What the World Looked Like When Class of 2015 Recruits Were Born
It's easy to forget just how young college football prospects actually are, as media exposure and incredible access create a more professional approach for star high school players than ever before.
Prospects who make cross-country trips to visit high-profile coaches and feature hoards of fans on social media are still teenage students, even though they're challenged to handle pressure well beyond their years.
To keep things in perspective, we took a look back to the time period when America's latest crop of recruits joined the party here on Earth. Most members of the 2015 class were born in 1996 or 1997, a fact that will undoubtedly make many of you feel old.
It's a span that featured technological advancement, unforgettable sports storylines and the return of America's greatest athletic icon. We explore the people, events and decisions that helped shape the narrative.
Atlanta Hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics
The United States hosted Summer Olympics action for the first time since 1984, bringing the globe's greatest athletes to Atlanta. The event was marred by a bombing that resulted in two deaths and more than 100 injuries, but is still remembered for its star performances.
American sprinters Michael Johnson and Gail Devers dominated, while Carl Lewis won his ninth and final gold medal. Shannon Miller, Kerri Strug, Dominique Dawes and the rest of the "Magnificent Seven" emerged as stars in gymnastics.
Team USA defeated Yugoslavia in the gold medal basketball game, with David Robinson, Reggie Miller and John Stockton leading the way. America finished atop medal standings, claiming 36 more medals than second-place Germany.
MJ Saved Earth in Space Jam
Michael Jordan jumped onto the big screen with this 1996 blockbuster. MJ went from competing for NBA championships to protecting Earth from basketball-obsessed aliens without ever having to leave the court.
The movie tells an alternate version of MJ's highly anticipated return from baseball. Jordan battles for the planet's preservation in an epic matchup with the Monstars, who stole skills from the likes of Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing.
With help from his teammates—a collection of Looney Tunes characters, Bill Murray and Wayne Knight (Newman!) from Seinfeld—he saves the day. Naturally, Jordan wins the game with a dunk from half court.
The film grossed more than $230 million dollars and further solidified MJ's status as a cultural icon. Earlier this year, there were rumors of a Space Jam sequel with LeBron James stepping into the starring role.
President Clinton Halted Federal Human Cloning Research
As a new millennium quickly approached, concerns surfaced about the direction of future science innovation. President Bill Clinton did his part to set a precedent against human cloning, eliminating all federal funds into that field of research.
"Any discovery that touches upon human creation is not simply a matter of scientific inquiry," Clinton said during a news conference in March 1997. "It is matter of morality and spirituality as well."
As far as we know, clones still are not among us. However, the prospect of replicating 5-star quarterback Josh Rosen probably sounds pretty good to college football recruiters.
Florida Gators Reigned Supreme in College Football
Head coach Steve Spurrier led Florida to a consensus national championship. The Gators capped off a 12-1 season in the Sugar Bowl with a 52-20 victory over Florida State on Jan. 2, 1997.
Led by Heisman Trophy quarterback Danny Wuerfell, Florida avenged a November loss to the Seminoles. The explosive offensive attack featured multiple future first-round NFL draft picks, including running back Fred Taylor (Jaguars) and receivers Ike Hilliard (Giants) and Reidel Anthony (Buccaneers).
It's the only national title for Spurrier, who claimed six SEC championships during his tenure in Gainesville.
Roger Maris Still Held the Single-Season Home Run Record
New York Yankees slugger Roger Maris established a Major League Baseball record in 1961 by blasting 61 home runs. He held that mark for more than three decades, but today it ranks seventh on the all-time list.
The steroid era was starting to spike in 1997, as Mark McGwire came within three swings of tying the record. He hit 70 the next season, finishing just ahead of Sammy Sosa (66) in a memorable race that shattered the hallowed record and ultimately proved too good to be true.
Sosa would top 61 home runs two more times in his career and McGwire did it once more. Both men remain left out of Cooperstown and stare up at Barry Bond's equally tainted 2001 home run total (73).
O.J. Simpson Took the Stand Again
Less than two years after former Buffalo Bills star O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder charges, he returned to court for a wrongful death civil suit. Though it didn't carry a prison sentence, Simpson was found liable for the death of ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman.
He was ordered to pay more than $33 million in damages in February 1997, which ultimately resulted in the auction of his Heisman Trophy. Simpson won the award with USC in 1968 and went on to a Hall of Fame NFL career before branching out into film and media.
Simpson retired as the league's second all-time leading rusher but is more widely known for these trials. He is currently incarcerated in Nevada due to a 2008 conviction for robbery, kidnapping and conspiracy.
Derek Jeter Won the World Series as a Rookie
The 2014 MLB season will be defined by Derek Jeter's farewell tour, as the legendary Yankees shortstop prepares to retire this fall. Back in 1996, Jeter was a 23-year-old AL Rookie of the Year who quickly rose to prominence as a New York icon.
He batted leadoff during a postseason run that resulted in the franchise's first World Series championship since 1978. Jeter has won five World Series during his career, earning rare distinction as team captain.
Young fans of today will remember him as an elder statesman of the league, but older baseball enthusiasts won't forget the young, charismatic phenom who emerged in 1996.
NASA Successfuly Landed a Mars Rover
The United States accomplished a monumental milestone in space pioneering during the summer of 1997. A Mars Rover called Pathfinder completed its eight-month journey to the red planet.
It provided live video of the arrival for a widespread audience and established a new stage of exploration for NASA. The Rover sent its final data transmission that September and has been followed by several scientific objectives on Mars.
The Pathfinder was the first rover to reach the planet, continuing a progression of unmanned space missions.
Keyshawn Johnson Was the No. 1 NFL Draft Pick
Keyshawn Johnson entered the NFL in 1996 with plenty of expectations in place after a dominant career at USC. The outspoken playmaker was selected first overall by the New York Jets, setting the stage for him to use the world's largest media market as a megaphone.
Johnson wrote a book about his rookie experience entitled Just Give Me the Damn Ball that drew a wide range of reaction upon its publication in May 1997. He went on to win the Super Bowl as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and played his final season in 2006 with the Carolina Panthers.
His son, Keyshawn Johnson Jr., is a freshman receiver at Mission Viejo High School in Southern California. He already holds scholarship offers from Miami, Arizona State, Ohio State and Florida State.
A Computer Conquered Mankind in Chess
Russian Garry Kasparov was the reigning world chess champion in 1997 when he encountered IBM "supercomputer" Deep Blue. A group of tech and chess experts reprogrammed the machine between games during a six-match showdown in New York City.
Kasparov couldn't keep up.
Deep Blue became the first computer program to defeat a world champ in match competition, providing another small signal of a gradual technological takeover. Kasparov quickly went back to beating fellow humans.
The Great One Took His Talents to Manhattan
Wayne Gretzky was already the most recognizable player in hockey before he signed with the New York Rangers in 1996. The NHL's all-time leading point scorer spent the final three seasons of his illustrious 20-year career as a main attraction in the Big Apple.
Gretzky wasn't able to track down another Stanley Cup, but he provided a few more magnificent moments. He scored 57 goals with the Rangers before retiring in 1999.
Tupac Shakur and Biggie Were Killed
Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. helped usher hip-hop onto the national stage at a level never seen before. However, they didn't have the chance to witness the culture's continued rise.
Shakur was gunned down in Las Vegas in September 1996 after attending a Mike Tyson fight. He was 25 at the time of his death, which sent shockwaves through the music industry and elevated concerns about gang violence.
Biggie, 24, was murdered in Los Angeles six months later. The generations that followed have kept both rappers in the limelight as legends of the industry.
The Cleveland Browns Became the Baltimore Ravens
Browns owner Art Modell drew the eternal ire of Cleveland fans when he relocated the franchise to Baltimore. The Ravens debuted in 1996 with former No. 1 overall draft pick Vinny Testaverde at quarterback and went on to win four games that season.
Baltimore welcomed pro football back to town, filling the void left behind by the Colts with their departure in 1984. The Ravens have won two Super Bowls, emerging as one of the league's most consistently successful organizations.
Cleveland received a reactivated version of the Browns in 1999. The team took Tim Couch with its first draft pick and things haven't improved much since.