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No. 1 player: Peoples-Jones has Cass Tech feeling great

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Detroit Cass Tech star Donovan Peoples-Jones hopes to become a surgeon.

Detroit – Donovan Peoples-Jones made a name for himself during his sophomore year at Detroit Cass Tech, grabbing a pair of touchdown passes in a PSL championship game victory over Detroit King at Ford Field.

It was then, when he was 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, he showed his hands and speed by hauling in a short pass from Rodney Hall and turning it into an 82-yard TD.

Oh, and it didn’t hurt that a year ago Peoples-Jones was the premier athlete at The Opening Finals in Oregon, showcasing his ability against the top talent in the nation at the Nike camp.

Peoples-Jones has a 4.0 grade-point average and hopes to become a surgeon. His father attended Michigan and is an orthopedic surgeon in metro Chicago.

Now, Peoples-Jones stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 195 pounds, with 4.4 speed and a 42-inch vertical. He is rated a five-star prospect and the No. 1 receiver in the nation by 247Sports. Scout has Peoples-Jones as a four-star and the No. 4 player at his position nationally.

Donovan Peoples-Jones is The Detroit News’ No. 1 player in the state.

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“I’ve gotten a lot stronger, a lot faster than I was back then,” said Peoples-Jones, who had 68 receptions for 1,161 yards and 18 TD last season. “I went from a legit 4.5 (40) to 4.4.

“I started going to Sound Mind Sound Body since middle school, seventh and eighth grade, so I could test my ability. I always wanted to compete. I really looked forward to it. My only goal this year is to be the biggest factor on the team that I can and win a state championship.”

He is being recruited by every national power, including defending national champion Alabama, along with Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Florida, Tennessee and Notre Dame.

Peoples-Jones is in no hurry to pick a college, saying he doesn’t expect to announce a decision until December. He is focused on reaching his final high school goal — earning a state championship that has so far eluded him. Cass Tech lost to Romeo 41-27 in the Division 1 state title game last year despite a strong effort from him (eight receptions, 85 yards, TD).

“Donovan likes to be first, wants to be great,” Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher said. “He loves to compete and it shows every day.”

Hall suffered a leg injury in the state semifinal game, sidelining him for the title game. Peoples-Jones thinks Hall, a Northern Illinois recruit, is healthy and ready to have his best season.

“No. 1 he’s healthy, and No. 2 we both want the same thing – a state championship,” Peoples-Jones said. “He’s improving mainly in his leadership skills. He had one heck of a season last year (2,384 yards passing and 19 TD, 1,127 yards rushing and 16 TD). Coach Wilcher puts us in a great environment every day to achieve our goals.”

Donovan Peoples-Jones

Peoples-Jones feels healthy too. He attended The Opening again in July, but didn’t participate because of a hamstring injury. He missed the first day of practice and didn’t compete in the team’s scrimmage at Clarkston, attending physical therapy to make sure the injury wouldn’t prevent him from playing in the season-opener against state power Oak Park Saturday night at Wayne State.

Cass Tech offensive coordinator Dave Malecki called Peoples-Jones “a freak” after watching him play in the PSL title game in that 39-7 rout of King in 2014.

Peoples-Jones has high expectations for a Cass Tech team that will showcase nearly a dozen future Division 1 players, including defensive back / running back Donovan Johnson, who clocked a 4.35 40 at The Opening.

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“Donovan and Rodney, those are my guys,” said Peoples-Jones of Hall and Johnson, who is 5-9 and 180 pounds. “We’ve gone to school every morning since our freshmen year. We’re always together, always hanging out.

“If I could compare him (Johnson) to me, he has just a little size disadvantage but he’s a great athlete. We compete every day in practice and it makes us both better. We won a state championship together in track. We really just compete all year round. I think it’s really good to have someone with your characteristics because you always have to find an edge, and hard work is the only thing that’s going to give you an edge when you’re going up against a great athlete.”