Paolo Banchero, likely in the NBA draft, would have been the NFL’s pick in the first round

Paulo Panchero played only one season of high school football in Seattle, Washington, but his old coach believes he could have been the top pick in the NFL if he stayed with the sport.

“I think it would have been a first-round pick. There’s no doubt,” former Odea High School head coach Monty Koehler told Sporting News reporter Stephen Noh. “…Even as a freshman, he was the best footballer in the field, the best athlete.”

Koehler has experience coaching NFL talent. Five of his former players have made it into the NFL since Koehler began coaching at O’Dea in 1985, including Miami Dolphins running back Miles Gaskin and former Minnesota Vikings receiver Nate Burleson.

“Paulo was definitely at that level,” Koehler added.

As a 6-foot-8, 215-pound freshman, Banchero split under center time with rookie quarterback Emonty Scott and completed 15 of 36 attempts for 191 yards, three pass attempts and one interception in 10 games. It was Banchero’s rushing ability that caught the eye of O’Dea’s coaches.

“There were a few runs and throws he did when he was a freshman that was like, ‘Wow, that’s so cool,'” said Koehler, now O’Dea’s athletic director. “He grabbed the ball, avoided the sack, and took a run. He beat everyone on the field to land 30 yards.” “I realized he was the fastest kid on the field. He had that extra equipment.”

Banshiro’s move to basketball

O’Dea won the Class 3A title that year at Rainier Beach, 38-11, but Banchero left the team to pursue his passion in basketball full time. Koehler and former teammate Owen Prentice tried to persuade Banchero to return to the football team, but both knew he would eventually choose basketball.

“I knew it was inevitable,” Koehler said. “…I tried to convince him to go back to his senior year as a third down player. If he didn’t like what was there, he could just take his knee so he never got injured. Because he could throw, it was weird the way he threw the ball.”

“I would say it was very close,” Prentice said. “I wasn’t sure what sport he would choose.” “We tried to convince him several times [to switch back to football]. He was ignoring her and joking about her. We all understood that this was the way he was going. …I don’t think the choice was very easy. I think he really likes to play football.”

Banchero’s basketball career quickly brought him to Duke, averaging 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game during the 32-7 season for the Blues’ final season coach Mike Krzyewski. Duke lost to North Carolina at Final Four in April, as Banchero scored a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. He averaged 18.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 3.4 assists in the 2022 NCAA Championship.

Now, Banchero is committed to the NBA. Yahoo Sports’ Kristen Beck mocked Banchereau for the Houston Rockets with the No. 3 overall pick.

But the old Banchero soccer coach won’t stop to think what the NFL quarterback could have turned into.

“His mechanics, he’d be a professional quarterback,” Koehler said. “How he handled himself, how he moved in the pocket, his ability, there is no doubt about it… Had Paolo stayed in football, he would have been one of the best recruits in the country,”

Paulo Panchero could have thrived on the football field according to his high school coach. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)