Like turkey and stuffing, the Fabulous 22 is a Thanksgiving tradition.
The first team was picked in 1980 and this is the 33rd edition. There was no team picked in 1992 because of the newspaper strike. The team is made up of the top 22 players in the WPIAL and City League, regardless of position. It is picked by the Post-Gazette scholastic sports staff, with help from high school coaches, scouting services and college coaches.
Many former Fabulous 22 selections have gone on to great success after high school. Some have been standouts on the major-college level, been a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and won other awards on the college level, such as the Outland Trophy and Butkus Award. Others have gone on to be first-round picks in the NFL draft and enjoyed productive careers in the NFL.
Some former Fabulous 22 picks who went on to stardom are Penn Hills’ Bill Fralic, North Hills’ LaVar Arrington, Aliquippa’s Ty Law and Sean Gilbert, Brashear’s Major Harris and McKeesport’s Brandon Short. Some current NFL players who were former Fabulous 22 selections are Upper St. Clair’s Sean Lee (Dallas Cowboys), Aliquippa’s Darrelle Revis (Tampa Bay Buccaneeers), Woodland Hills’ Rob Gronkowski (New England Patriots) and Ryan Mundy (New York Giants), Jeannette’s Terrelle Pryor (Oakland Raiders), Central Catholic’s Stefen Wisniewski (Oakland Raiders), Seton-LaSalle’s Bruce Gradkowski (Pittsburgh Steelers) and his brother, Gino Gradkowski (Baltimore Ravens).
DRAVON HENRY, Aliquippa, RB-DB, 6-2, 187, Senior
College talk: Is being recruited as a defensive back. His top five schools are Pitt, West Virginia, Maryland, Miami and Louisville. Plans to visit all five schools in the future.
The scoop: Rated the No. 14 safety in the country by Rivals.com. Also made a gigantic impact on offense as a running back. A four-year varsity player, Henry finished his career as Aliquippa’s all-time leading rusher and eighth in WPIAL history with 5,454 yards on 588 carries. This season, he rushed for 1,242 yards on 99 carries (12.5 average), and scored TDs five different ways. Played in four WPIAL championship games.
Most memorable moment this season? When I scored a touchdown and gave the ball to [a handicapped Aliquippa student].
Thanksgiving food you must have? Hot wings. We have them with turkey.
Favorite class? History and economics.
Favorite person to follow on Twitter? Some of my teammates.
Career, if not an athlete or coach? A trainer.
People might be surprised to know that … I’m greedy. I love food and I love to eat, like the big boys.
CHASE WINOVICH, Thomas Jefferson, LB-RB, 6-4, 220, Senior
College talk: Listed as a three-star recruit by Rivals.com, Winovich committed to Michigan in June and he plans on officially signing with the school in February.
The scoop: Though he will play linebacker in college, Winovich did a little bit of everything for the Jaguars as they had an undefeated regular season and advanced to the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals. Not only did he anchor a defense that allowed only 7.8 points per game, but he also rushed for 981 yards and 16 touchdowns at running back.
Most memorable moment this season? Definitely the West Mifflin game [a 35-0 victory]. Everything we worked for came together at that point and we also got [coach Bill Cherpak] his 200th career win.
As a Michigan commit, are you already starting to dislike Ohio State? I think it’s definitely developing. Once you sign, they almost by contract become your sworn enemy.
What’s the most played song on your iPod? “Electric Feel” by MGMT.
Career, if not an athlete or coach? I want to be the president.
People might be surprised to know that … I can play the piano.
MONTAE NICHOLSON, Gateway, WR-DB, 6-3, 205, Senior
College talk: Has not made a decision but has made official visits to Pitt, Florida State, Michigan State, Oregon and Virginia Tech. Oregon wants him as a receiver, Michigan State as an athlete and everyone else a defensive back.
The scoop: A standout on both offense and defense. Selected to play in prestigious U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January. Caught 41 passes this year for 810 yards and set a school record with 252 receiving yards in one game. Also made 72 tackles and intercepted three passes. Two-time Fabulous 22 selection.
Most memorable moment this season? Probably beating North Allegheny.
Thanksgiving food you must have? My aunt’s macaroni and my mom’s yams.
Favorite class? Honors robotics or physics.
Favorite person to follow on Twitter? De'Anthony Thomas, a running back from Oregon.
Career, if not an athlete or coach? Engineer. I’m going to major in engineering.
People might be surprised to know that … I was a fencing instructor over the summer.
MALIK HOOKER, New Castle, WR-DB, 6-3, 190, Senior
College talk: Hooker verbally committed to Ohio State in July. He was recruited to play defensive back. He had more than two dozen scholarship offers and seriously considered Pitt, West Virginia and Virginia Tech.
The scoop: Hooker didn’t play high school football until his junior season, but it didn’t take long for college coaches to take notice. This season, he scored 13 touchdowns and stood out defensively. An outstanding athlete, Hooker is one of the top basketball players in the WPIAL. He was named to the Post-Gazette’s Fabulous 5 team as a junior.
Most memorable moment this season? There were so many memories. We did a lot of great things. It was all memorable because it was my senior year.
Thanksgiving food you must have? I eat everything.
Favorite class? It would probably have to be English.
Favorite person to follow on Twitter? I pretty much just follow whoever.
Career, if not an athlete or coach? It wouldn’t even matter, as long as I’m making enough money to help my family. That’s all that matters.
People might be surprised to know that … I love to write.
JORDAN WHITEHEAD, Central Valley, RB-WR-DB, 6-0, 180, Junior
College talk: Whitehead is only a junior, but he has scholarship offers from Pitt, Ohio State, Penn State, West Virginia, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Rutgers. He plans on cutting his list to five schools in the next month.
The scoop: Whitehead established himself as one of the most dynamic playmakers in the WPIAL this season, finding a way to impact almost all facets of the game. In addition to his 993 yards of offense, he was a standout safety, kick returner and punt returner.
Most memorable moment this season? Probably beating Thomas Jefferson to go to Heinz Field.
Thanksgiving food you must have? I like macaroni and cheese.
What is the highest number of texts or letters you’ve gotten in one day from a college coach? I got about five tweets one day from a college coach. I let my dad handle the letters
Most played song on your iPod? It would probably be Drake’s new album.
Career, if not an athlete or coach? I would say physical therapy
People might be surprised to know that … Last year, I took gymnastics classes.
JIMMY WHEELER, West Mifflin, RB, 5-9, 170, Senior
College talk: Wheeler has not received any scholarship offers yet, but some Division II and III schools are showing interest.
The scoop: A two-time Fabulous 22 honoree, “Wheels” ran past opponents like a sports car this season. Wheeler led the WPIAL in rushing with 2,616 yards on 298 carries and scored a WPIAL-best 37 touchdowns. He rushed for more than 200 yards eight times, highlighted by a 359-yard, 6-touchdown effort in a playoff win against Moon. In two years as a starter, Wheeler ran for 4,842 yards and 56 touchdowns. He finished his career as West Mifflin’s all-time leading rusher. Wheeler is also a standout sprinter in track.
Most memorable moment this season? The playoff game when we beat Moon.
Thanksgiving food you must have? Turkey.
Favorite class? Math.
Favorite person to follow on Twitter? Kevin Hart.
Career, if not an athlete or coach? Probably like a counselor.
People might be surprised to know that … I used to like baseball more than football.
ELIJAH ZEISE, North Allegheny, WR-DB, 6-2, 200, Senior
College talk: Zeise gave a verbal commitment to Pitt in July. He also considered West Virginia and Temple. Some schools recruited him as a defensive back, but Pitt projects him as a wide receiver.
The scoop: With good size and excellent speed, Zeise was a big-time weapon in North Allegheny’s passing game the past few seasons. As a senior, Zeise had 49 receptions for 952 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 19.4 yards per catch. Zeise is an outstanding student and also starts on the North Allegheny basketball team.
Thanksgiving food you must have? The croissants my aunt typically prepares for us. Those are usually a hot item.
Favorite class? Math. It’s AP Calculus right now.
Favorite person to follow on Twitter? Probably the “Not Johnny Manziel” account.
Career, if not an athlete or coach? I’d like to be a successful businessman. I like accounting, so maybe a successful accountant. Oh, and I would someday like to be on the cover of GQ Magazine.
People might be surprised to know that … I don’t have my license. A lot of people get on me about that.
T.J. HOLL, Seneca Valley, QB-S, 6-1, 205, Junior
College talk: Holl says he has had some “light recruiting” in his junior year, but thinks he’ll ultimately be recruited as a defensive player.
The scoop: Known mostly as a dual-threat quarterback, Holl also spent time at safety and linebacker this season. He led Seneca Valley to a 9-2 record and a No. 5 seed in the Class AAAA playoffs, where the Raiders lost to Woodland Hills in the quarterfinals. Holl completed 117 of 188 passes for 1,804 yards this season and also led his team with 723 yards rushing.
Most memorable moment this season? Beating North Allegheny at home. That hadn’t happened in a while.
Thanksgiving food you must have? Stuffing.
Favorite class? History.
Favorite person to follow on Twitter? Seneca Valley point guard Matt Darby.
Career, if not an athlete or coach? That’s a tough one. Maybe a police officer.
People might be surprised to know that … Hmmm. My favorite food is spaghetti.
LENNY WILLIAMS, Sto-Rox, QB-DB, 5-11, 197, Senior
College talk: Made verbal commitment last week to Temple. Was recruited as a defensive back. Also had a few offers from MAC schools.
The scoop: The most prolific passer in WPIAL history. Finished with record 8,508 yards (479 of 833) and WPIAL record 102 touchdown passes. Fifth-leading passer in state history. Also rushed for 3,051 yards and finished with WPIAL record 11,559 total yards. This year was 136 of 209 for 2,709 yards and 34 TDs. Also rushed for 551 yards.
Most memorable moment this season? A couple. The goal-line stand against Neshannock and beating Clairton.
Thanksgiving food you must have? All of it. I Love it all.
Favorite class? AP calculus
Favorite person to follow on Twitter? It’s not a person, but funny “vines” make me laugh.
Career, if not an athlete or coach? Accountant
People might be surprised to know that … I used to play running back in midget leagues.
BEN HUSS, Upper St. Clair, OL-DL, 6-3, 275, Senior
College talk: Has interest from Bowling Green, Temple and Youngstown State as an offensive lineman.
The scoop: Upper St. Clair coach Jim Render calls him one of the most athletic linemen he has ever coached. Huss had 46 tackles this season, including nine for a loss and four sacks. He’d like to play guard in college but hasn’t made his decision yet.
Most memorable moment this season? This football season would probably be the NA game at Baldwin [in the Class AAAA quarterfinals]. We played pretty well. It was revenge from [last year’s] WPIAL championship game. We have some kids who don’t like each other.
Thanksgiving food you must have? Probably cornbread. We have some mean cornbread. My mom makes it.
Favorite class? Definitely math with Mrs. Alloway, shes the best.
Favorite person to follow on Twitter? Floyd Mayweather (@FloydMayweather), he’s a nice idol.
Career, if not an athlete or coach? If not coaching, probably sales.
People might be surprised to know that … I work at a flower shop. Or that I played lacrosse my sophomore year, led the WPIAL with 50 goals, then quit for football.
BRETT BRUMBAUGH, South Fayette, QB, 6-4, 195, Junior
College talk: Temple and Akron have already offered scholarships. Duke also is showing interest along with a few other Division I schools.
The scoop: One of the top junior quarterbacks in the state. Led South Fayette to WPIAL Class AA title and has completed 188 of 302 for 3,096 yards and 34 touchdowns. One of only four WPIAL QBs to throw for 3,000 yards in a season. Sixth-leading passer of all time in WPIAL with 6,525 yards (390 of 623 and 78 TDs). Has a chance at reaching the WPIAL record for most passing yardage next season.
Most memorable moment this season? Definitely the Aliquippa game [in WPIAL final]. Just taking a knee and looking up and seeing a sea of green.
Favorite class? Business management.
Favorite person to follow on Twitter? My friend Jack Relihan.
Career, if not an athlete or coach? Something in business.
People might be surprised to know that … I’ve actually been an altar boy server since third grade at St. Barbara [in Bridgeville].
NICO LAW, Ringgold, QB, 6-1, 185, Junior
College talk: Pitt and several other Division I schools are already expressing interest.
The scoop: If you fought the “Law” this fall, you probably weren’t going to win. Law is believed to be the first WPIAL player to both pass and rush for 1,000 yards in the regular season. For the season, he completed 93 of 180 passes for 1,494 yards and 14 touchdowns, and rushed for 1,210 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Most memorable moment this season? Probably the Belle Vernon game when I had 200 yards passing, 200 yards rushing and five touchdowns [three passing, two rushing].
Thanksgiving food you must have? The whole meal.
Favorite class? Honors American Cultures. I really like history.
Favorite person to follow on Twitter? Mostly all the athletes, like LeBron [James].
Career, if not an athlete or coach? I would probably want to do something with the law. Some kind of criminal justice thing.
People might be surprised to know that … My ability not only to run, but to pass. Everyone thinks that I’m just a running quarterback. I’m a pass-first guy.
TORY DELMONICO, West Allegheny, RB-LB, 6-3, 203, Senior
College talk: Has offers from Army and Navy or could walk-on at other D-I schools. He said he’s still keeping his options open but believes his best shot is as a defensive player, either at linebacker or as a safety.
The scoop: Delmonico is the grinding runner who complements Chayse Dillon in the venerated West Allegheny backfield. He also is a standout defensive player at strongside linebacker. Delmonico gained 766 yards on 122 rushes this season and also was his team’s leading receiver, catching 21 passes for 337 yards.
Most memorable moment this season? Definitely Saturday night, winning the WPIAL championship.
Thanksgiving food you must have? Stuffing.
Favorite class? Physics.
Favorite person to follow on Twitter? The Space Cats account (@TheSpaceCats)
Career, if not an athlete or coach? Scientist.
People might be surprised to know that … I’m pretty weird.
NIKO THORPE, Central Catholic, LB, 5-10, 225, Senior
College talk: Has not made a decision. Recruiting is starting to pick up with him. Temple, Villanova, Georgetown and Bucknell are showing interest.
The scoop: One of the best linebackers in the WPIAL. A hard hitter who moves well. One of the leaders of a defense that was vital to Central Catholic’s run to a WPIAL Class AAAA championship. Twenty-nine years ago, his father, Chris, made the Fabulous 22 as a running back at Fox Chapel.
Most memorable moment this season? Probably the scoop and score I had against Penn-Trafford [in the WPIAL semifinals].
Thanksgiving food you must have? Stuffing with cranberry sauce at my grandmas. I only eat her stuffing.
Favorite class? Psychology.
Favorite person to follow on Twitter? [rapper] Tyler The Creator.
Career, if not an athlete or coach? Probably psychologist.
People might be surprised to know that … I play the piano. I get paid to play at churches and weddings.
TROY APKE, Mt. Lebanon, WR, 6-2, 190, Senior
College talk: Committed to Penn State in April, choosing it over Georgia Tech, Minnesota, Pitt and Akron.
The scoop: A wideout with great speed, Apke is among the best receivers in the WPIAL. This year he caught 40 passes for 728 yards, accounting for about 60 percent of his team’s passing game.
Most memorable moment this season? Probably the Penn Hills game. It was a big game and we needed to win. We won by three.
Thanksgiving food you must have? Stuffing and turkey.
Favorite class? Math.
Favorite person to follow on Twitter? Not Johnny Manziel (parody account)
Career, if not an athlete or coach? Maybe something with the sea, like a marine biologist
People might be surprised to know that … I can sew.
MIKE GRIMM, Bethel Park, OL, 6-6, 308, Senior
College talk: A four-star recruit on Rivals.com, Grimm committed to Pitt in June, though he said he doesn’t plan on signing with the Panthers until February. He has a number of other offers from major conference schools.
The scoop: A physically imposing force, Grimm helped anchor a Black Hawks offensive line that advanced to the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs for the 13th consecutive season.
Most memorable moment this season? Probably when I committed [to Pitt]. It was a great feeling. I definitely felt more comfortable playing this year and got to enjoy my senior year.
Thanksgiving food you must have? I’ve probably got to go with turkey.
Career, if not an athlete or coach? I’m going to end up getting my business degree at Pitt, but I still want to do something physical. Either be a power lifter or go into mixed martial arts.
What would your MMA name be? The Grimm Reaper.
What ACC road trip are you most looking forward to next year? Florida State or Miami.
People might be surprised to know that … I love the pain of getting a tattoo.
TERRY SWANSON, Aliquippa, RB-DB, 5-10 187, Senior
College talk: Is undecided on a college and hasn’t narrowed his list of possible schools. Has scholarship offers from Temple, Toledo and Akron, and has received interest from Pitt and West Virginia.
The scoop: Along with teammate Dravon Henry, Swanson was a member of one of the most productive WPIAL backfields in recent memory. He rushed for 1,704 yards, the fifth most of any WPIAL player, and 23 touchdowns this season. For his career, he rushed for 4,333 yards.
Most memorable moment of your career? Probably making it to Heinz Field [for the WPIAL championship] every year since I was a freshman.
Thanksgiving food you must have? Stuffing.
For someone as accomplished as yourself, are you surprised you’re not getting interest from bigger colleges? Yeah, I am actually.
What’s the most played song on your iPod? “Pound Cake” by Drake.
Career, if not an athlete or coach? Accountant.
People might be surprised to know that … I’m actually supposed to be graduating in 2015.
STERLING JENKINS, Baldwin, OT, 6-8, 300, Junior
College talk: Could be the most heavily recruited player in the WPIAL next season. Only a junior, Sterling already has 13 scholarship offers from Division I colleges. Pitt, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan and Tennessee are among the schools that have offered. He said he is not close to narrowing his list of schools.
The scoop: Rivals.com ranks him among the top 250 juniors in the country. His size and agility make him attractive to college recruiters.
Most memorable moment this season? Probably upsetting Mt. Lebanon.
Thanksgiving food you must have? Deviled eggs.
Favorite class? Video productions.
Favorite person to follow on Twitter? My offensive line coach, Mike Muha, because he’s really sarcastic.
Career, if not an athlete or coach? I’d probably say an author. Probably of fiction books.
People might be surprised to know that … I’m a huge nerd. I used to collect comic books and I grew up playing video games.
ALEX BOOKSER, Mt. Lebanon, OL-DL, 6-6, 295, Senior
College talk: Last weekend he took his official visit to Tennessee and will visit Penn state, Ohio State and Pitt. He is being recruited as an offensive lineman.
The scoop: Bookser has played some guard but prefers tackle. His combination of size, athleticism and skill had colleges across the country lining up to acquire his services, and he said this week he has narrowed his college decision down to four schools. ESPN gives him four stars and an 83 grade, making him one of the top 150 recruits in the country.
Most memorable moment this season? Playing Penn Hills, the second-to-last game. We had just come off a really hard loss to Peters Township. Everybody was feeling pretty down, and we just came out and said forget about everybody else, and we beat a pretty good football team.
Thanksgiving food you must have? Pumpkin pie.
Favorite class? International relations, it’s my favorite class ever.
Favorite person to follow on Twitter? It might be the Not Johnny Manziel account (@JohnnyFootbalI)
Career, if not an athlete or coach? That’s a hard one. I guess a own a restaurant.
JAQUAN DAVIDSON, Elizabeth Forward, QB-DB, 6-4, 180, Senior
College talk: Committed to Pitt in October. The Panthers recruited Davidson to play wide receiver. His other finalists were West Virginia and Western Michigan.
The scoop: Davidson was one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the WPIAL the past two seasons. He passed (1,038 yards and 14 touchdowns) and rushed (1,109 yards and 15 touchdowns) for more than 1,000 yards this season. Davidson is also an excellent basketball player. He averaged 22 points per game his junior season.
Most memorable moment this season? Probably the day I committed to Pitt.
Thanksgiving food you must have? Ham and yams.
Favorite class? Math.
Favorite person to follow on Twitter? LeBron [James].
Career, if not an athlete or coach? Just be a mentor and help other people out.
People might be surprised to know that … I sacrifice myself for people. I like to help others out before I help out myself.
JALEEL FIELDS, Aliquippa, OL-DL, 6-2, 287, Senior
College talk: Fields is being recruited as a defensive lineman by several Division I schools, but he has narrowed his list to Cincinnati, West Virginia and Purdue. He also has scholarship offers from Pitt, Temple, Connecticut, Ohio, Kent State and Toledo, among others.
The scoop: Fields played both ways for Aliquippa, helping hold down an offensive line that paved the way for two 1,000-yard rushers (Dravon Henry and Terry Swanson) and was on a defense that allowed just 12.1 points per game. In his four years of high school, the Quips went 53-4 and played in the WPIAL Class AA championship game all four years, winning it two of those times.
Most memorable moment of your career? Probably my sophomore year when I played in the WPIAL championship and we beat Jeannette.
Thanksgiving food you must have? Stuffing.
Favorite class? History.
What’s the best movie you’ve seen the past few months? The Best Man Holiday.
Career, if not an athlete or coach? I would want to be a sports trainer.
People might be surprised to know that … I barely watch TV.
SHAI McKENZIE, Washington, RB-DB, 6-0, 216, Senior
College talk: Was offered scholarships by dozens of Division I colleges. He has narrowed his list to four and will announce his choice Dec. 20. Pitt, Florida State, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech are his finalists. He has visited all of them except Georgia Tech (will visit Dec. 13).
The scoop: Although he played in only three games before tearing the ACL in his knee, McKenzie showed enough to make the Fabulous 22 for the second consecutive season. In three games, rushed for 650 yards and averaged 18.1 yards per carry and scored 11 TDs. Has power and speed. Finished his career as the 16th-leading rusher in WPIAL history with 4,856 yards.
Most memorable moment this season? Tearing my ACL.
Thanksgiving food you must have? Cranberries.
Favorite class? English.
Favorite person to follow on Twitter? WPIAL Insider.
Career, if not an athlete or coach? Athletic trainer.
People might be surprised to know that … I can’t go anywhere without my phone.