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Blue Chip countdown: UM's Donovan Peoples-Jones has talent, smarts, drive

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Donovan Peoples-Jones

The Detroit News concludes its countdown of the top 15 Blue Chip recruits for 2017 with Donovan Peoples-Jones of Detroit Cass Tech at No. 1.

Donovan Peoples-Jones lived up to his ranking as the No. 1 wide receiver in the nation by making big plays all season to help Detroit Cass Tech earn the Division 1 state championship with a 14-0 record.

The five-star Peoples-Jones grabbed a pass on a quick slant for a two-point conversion to give the Technicians a 43-42 win over Saline in a regional final. He then caught a 20-yard TD pass with 25 seconds left for the difference in a 32-28 victory over Utica Eisenhower in the state semifinals.

“He has size, strength and speed, and you don’t see that combination in one receiver too often,” said Eisenhower coach Chris Smith on the difficulty of defending Peoples-Jones.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Peoples-Jones made sure he was a major factor while playing on the big stage at Ford Field in the 49-20 state championship game win over Detroit Catholic Central, hauling in six of Rodney Hall’s passes for 118 yards, including TD passes of 49 and 13 yards.

Peoples-Jones, who has 4.4 speed and a 42-inch vertical, finished his senior season with 60 receptions for 1,064 yards and 17 TDs while also intercepting four passes from his secondary spot, returning one for a TD, to earn a spot on The Detroit News Dream Team. He is No. 1 player on The Detroit News Blue Chip list. He will play his college ball at Michigan, already taking classes and learning the playbook to prepare for spring practice.

The state title game win was a huge accomplishment for Peoples-Jones, especially after losing to Romeo in the state title game his junior year when he had a strong game (eight receptions, 85 yards, TD) in the 41-27 loss.

“Really, this is amazing,” said Peoples-Jones after the state championship win. “I’ve never felt anything like this. I’ve had a lot of accolades and honors in my high school career, but nothing matches this one, a state championship with my brothers.”

Winning a state championship was very important for Peoples-Jones, who was an impact player since his freshman year, missing the postseason his sophomore year due to a broken hand. He actually played with that injury in the PSL title game that year when he had a pair of TD receptions in a win over Detroit King.

Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher knew Peoples-Jones was a special talent before he even stepped on the field for his first game.

“I noticed he was a special kid when we were having physical testing the summer before his freshman year and seeing the numbers he ran in the 40,” said Wilcher, who added, “but it was his numbers in the broad jump … really, he was coming in with not normal numbers. I mean, it was almost 11 feet and we were comparing that with NFL combine numbers at that time and it would have been the second farthest jump – unbelievable."

Wilcher said Peoples-Jones has battled an assortment of injuries, arches his freshman year, then the broken hand his sophomore year. He attended The Opening Finals in Oregon last July, but did not participate due to a hamstring injury.

“He had problems with the lower part of his foot his freshman year, the arch, and couldn’t plant and cut,” pointed out Wilcher. “We had to straighten that out and then he was fine.”

Peoples-Jones rehabbed while his teammates practiced at the beginning of his senior season, but was ready to compete in the opener against Oak Park. He had three catches for 100 yards and two TD receptions in a 45-27 victory, including a 58-yard TD reception to open up a 38-27 cushion.

Meet the 2017 Detroit News Blue Chip recruits

Peoples-Jones wanted to make a statement in the PSL championship game, scoring on a 55-yard TD receptions just three minutes into the game while going up against Detroit King four-star cornerback Ambry Thomas. He had big plays to set up TDs to help the Technicians take a 28-0 lead en route to a 41-20 victory with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh watching from the sidelines.

“Peoples-Jones is a freak athlete,” said King coach Tyrone Spencer. “He’s fast and explosive and has a high football IQ.”

No doubt, Peoples-Jones was highly recruited, and didn’t announce his college choice until December, when he picked Michigan over Ohio State, Florida State, Michigan State and Florida.

Peoples-Jones has the talent to be an NFL prospect, and he is also thinking of following in his father’s footsteps as an orthopedic surgeon.

“He’s just a very smart kid, intelligent with a high football IQ,” said Wilcher. “He has great parents and has a good head on his shoulders. I’m just very impressed with him. I think he’ll do great at Michigan. He’s always hungry to get better.”


No. 1: Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Detroit Cass Tech (Michigan)

No. 2: Ambry Thomas, CB, Detroit King (Michigan)

No. 3: Josh Ross, LB, Orchard Lake St. Mary's (Michigan)

No. 4: Jaylen Kelly-Powell, DB, Detroit Cass Tech (Michigan)

No. 5: Donovan Johnson, DB, Detroit Cass Tech (Penn State)

No. 6: Antjuan Simmons, LB, Ann Arbor Pioneer (Michigan State)

No. 7: Cody White, WR, Walled Lake Western (Michigan State)

No. 8: Corey Malone-Hatcher, DE/LB, St. Joseph (Michigan)

No. 9: Jordan Reid, OT, Detroit Cass Tech (Michigan State)

No. 10: Deron Irving-Bey, DE, Flint Southwestern (Michigan)

No. 11: Phillip Paea, DT, Berrien Springs (Michigan)

No. 12: Hunter Rison, WR, Ann Arbor Skyline (Michigan State)

No. 13: JaRaymond Hall, OL, Oak Park (Michigan)

No. 14: Scott Nelson, S, U-D Jesuit (Wisconsin)

No. 15: Rodney Hall, QB, Detroit Cass Tech (Northern Illinois)