Buckeye Pipelines: St. Thomas Aquinas Has Produced More Ohio State Football Players Than Any Other Out-of-State High School

By 11W Staff on March 26, 2022 at 10:10 am
Nick Bosa

Buckeye Pipelines puts the spotlight each week on a high school program who has had numerous and notable alumni go on to play for the Scarlet and Gray.

This week, we take a look at the high school that has produced the most out-of-state Buckeyes with nine: St. Thomas Aquinas. Since 2013, four Raiders have played for the Buckeyes, with three of the four becoming first-round NFL draft picks.

St. Thomas Aquinas
2021 RECORD 14–1



Since 1975, St. Thomas Aquinas has been coached by three men: George Smith, Rocco Casullo and Roger Harriott. All of them have won state championships as the Raiders’ coach.

Hundreds of Raiders have made their way onto college rosters to continue their football pursuits, with many making it to the NFL. Ohio State has been one of the beneficiaries of the talent the Raiders have developed.

Notable Buckeyes from St. Thomas Aquinas

S Nate Salley (2002-05)

Salley was a freshman on the 2002 national championship squad. The athletic defender was a key contributor on special teams for the school's first title team in 34 years.

The safety finished his Ohio State career with 181 tackles, two interceptions, 2.5 tackles for loss, 16 pass breakups and a memorable block against Michigan State in 2005.

The Buckeyes were trailing the Spartans 17-7 near the end of the first half when Salley struck. He came hard off the left side of the offensive line unattested and blocked John Goss' field goal attempt. Ashton Youboty scooped it up and scored on a 72-yard touchdown return.

Salley's spectacular play led to this classic John L. Smith halftime interview:

As a freshman, Salley was also on Jim O'Brien's second-to-last basketball team at Ohio State He played in 10 games, scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds during his only season on the basketball court. 

At St. Thomas Aquinas, Salley tallied 76 tackles and blocked eight kicks during his senior year. He also won a state title on the basketball team as a junior and was the state long jump champion as a senior.

DE Joey Bosa (2013-15)

Bosa was a Freshman All-American in 2013, then became the 27th Buckeye to be a unanimous All-American in 2014, when he was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and an instrumental player in the Buckeyes' national championship season.  

Bosa ranks in the top five in Ohio State history of the following defensive categories for a season and a career: Tackles for loss (50.5 career, 21 in 2014), quarterback sacks (26, 13.5 in 2014) and quarterback sack yards (177, 96 in 2014).

The San Diego Chargers selected Bosa with the third pick of the 2016 NFL Draft. He was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year and has received four Pro Bowl nods during his six years in the NFL.

During his junior and senior seasons at Aquinas, Bosa recorded 19 sacks and 51 tackles-for-loss. His dominating presence on the line helped guide St. Thomas to the 2012 Florida state title. Bosa was an Under Armour All-American and two-time All-State player in high school.

DE Nick Bosa (2016-18)

Following the departure of Joey after the 2015 season, Nick kept the Bosa train rolling at Ohio State when he arrived in 2016. The younger brother, known as “Little Bear,” had his Buckeye career cut short due to core muscle surgery in the fall of 2018.

Bosa made the most of the 30 games that he played in. Despite making only 10 starts, he racked up 77 tackles, 17.5 sacks and 29 tackles for loss over those 30 contests.

Bosa's sophomore year was his most productive. He earned All-American and All-Big Ten honors and was named the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year after he recorded 34 total tackles with 16 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, two pass deflections and a forced fumble.

The San Francisco 49ers selected Bosa with the second overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft, making him the highest drafted Ohio State defensive end at the time. Through three seasons in San Francisco, Bosa has been named to two Pro Bowls and was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2019. He likely would have made a third Pro Bowl if he hadn't torn his ACL in the second game of the 2020 season.

Bosa started all four of his seasons at St. Thomas Aquinas and won state titles in 2012, 2014 and 2015. His dominance on the field was recognized by all of the recruiting services as 247Sports ranked him as the No. 1 defensive end of the 2016 class. Bosa was a two-time Florida All-State player, getting the recognition after his sophomore and junior seasons. A knee injury after the eighth game of his senior year prevented him from earning All-State honors for the third time.

CB Damon Arnette (2015-19)

The talented defensive back played 38 games over his last three seasons with the Buckeyes. During that stretch, Arnette racked up 140 tackles, five interceptions and broke up 22 passes. 

Following his redshirt junior season, Arnette contemplated leaving Columbus for the NFL, but opted to return after a conversation with Cris Carter, who was one of his coaches at St. Thomas Aquinas. The decision to return proved to be beneficial as he improved his draft stock. In the third game of the 2019 season, Arnette intercepted a pass from Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey at the Buckeyes' 4-yard line and returned it 96 yards for the score. The pick-six was a first for Arnette, and it is the fourth longest interception return in Ohio State history.

Arnette was selected by the Raiders as the 19th overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. His career is currently in limbo, however, after he was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon in January.

St. Thomas Aquinas won two state championships with Arnette on the team. During his senior season, he snagged three interceptions, broke up five passes and collected three sacks. Arnette's play captured the attention of Ohio State, and he flipped to the Buckeyes from South Carolina just before National Signing Day in 2015.

P CHARLES MYRICK 1990 Listed on one roster.  
P MIKE CHRISSY 1991-92 On the roster for two seasons, did not attempt a punt. 1st team All-Florida, team MVP, 43.8 avg. led state, longest punt was 77 yards; all-star soccer player
HB KEITH WILKERSON 1993 Rushed for 24 yards and scored on his only carry as a Buckeye in the 63-28 victory over Pittsburgh. 1st team All-Florida, rushed for 1,812 yards and 22 TDs as a senior, won 1992 state title.
S NATE SALLEY 2002-05 Captain and All-Big Ten as a senior, 2x Academic All-Big Ten; was on Ohio State's basketball team his freshman season. STA went 14-1 and played in the state championship game his senior season.
WR DURON CARTER 2009 Caught 13 passes for 176 yards and caught a TD against Indiana; left the team after one season.  1st team All-Broward, won back-to-back state titles, caught 39 passes for 739 yards as a senior. 
DE JOEY BOSA 2013-15 2x All-American and All-Big Ten, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year (2014), led the Big Ten in TFL during the 2014 and 2015. 2x 1st team All-Floridian, won state title and collected 27 TFL and 9.5 sacks as a senior, Under Armour All-American.
DB DAMON ARNETTE 2015-19 2nd team All-Big Ten as a senior, finished with 140 tackles, 5 INTs including a 96-yard pick six. Team went 14-1, won the state title and he had 3 INTs, 5 PBU and 3 sacks his senior season.
DE NICK BOSA 2016-18 All-American, All-Big Ten and Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2017, tallied 77 tackles, 29.0 TFL and 17.5 sacks over 30 games. 2x state champ, 2x 1st team All-Floridian, collected 56 tackles, 29.5 TFL and 5 sacks as a junior, injured during his senior year.
WR TREVON GRIMES 2017 Played in two games and caught 3 passes for 20 yards during his only season. All-Broward County as a junior, caught 42 passes for 770 yards and 11 TDs during his STA career, season ending knee as senior.

More about St. Thomas Aquinas

Established in 1926, St. Thomas Aquinas High School was created by the Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Michigan, and was originally named St. Anthony High School. Just over two decades later, the name of the school was changed to Central Catholic High School. The new name lasted nine years until a second Catholic high school arrived in Fort Lauderdale. At that time Central Catholic became St. Thomas Aquinas.  

The Raiders compete in FHSAA Class 7A District 14. They went 14–1 and won their third straight state title in 2021. St. Thomas won its first state championship in 1992. The program also won titles in 1997 and 1999. A 15-year span of dominance for the Raiders began in 2007. STA has collected 10 state championships in the past 15 years.

Across all sports, Aquinas has won 114 FHSAA state championships. The girls' soccer team has a school-high 15 state titles. The girls’ track and field team is second holding 14 state championships, with the first title coming in 1998. Other girls’ sports with multiple state championships are cross country, golf, softball, swimming, tennis and volleyball.

The boys of St. Thomas have also dominated. The football team leads the way with 13 state titles, but baseball, cross country, lacrosse, soccer, swimming, tennis and track and field have also claimed multiple first place trophies.

Coaching legends George Smith and Roger Harriott

For 34 years, George Smith roamed the sidelines for St. Thomas Aquinas. He transformed the program into a powerhouse when he became head coach in 1975. Over the years, Smith won 361 games, six state titles, 24 district titles and was state runner-up seven times.

With that kind of success comes numerous awards. Smith was named the National Coach of the Year by ESPN, Schutt and USA TODAY in 2008. In 2010, the National High School Athletic Association gave him the honor of National Coach of the Year. Smith is also a member of numerous halls of fame including the Florida High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

Nate Salley, Joey Bosa and four other Buckeyes played for the legendary coach. Following the 2010 season, Smith hung up his whistle and retired from coaching St. Thomas Aquinas.

Current coach Roger Harriott was an All-Broward County running back for the Raiders and Smith between 1991 and 1994. Following a playing career at Boston University and Villanova, he ultimately made it back to his alma mater.

Harriott has excelled since taking over as the Raiders' head coach in 2015, taking the program to an even higher level of success. Harriott and St. Thomas Aquinas have won five state titles during his seven years as head coach.

In July, Harriott shared how his program prepares players for all facets of life during an interview withh FNF Coaches

“We have a standard of Faith-Family-Tradition-Excellence that we represent here,” Harriott said. “Our guys do a great job. We provide different opportunities to create an environment of love, respect and admiration. As a result, they move on and do some pretty extraordinary things in life.

“They realize that the adversity they face is healthy. It’s an opportunity to get motivated, improve and continue to give their best effort. As a result, they realize that if they want something in life, they have to take it. It won’t be given.”

Other famous alumni

In addition to the nine Raiders who have gone on to play football at Ohio State, several other athletes from St. Thomas Aquinas have also gone on to achieve success in the collegiate and professional ranks in recent years.

Michael Irvin starred at Miami and played for the Dallas Cowboys from 1988-99. He won three Super Bowls with Dallas, was named to the 1990s All-Decade Team, is in the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor and is a Pro Football Hall of Famer.

Geno Atkins was named to eight Pro Bowls and made the 2010s All-Decade Team during his 11-year career with the Cincinnati Bengals. He played college football for Georgia and was named Florida's Defensive Player of the Year as a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas. 

Jason Dufner spent the first 11 years of his life in Cleveland, but later moved to Fort Lauderdale and attended St. Thomas Aquinas. He has won five PGA tournaments including the PGA Championship in 2013. 

Chris Evert won 157 singles and 32 doubles titles during her Hall of Fame tennis career. The Fort Lauderdale native won 18 Grand Slam titles and is a seven-time French Open champion. She also played in a record 34 Grand Slam finals.  

More famous people from St. Thomas Aquinas include:

Why are Buckeyes prior to 1970 not highlighted or included in the rankings? Ohio State's official rosters listed the hometown of players, but did not provide their high school on the roster before 1970. 

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