Tai Streets and his fellow Thornton High School alums wear the pride of their school not only on their sleeves, but on their faces.
They may have moved on to bigger things, but the list of the school's alumni is a "Who's Who?" of sports, entertainment, business, politics and education.
Streets, who is among the best three-sport prep athletes to come out of Thornton and Illinois, is right at home coaching youth. The 1995 Thornton grad loves working with young people and showing them how to use sports as a vehicle to success. He is an in-school detention supervisor at Thornton and is an assistant football and boys freshman basketball coach.
"They say use athletics, sports, don't let it use you," Streets said. "That is what I tell these kids. Get the grades and sports and can take you a long way."
It has been quite a journey for the former Michigan two-sport athlete, San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions wide receiver. He played three years at Rich South, then moved to Harvey to live with his dad.
He was part of one of the great eras in Thornton sports.
Streets was a prep All-American at Thornton, and an all-stater in football and basketball. He was considered the best athlete in Illinois his senior year (1995). He was The 1995 Times Illinois male athlete of the year.
As a junior he won the Illinois Class AA long jump and runner-up as a senior. He also helped the 1995 Wildcats' 1,600-meter relay team finish third in Class AA.
The 1994 Wildcats were 9-0 in the regular season. In basketball, the Wildcats finished second in Class AA. They beat Kevin Garnett's Farragut team in the semifinals before falling to Peoria Manual.
"I can't describe it even now, but it was just a great time," Streets said. "We had some great athletes like Antwaan Randle El, Melvin Ely, Napoleon Harris.
"We definitely had a lot of fun and won a lot of games."
Streets also runs MeanStreets AAU basketball teams and loves it. He has teams in Chicago, the south suburbs and Northwest Indiana.
"Kids from Harvey, Gary, the South Side of Chicago, they maybe don't have as many opportunities as other kids do," Streets said. "We want to be able to give them some opportunities.
"Once the streets take you in, you are not coming back. You lose. We don't want that to happen with our youth."
Streets said he feels he can still make a difference.
"I am very fortunate to have played six years in the NFL when the average is three years," Streets said. "We also tell kids how to manage money. I made a few mistakes, but luckily I had some good people around me.
"It is tough when you have nothing and all of a sudden you have all this money."
At Michigan, he was part of a recruiting class that included Tom Brady and Charles Woodson.
"I remember Brady staying after practice and throwing at garbage cans for accuracy," Streets said. "We used to laugh at him, but look at where he is."
He was also part of a quarterback controversy with Brady, Brian Griese, Scott Dreisbach and Drew Henson.
"It was difficult, but it wasn't that big of a deal for me," Streets said.
He was the leading receiver on the 1997 national champion Wolverines. Streets led the Wolverines in receiving yards each season from 1996–1998. He had two touchdown receptions in the 1998 Rose Bowl, which clinched a share of the national championship. In 1997, he posted five 100-yard receiving games and was the team's most valuable player and was a Big Ten second-team pick.
At Michigan, he also played part of the 1996-97 basketball season for the Wolverines.
He was selected with the second pick of the sixth round of the 1999 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. He also played for the Detroit Lions in 2004.
"At San Francisco, I played with Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens," Streets said. "Jerry was the hardest worker I have ever seen. The first on the field, last off. Terrell was just and still is a great athlete. Gifted."