Area Schools Produce Professional Football Talent

Matt Johnson


By Tom Rohrer

QuinaultEvery professional football career begins somewhere, with community’s large and small consistently producing NFL-level talent across the country.

The Thurston County area is no exception, as several area athletes from a variety of high schools have reached the pinnacle of football throughout the league’s existence.

Currently, there is a group of around a half dozen players from Thurston County with a professional football career, whether it is on an active NFL roster or as a free agent.

The list includes Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart (Timberline High School), Dallas Cowboys rookie safety Matt Johnson (Tumwater High School), free agent tight end Jeremy Stevens (River Ridge High School), free agent fullback Mike Sellers (North Thurston High School), and New York Jets back-up center Caleb Schlauderaff (Shelton High School).

Former Capital High School standout Alex Linnenkohl signed with the Chicago Bears as a center after not getting selected in the 2011 NFL draft, but was released by the team before the start of the regular season.  Linnenkohl, who graduated from CHS in 2006 before a terrific career at Oregon State University, where he was a three year starter at center, is now a member of the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League.

Jonathan Stewart

During his four year career at Timberline, Stewart became the states all-time leading rusher while earning a reputation as one of the nation’s top college recruits.  After receiving scholarship offers from every major program in the country (including USC, Notre Dame and the University of Miami among many more) Stewart decided he would play for the Ducks at the University of Oregon in Eugene.  Stewart would become a first team All-Pac-10 player in 2007 before being selected 13th overall in the 2008 draft by the Panthers.  During his tenure in the Panther backfield, Stewart has rushed for 3,500 yards, posted 81 receptions and has a total of 29 touchdowns.  Stewart continues to give back to the Thurston County area and holds the Jonathan Stewart ProCamp at South Sound stadium in Lacey every summer.

Matt Johnson

Since graduating from Tumwater High in 2007, Johnson has seen tremendous success on the gridiron.  The safety (along with twin brother Zach) starred at Eastern Washington University in Cheney.  Johnson was a four year starter for the Eagles and helped lead Eastern to the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision championship in 2010.  In the 2012 draft, Johnson was selected in the fourth round (pick #135) by one of the world’s most famous professional sports teams, the Dallas Cowboys.  Johnson was expected to compete for a starting spot on the Cowboys defense in his rookie year, but has a nagging hamstring injury throughout the pre-season and is expected to miss the first few games of the year.

Caleb Schlauderaff

A 2006 graduate of Shelton High School, Schlauderaff had a prolific career for the Utes of the University of Utah, earning third team AP All American honors in 2010 for his play along the offensive line.  In the 2009 Sugar Bowl, Schlauderaff and the Utes capped off a perfect 12-0 season by defeating the heavily favored Alabama Crimson Tide 31-17.  The 179th overall pick in the 2011 draft by the Green Bay Packers, Schlauderaff was sent to the New York Jets in September the same year in a trade, where he now is the back-up center to All-Pro Nick Mangold.

Seller’s road to the NFL differs from his area counterparts in that he entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 1998 following a successful campaign in the Canadian Football League for the Edmonton Eskimos and Winnipeg Blue Bombers.  The Washington State Prep Player of the Year his senior season at North Thurston, Sellers would go on to attend and play for Walla Walla Community College, where he earned all-American honors as a linebacker.  Signing with the Washington Redskins in 1998, Sellers would play in the nation’s capital until 2001, when he signed with the Cleveland Browns.  That same year, the fullback was waived by the Browns, and following two more seasons with the Blue Bombers, Sellers again signed with the Redskins, where he would play until his release following last season.  The starting fullback in the 2009 Pro Bowl, Sellers rushed for three touchdowns and 158 yards, while garnering 1,095 receiving yards on 123 catches and 18 touchdown receptions over the course of his career.

Part of what has made professional football (and other sports) so popular in the United States is the social aspect of the game.  Fans getting together to watch their favorite team sparks friendships and creates memories that will last a lifetime, regardless of how the final score turns out.  With a large portion of the public working during the week, football games on the weekend allow groups of people to kick back, enjoy themselves, and focus on something other than the stresses of day to day life.

Watching games at an establishment puts the viewer into an enjoyable, yet competitive, atmosphere, where everyone is invested and rooting their team on.

For more information on watching football on the big screen at Quinault Beach Resort, visit

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