recruiting Coordinator at South Carolina State.

Credit: Aimee Obidzinski

Credit: Aimee Obidzinski

Jerry Jones, OL/DL, 1962

Two-way standout went to Bowling Green where he earned All-MAC honors as an offensive tackle playing under legendary coach Doyt Perry on some of the program’s best teams. Drafted in the second round (32nd pick) of the 1966 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons and taken in the seventh round of the AFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. Played one season in Atlanta (at defensive tackle) and three for the New Orleans Saints (at offensive tackle). Made 22 starts in 44 career games.

Michael McCray, LB, 1984

After starting his career at Roth, where he was a member of the 1982 state championship squad in basketball, McCray moved to Dunbar for his final two years. A freak athlete that was a prep All-American in basketball and track (ran sprints). Was also a member of Dunbar’s 1984 state runner-up team in basketball. Dominant force in football. Registered 11 interceptions as a senior. Went to Ohio State where he was a three-year lettermen, two-year starter and named team captain in 1988. One of his biggest plays was recovering a fumble against Michigan in 1987 that began Ohio State’s comeback from a 13-0 deficit. McCray’s recovery led to a 61-yard touchdown pass from Tom Tupa to Everett Ross that propelled the Buckeyes to a 23-20 win in Earl Bruce’s final regular season game as head coach. Finished his OSU career with 126 tackles, 7.5 TFL, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and a defensive touchdown. Currently the principal at Trotwood-Madison High School.

Tavion Thomas, RB, 2018

After earning first team D-IV All-Ohio honors as a junior, Thomas was first team D-III All-Ohio as a senior when he ran for 1,663 yards with 24 touchdowns. Originally committed to Oklahoma before switching to Cincinnati where he played 14 games in two seasons and tallied 689 yards on 129 carries with seven touchdowns. Left UC for Independence Community College before finding a home at Utah. Was named first team All-Pac 12 in 2021 when he ran for 1,108 yards and set a Utah-record with 21 touchdowns. The Utes lost to Ohio State 48-45 in the Rose Bowl that season. Injuries limited his production in 2022 when he finished with 687 yards rushing and seven touchdowns.

Keith Smith, End, 1960

Three-sport standout earned 12 varsity letters in football, basketball and track and was the first Dunbar athlete to earn All-State football honors when he was selected first team (Class AA) in 1959. Was a two-time first team All-City selection in both football and basketball and the City League runner-up in the 120-yard high hurdles. Was named to the Scholastic Coach Magazine Prep All-American Football Team and selected to play in the Ohio North-South All-Star Game and in the All-American Prep Football Game (in Oklahoma City). Was the basketball team’s leading scorer (315 points) and finished second in the City League scoring race (18.5 points per game) as a senior. Also tied the school’s then-single game scoring record (36 points). Went to Ohio State where he played two seasons before transferring to the University of Dayton.

Dan Wilkinson, DT/DE, 1991

Tagged with the nickname “Big Daddy” by his middle school coach (Albert Powell) at Stivers Intermediate, Wilkinson led the Wolverines to four straight City League titles and was a two-time All-Ohio selection, making D-I second team as a junior and D-II first team as a senior. Went to Ohio State where he earned All-Big Ten honors twice and was a consensus All-American in 1993 when he was named the Big Ten’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year. Decided to forgo his final season of college eligibility and was taken No 1 overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1994 NFL Draft. Following an 11-day holdout, signed a six-year, $14.4 million contract with the Bengals that made him the highest-paid player in franchise history (at the time). Played 12 seasons in the NFL with the Bengals, Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins. Started 182 of the 195 games he played in, accumulating 388 tackles, 54.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and five interceptions.

Larry Williams, FB/LB, 1969

Earned the nickname “Freshman” from legendary coach Ben Waterman after he made the varsity team in ninth-grade. Two-way bruiser led the Wolverines to back-to-back City League Championships in his junior and senior seasons. He scored all of Dunbar’s points in an upset victory over Roth (28-24) and won the City League rushing title with 1,270 yards as a junior. Hampered by leg injuries most of his senior year, Williams was still able to rush for 168 yards and four touchdowns in a 44-38 win over Belmont that clinched the City League championship. Was a two-time All-City and two-time Journal Herald Area All-Star selection. Also Dunbar’s first City Wrestling Champion. Picked Kansas State over Michigan State. Played fullback for the Wildcats freshman football team but was scheduled to be switched to linebacker the following year. Died in an accidental drowning while home for the summer between his freshman and sophomore year at K-State.

Honorable Mention: Charles Bailey, DL, 1965; Davon Battles, DL, 1993; Billy Bentley, RB, 1957; Richard “TuTu” Brown, QB/DB, 1992; Darnell Cade, LB, 1996; Larry Cartwright, LB, 1998; Jade Clemens, DB, 1999; Isaac Cleveland , LB, 1991; Lawrence Cold, DL, 1975; Fest Cotton, DL, 1969; Jim Earley, RB, 1974; KeShaun Golden, WR, 2023; Billy Goodman, RB, 1988; Terrance Landers, WR, 2016; Darian Leslie, DB, 2022; Wesley McDaniel, WR, 1992; Duane Moore, DB, 1990; Derrick Moss, RB, 2003; Jamar Payton, DB, 2021; Al Peters, End, 1955; Joseph Scates, WR, 2018; Wilbur Suesberry, QB, 1955; Quinn White, DB, 2003; Oliver Wilkerson, LB, 1987; Willie Williams, Back, 1974; Roger Williamson, DB, 2011; Marcus Wright, RB, 2008.

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