D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown went from high school rivals to teammates — now they are turning heads in the NFL

Mississippi football fans already knew how good NFL receivers D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown are — and now the rest of the country knows too.

The Magnolia State duo stole headlines for a pair of remarkable plays this past weekend.

Metcalf, who starred at Oxford High School from 2012-2015, made one of the more incredible plays you’ll ever see, but it wasn’t some spectacular catch as you would imagine.

When Arizona Cardinals cornerback Budda Baker stepped in front of a pass from Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, it looked like Baker had a clear path to the end zone, about 97 yards away. Then Metcalf ran him down.

Showing off his blazing speed, Metcalf chased down Baker at the Seattle 8-yard line, despite starting 10.9 yards behind him. According to NextGen Stats, Baker hit 21.27 miles-per-hour on the return, while Metcalf topped out at 22.64. He sprinted 114.8 yards and hit the second-fastest recorded speed in pursuit in the NFL so far this season.

A mic’d-up Baker was caught on audio saying “How’d he catch my [expletive]? What the [expletive]?”

The play turned heads around the NFL, but it didn’t surprise Oxford High School football coach Chris Cutcliffe one bit.

“One of the coolest things on that play that sums D.K. up is how hard he plays without the ball in his hands,” Cutcliffe said. “Most of his highlight plays are these great catches, but how he plays without the ball in his hands is how the position is supposed to be played and that’s what makes him so special.”

Cutcliffe recalled a similar play from the 2015 MHSAA state championship game, which Oxford lost 45-41 to Wayne County, where Metcalf flashed a glimpse of the same speed the whole world saw on Sunday.

Oxford quarterback Jack Abraham, who started the 2020 season under center at Southern Miss, dumped a screen pass to tailback Hiram Wadlington, who went 98 yards for a touchdown.

“D.K. was lined up on the side of the field opposite of the screen,” Cutcliffe recalled. “And I don’t know how he did it, but he made it all the way down the field and threw a block that turned a 50-yard gain into a 98-yard touchdown. With the amount of field he had to cover, it’s amazing that he got down there in time and ahead of the runner.”

Former Oxford wideout D.K. Metcalf (left) talks with current Southern Miss quarterback Jack Abraham on the sidelines during the 2015 State Championship against Wayne County. (Oxford photos by Keith Warren/MHSAA)

Earlier Sunday, Metcalf’s former Ole Miss teammate A.J. Brown made the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers defense look inept with seven catches for 153 yards, none more impressive than his 73-yard touchdown on a routine slant route.

Brown, who starred at Starkville High School from 2013-2015, accelerated into quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s pass so hard that the defensive backs never even touched him, showing why he led the league in yards gained following a catch last season.

Mississippi has always produced incredible players, but these guys are taking it to the next level. Through Oct. 26, Metcalf and Brown are averaging 86.5 and 83 yards receiving per game, respectively, with a combined nine touchdowns in 10 games.

Former Starkville coach Ricky Woods, who is now the head coach at South Panola, said he remembers well the battles Metcalf and Brown had at the high school level.

The 2015 game between Starkville and Oxford, when both of them were seniors, was broadcast on ESPNU. Brown, who doubled as Starkville’s top cornerback, got the better of his future teammate that day, catching 16 passes for 192 yards while holding Metcalf to three receptions for 14 yards.

“I knew A.J. was going to be an NFL player after our first practice that we had him,” Woods recalled. “But we knew D.K. was going to be an NFL player too. Both of them made hard things look so easy, like anyone should be able to do it.”

A.J. Brown runs past a defender following his senior year at Starkville in the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star game. (Photo by Keith Warren/MHSAA)

Woods said he remembers that Brown had a great work ethic and an attitude that helped take him from a good player to a great player.

“It didn’t matter if he caught two passes or 20,” Woods said. “He was the same person when he walked into the locker room after the game. He was a totally unselfish player, and when you’ve been coaching as long as I have, you come to appreciate that.”

So what’s next for the Magnolia State’s dynamic duo? 

With both of their respective teams at 5-1 through six weeks, we could be headed for a rematch of that 2015 ESPNU game in the Super Bowl. If not this year, there’s still plenty of time to get that showdown, with both players in the midst of their age-22 season.

One thing’s for sure: no matter what, Mississippi football fans are enjoying the ride.

“I think when all is said and done, they are going to go down as two of the best receivers to ever play the game,” Woods said. “I know one thing — they are making the whole state proud because of the job they are doing and the way they carry themselves while doing it.”

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