Fork Union Has Produced 117 Pro Football Players

by James Wyatt Whitehead V  

One of my favorite times of the year is after Thanksgiving. That is when the playoffs for the Virginia High School League football championship thunders into overdrive. For fifteen years I had one of the best seats for high school football as the public address announcer for Briar Woods High School in Loudoun County. The Falcons were always ready to tackle the very best teams from across the Commonwealth. From 2010 to 2013 Briar Woods had four appearances and three victories in state championship finals. Briar Woods sent many student athletes on to play collegiate football and two went on to play professionally. This led me to wonder which high school or prep school in Virginia has produced the most professional football players.

The answer can be found in the rolling countryside of Fluvanna County: Fork Union Military Academy. Since 1899, the all-male military school has produced a staggering 117 professional football players. It all started when FUMA graduate John Lascari moved on to play college ball at Georgetown and then pressed on to play ten games for the New York Giants in 1924. Lascari caught three passes and one touchdown.  

Since then, the Blue Devils have produced some of the very best professional players of the past forty years. Back in 1980, Al Testaverde drove from New York to Fork Union with his son Vinny to explore the possibilities of a post graduate prep year. After a tour of campus and meeting with coaches Al turned to his son and said:

“Son you are going there.”

The highly talented quarterback was in need of  preparation for life, improved grades, and a chastening for personal conduct in order to pursue the dream of a college football career.  

Years later, Vinny Testaverde said, “It was the best decision my father ever made for me.” 
His experience at FUMA unlocked the doors to a scholarship at the University of Miami, the 1986 Heisman Trophy, becoming the number one pick in the 1987 draft, 46,000 passing yards, and a 21-year professional career.

Another Heisman winner who donned the blue and red jersey of Fork Union was running back Eddie George. Three seasons of the spartan military life of Fork Union ushered in a legendary career at Ohio State, franchise records for the Tennessee Titans, and the start of a college football coaching journey at Tennessee State. Eddie George had this to say about FUMA:

“This was the cornerstone for where I am today. That’s how much Fork Union means to me.”

The honor roll of alumni from Fork Union Military Academy who have played professional football is indeed impressive. Many are familiar and legendary names and others only briefly ascended the heavenly pantheon of the gridiron.  

Fork Union’s record of preparation for a football life is unmatched. In Virginia, the next closest school is Fork Union’s arch-rival, Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham: 31 Tigers moved up to the NFL. In the realm of public schools only powerhouses such as Hampton or Highland Springs can amass double digits in pro football players. Two hundred and forty Virginia schools have sent at least one player to the pros for a total of 669 paid athletes. According to Pro Football Reference, no other school in the United States has sent more players to the National Football League than the Blue Devils.  

Sports journalist Adam Kramer chronicled daily life for the student athletes of Fork Union in an article entitled “Last Chance High.” I couldn’t help but notice a former student of mine that I had often wondered about. He was a singular athletic talent for Briar Woods High, but outside influences had derailed his high school athletic dreams. Fork Union brought this young man back from the shadows and sent him on to Norfolk State University. As a backup quarterback, he received no Heisman trophies, but did earn a college degree and a promising start on a new life.  

The Fork Union alma mater best captures the spirit of preparing the Body, Mind, and Spirit.  

“All Cadets, past and present … FUMA men are we.”

Some of the best football in Virginia can be enjoyed this coming Saturday and the next. It is likely in your own hometown. Head out and celebrate the achievements of student athletes as they compete for the Virginia High School League championships.

James Wyatt Whitehead V  is a retired Loudoun County history teacher.

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19 responses to “Fork Union Has Produced 117 Pro Football Players”

  1. With its emphasis on building character, Fork Union reminds me of VMI.

    I wonder how long until it gets canceled.

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      You cannot knock this school for lack of diversity. At glance, it seems that race, religion, and where you came from have no meaning. You belong to FUMA when you pass under the entrance arch. It is clear their singular focus on character education is the special sauce. I plan to research the One Subject Plan at this school.

      1. Teddy007 Avatar

        In California, a real tell for the football mad schools is having a lot more polynesian male students than female students. Sometimes diversity is a tell about a football crazy high school.

        1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
          James Wyatt Whitehead

          We are not in California nor are we in Kansas Dorothy. Stay tuned.

          1. Teddy007 Avatar

            Since Fort Union is all male, it is a little easier to hide being football crazy. A good tell there would be how many Fort Union students are black who do not play football.

    2. Shapira wouldn’t know where FUMA is located and would never be able to find Fluvana. I don’t think he would ever get out of Fluvana after writing a VMI-like article on FUMA.

    3. LarrytheG Avatar

      Looks to be free of the Lost Cause and Confederate Iconography. Very different from VMI.

      1. Well, it was founded 30+ years after the Civil War, so it would be odd for FUMA to have much or any Confederate iconography.

  2. DJRippert Avatar

    Quite a list of distinguished alumni – both in football and other endeavors …

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      I have driven by this school many times on my way to southside Virginia. A very impressive legacy. I had no idea.

      No cell phones or social media permitted. Imagine the possibilities if public schools could achieve such a feat?

    2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      I have driven by this school many times on my way to southside Virginia. A very impressive legacy. I had no idea.

      No cell phones or social media permitted. Imagine the possibilities if public schools could achieve such a feat?

  3. James McCarthy Avatar
    James McCarthy

    Terrific little piece distant from the usual BR bicker. More, please.

  4. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    So, pro sports is a major way out of FU?

  5. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    “His experience at FUMA unlocked the doors to a scholarship at the University of Miami, the 1986 Heisman Trophy…”

    … alas, he lost to Penn State in the championship Fiesta Bowl game. 😂🤣😂🤣 BLUE!! WHITE!!

    Great article, James!

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      He was unlucky. Played his best years for Tampa Bay and the Jets when they sucked. I met him one time at a University of Miami tailgate. I had a chance to toss a football around with some guys in the parking lot. Pretty cool catching balls from Vinny T and Bernie Kosar. Bernie had this weird side arm throw. As P.A. I used to call “Touchdown Trace McSorley” when he was the QB at Briar Woods.

  6. Teddy007 Avatar

    Because they recruit. As an example of power of recruiting in high school, look up the history fo Gerry Faust. When he was a Catholic High school coach he was great because he had bigger, stronger, older players than other schools. When he tried to coach college, he was really bad because his vanilla offenses and defenses no longer work when everybody had good players.

  7. Teddy007 Avatar

    FUMA benefits from what is known as gray shirting where players who want to play at football players need to wait a year until NFL starters move on. thus, they enroll at FUMA for a semester and come December graduates before enrolling in the spring at a football powerhouse in order to go through spring training (Green Shirting).

  8. LarrytheG Avatar

    Thank you James. I look forward to more articles from you!

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