Ra'Shede Hageman is not a household name. He's been in the media lately because the University of Minnesota football star was drafted high in the 2nd round by the Atlanta Falcons in last week's NFL Draft.
Ra'Shede played sports with my son and their pals at Washburn High School in Minneapolis, also my alma mater, and he was a beast. I saw him tear down the field like a sprinter and one-hand an errant throw for a 50 yard gain in a high school play-off game.
His mom was a crack head and he had a tough life growing up. But he turned his life around in high school, graduated from college and is a strong candidate to thrive in the NFL cracking heads, not becoming one.
I was at Washburn decades ago, when the school lived among the pantheon of great high schools in the City and Lake conferences. Washburn, Southwest, Edina, Minnetonka and Hopkins were popularly known as dominant schools in the state, but the Millers were steeped in a richer tradition of history, city affluence and community leadership that pre-dated the newer schools.
With white flight to the suburbs and an overconcentration of poor, transient and struggling families crammed into classrooms supported by a declining tax base, City schools like Washburn floundered.
Things are changing.
Washburn High School has begun to re-emerge as an acedemic force in the city, with enrollments creeping up and its commencement of a rigorous International Baccalaureate program to aggressively compete with suburban schools.
The Washburn Foundation was established by influential alums who contribute their passion and money. A controversial Fresh Start program imposed by the District was tempered and improved by smart parent activists. The Athletic director has started a program to assure acedemic excellence for athletes.
The school's students hold up Hageman as a testament to the future. He is their talisman. But they also know that graduating from college and landing a high draft number are not guarantees of greatness. That work for Ra'Shede is just beginning.
Washburn has no guarantees, either. Like Ra'Shede, it is still shedding the baggage of the past and is learning to leverage it to re-build its image of invincibility.
Both Hageman and Washburn are pretty good bets to achieve their goals. But it remains to be seen if Hageman fulfills the great potential that lies within to reach personal and on-field greatness. And it remains to be seen if Washburn's steady improvements will help it reach greatness once again.