Just 15 minutes east of downtown Dallas, Mesquite is a town of 150,000 people with several attractions that people are probably familiar with, including the Mesquite Outlaws Futbol Club, Mesquite Championship Rodeo, the Town East Mall, and the Devil’s Bowl Speedway. But it’s also the hometown of several famous athletes that you’ve seen in the NFL, NBA, and MLB. These Mesquite natives have made a name for themselves in the pros, but they learned their sports in local parks and on the high school fields. Here are nine athletes from Mesquite who were big here before they made it on the national stage.
1. Quincy Acy: Basketball Player
Quincy Acy first gained attention while playing basketball at John Horn High School, where he averaged 17.8 points and nearly eight rebounds a game. He went to college in-state at Baylor University, and in 2012 he was selected 37th overall by the Toronto Raptors in the NBA draft. He’s since bounced around the NBA, playing for the Sacramento Kings, New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks, and Brooklyn Nets. In 2019, he signed a one-year deal with Maccabi Tel Aviv to play in the Israeli Premier League and the EuroLeague. The 6-foot-7 forward is known for his post-up play, strong defense, and shot-blocking.
2. Joe Bowden: Football Player
Joe Bowden started his football career at North Mesquite High School, where the linebacker was named an All-American. He continued his football career at the University of Oklahoma, where he once again was named an All-American as a senior when he finished the 1991/1992 season with 127 tackles, two sacks, and two interceptions returned for touchdowns. The Houston Oilers selected him in the 5th round of the 1992 NFL draft, and he went on to play for the Oilers/Tennessee Titans, followed by a year on the Dallas Cowboys. After his pro football career, Bowden went into coaching. He spent time on the staff of the Rams and 49ers, and he’s now the defensive coordinator for the Missouri Baptist University Spartans.
3. Jason Jennings: Baseball Player
Jason Jennings played both baseball and football at Poteet High School in Mesquite, earning All-District honors as a kicker. But it was in baseball where he really excelled, and as a senior, he was named the District MVP. Jennings would go on to play for Baylor before starting a big-league pitching career. In his first major league game for the Colorado Rockies in 2002, he hit a home run and pitched a complete-game shutout—the first ballplayer in history to achieve both in a debut game. That year Jennings won the Rookie of the Year Award in the National League. He came back to Texas when he was traded to the Houston Astros in 2007, and he played for the Texas Rangers in 2008 and 2009. He retired from baseball in 2012.
4. Don Gay: Bull Rider
Perhaps it’s no surprise that one of the country’s top bull riders comes from Mesquite. Don Gay started in the rodeo at age six, and throughout his long and storied career, he’s racked up impressive accolades, taking the top spot in almost every major rodeo in the U.S. He’s won eight world titles, a record that stands to this day. Both Don and his father, Neal, are in the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, the only father/son team to claim that honor. After retiring, Gay has been a commentator and runs his own bull-riding organization, and he was the owner of the Mesquite Arena for many years.
5. Tarrell Brown, NFL football
Tarell Lameek Brown, who played for North Mesquite High School, was an NFL cornerback who was best known for his time on the San Francisco 49ers. After playing college football at the University of Texas, was drafted in the fifth round of 2007 NFL draft by the 49ers. The following year, he had a career highlight when he intercepted Marc Bulger of the Rams to seal the game for the 49ers. He would go on to play for them through 2013. He played in 2014 for the Oakland Raiders and 2015 for the New England Patriots.
6. Taylor Gabriel, NFL football player
A speedy wide receiver who currently plays for the Chicago Bears, Taylor Gabriel got his start at John Horn High School, where he played football, basketball, and ran track. After a college football career at Abilene Christian, he was signed by the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2014. He joined the Atlanta Falcons in 2016 before moving to the Bears in 2018. Against the Washington Redskins in 2019, Gabriel scored three receiving touchdowns in the first half, the first Bear to do so in the Super Bowl era.
7. Todd Graham, football coach
Todd Graham is a football coach and former player. He played defensive back for North Mesquite High School, graduating in 1983. Graham would go on to play at East Central University in Oklahoma, followed by a year playing for the Arizona Cardinals. He moved to the coaching side after that, working his way up to eventually become the head coach at Rice University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Arizona State University, where he oversaw the program from 2012-2017.
8. Sean Lowe, MLB baseball player
Sean Lowe, who graduated from Mesquite High School in 1989, is a former pitcher in Major League Baseball who played from 1997 through 2003 for the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates, Colorado Rockies, and Kansas City Royals. In 1992, the Cardinals drafted him in the first round, and in his seven-year major league career, he would compile a 23-15 record, with a 4.95 ERA and 288 strikeouts, mostly in middle relief. One odd claim to fame for Lowe: He was pitching (on June 16, 2001) when Albert Pujols executed the only sacrifice bunt of his career.
9. Damien Magnifico, MLB baseball player
A right-handed pitcher in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, Damien Magnifico graduated from North Mesquite High School in 2009. He was drafted by the New York Mets out of high school, but he opted to play baseball at Howard College instead. He would later transfer to the University of Oklahoma. In 2012, after a year at Oklahoma, he was drafted in the fifth round by the Milwaukee Brewers. He made his major league debut with the Brewers in 2015, and he’s since played for the Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Angels, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, mostly in their respective minor league systems. He finished the 2019 season with the Arizona Diamondbacks AAA farm team with a 3.74 ERA.
Written by Shaine Smith for Matcha in partnership with Mesquite CVB.