Here are the top 33 players of all-time in the state (as voted upon by a selected panel).
What do you think?
Duante Culpepper, Vanguard (Ocala), 1994. Mr. Football winner led team to state final with 3,070 passing yards and 602 rushing yards as senior. Career offensive total of 7,034 yards – 6,107 passing, 927 rushing – is in state’s top 10. Put Central Florida on college football map as star QB who completed 73.6 percent of his passes. Third player in NCAA history to pass for more than 10,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000. Now in 9th NFL season, starting for Oakland.
Tim Tebow, Nease (Ponte Vedra Beach), 2005. State all-time total offense king with 13,042 career yards (9922 pass/3120 rush) and 159 TDs responsible for (96 passing/63 rushing) in 3 years as QB at Nease. Set single-season records as a senior with 5,552 yards (4286 passing, 1266 rushing) and 70 TDs (46/24) for 11-2 team. 2005 Mr. Football. Was awarded the 2007 Heisman Trophy as quarterback at Florida, becoming the first freshman or sophomore ever chosen to receive the prestigious award.
Rick Casares, Jefferson (Tampa), 1950. Named 1 of only 5 players in history recruiting analysts believe could have gone directly from high school to the pros because of their physical abilities. A 2nd-team All-American in 1953 as a junior at Florida before being drafted into the military. Began 11-year NFL career after drafted in 2nd-round draft pick by the Chicago Bears in 1954, beginning an 11-year NFL career. Was Bears’ all-time leading rusher until Walter Payton broke his records in the 1980s.
Tucker Frederickson, South Broward (Hollywood), 1960. One of the best RBs in the state for his time. Led Bulldogs to a 10-1 record in 1960. Became an All-American at Auburn and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. His pro career, which included being the first overall pick in the 1964 draft by the New York Giants, was cut short due to injury.
Willie Galimore, Excelsior (St. Augustine), 1952. “He was perhaps the greatest running back I ever saw or coached against” said Earl Kitchings, former head coach of Matthew Gilbert and Raines high schools. Considered by some experts to be the best Florida high school RB prior to Emmitt Smith. Remains leading rusher in FAMU history. Killed in an automobile accident in 1964.
Emmitt Smith, Escambia (Pensacola), 1986. Still holds state rushing record with 8,804 career yards on 1,127 carries and 106 TDs. Led Escambia to state titles in sophomore and junior years (2,934 rushing yards, 32 TDs on 353 carries in 14 games), and 10-1 season as a senior in the days when only district champ made playoffs. Set a career rushing record (later broken) at the University of Florida. Played 15 NFL seasons, setting numerous records, including career marks for rushing yards (18,355) and carries (4,409) that still stand. Played in 3 Super Bowls and 8 Pro Bowls. Was the 1993 NFL MVP.
Anthony Carter, Suncoast (Riviera Beach), 1978. One of the most electrifying players ever to come out of Palm Beach County. Had 161 catches for 3,641 yards during HS career, which ranks 4th all-time in state history. Caught 14 TDs as a senior, 36 in his career. Set several school and Big Ten records at Michigan. Played 3 seasons in USFL and 11 in NFL, where he was a 2-time Pro Bowl player and set receiving records for the Minnesota Vikings.
Michael Irvin, St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale), 1983. Caught 59 passes for 987 yards and 12 TDs during senior season for Raiders. Was all-state selection. Went on to brilliant collegiate career at Miami. A first-round pick by the Dallas Cowboys. A Pro Football Hall of Famer.
Darrell Jackson, Tampa Catholic, 1995. Set then-national HS records for career receiving yards (4,594) and yards per catch (24.05) as a senior. Caught 191 passes in 3 seasons for Crusaders. Had 89 receptions for 2,087 yards and 28 TDs as a junior and 67 receptions a year later. Went on to star at Florida before turning pro after junior season. Selected in 3rd round of NFL draft by Seattle. Now in his 8th NFL season. Closing in on 500 career catches and 7,000 yards.
Larry Brown, Bradford (Starke), 1966. One of Bradford’s first black players, excelled for Tornadoes’ state title team as senior. Played college ball at Kansas. Had 14 NFL seasons with Pittsburgh, including all 4 of Steelers’ Super Bowl wins. Was a TE from 1971-76 and an OL from 1977-84. Was picked to Pro Bowl in 1982.
Lomas Brown, Miami Springs, 1980. After a highly successful prep career, became a multi-year starter for University of Florida. Was 6th overall selection in 1985 NFL Draft. Played 18 years in NFL before retiring following 2002 season.
Larry Gagner, Seabreeze (Daytona Beach), 1961. A 2-way starter for the Sandcrabs. In his final 2 years, Seabreeze went 19-2-1. Claimed 1960 Class A mythical state championship when he was a junior. Was a mainstay on the OL for Florida Gators from 1963-65. Played in 60 NFL games with Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs.
Steve Hutchinson, Coral Springs, 1995. Listed as 1 of top 3 HS offensive linemen nationally by SuperPrep. Four-year starter, 4-year All-Big 10 recognition at Michigan. Drafted No. 17 in first round by Seattle. All-Pro and still considered one of NFL’s top blockers. Currently plays for Minnesota Vikings.
Larry Little, Washington (Miami), 1962. A small college All-American for Bethune-Cookman. Undrafted, but was selected to the NFL Hall of Fame for his 14-year NFL career. Named to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1970s.
Anquan Boldin, Pahokee, 1998. Mr. Football and first-team All-American his senior year. First player in state history to surpass 10,000 yards and then 11,000 yards in career offense. Had 4,339 yards total offense (2,842 passing and 1,497 rushing) for a 14-1 team as a senior. Finished high school career with 11,433 total yards, 134 TDs (71 passing, 56 rushing, 5 on interceptions returns, 2 on punt returns). Converted into WR at Florida State. Now plays for NFL Arizona Cardinals where he has earned Rookie of the Year and All-Pro awards.
John Carney, Cardinal Newman (West Palm Beach), 1982
First-team All-State K/P as HS senior. Made 55-of-58 PAT kicks and 15 FGs in 2 years, including a long of 49 yards. Finished collegiate career as Notre Dame’s all-time FG leader with 51 and was 2nd in scoring with 223 points. Kicked an NFL record 29 consecutive FGs in 1993. One of only 3 players in NFL with more than 400 career FGs. Ranked 4th on NFL’s all-time scoring list.
Jerome Brown, Hernando (Brooksville), 1982. Standout DL and 3-sport letterman at Hernando in early 1980s. Went on to be an All-American at University of Miami and an All-Pro with Philadelphia Eagles. Played from 1987-91, picking up 29.5 career sacks in 76 games during his 5-year NFL career. Died in June 1992 in an automobile accident.
Ted Hendricks, Hialeah, 1965. Built upon his solid start at Hialeah to enjoy a College Hall of Fame career at Miami, where he recorded the most tackles ever for a Hurricane DL and finished 5th in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 1968. Won 4 Super Bowls in 15 NFL seasons and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990. Was 64th on The Sporting News’ list of 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999. Was a member of the NFL’s all-time 75th anniversary team in 1994.
David “Deacon” Jones, Hungerford (Eatonville), 1956. Standout high school star in the pre-integration era. A Southwestern Athletic Conference Hall of Famer at Mississippi Valley State. Finished college career at South Carolina State. Earned NFL Hall of Fame status as a member of L.A. Rams “Fearsome Foursome” defensive front. Played 14 NFL seasons. Was legendary for sacking quarterbacks before it was adopted as a statistical category.
Jack Youngblood, Jefferson County (Monticello), 1966. Led team to state championship in 1966, playing OL and LB. Led a defense that shut out 7 opponents. Four-year letterman in high school. Earned All-American honors at the University of Florida. Charter member of Gators’ Ring of Honor. Drafted 20th player overall in 1971 NFL draft by Los Angeles Rams. Had 14-year career in the pros. Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
Derrick Brooks, Washington (Pensacola), 1990. USA Today National Defensive Player of the Year and everybody’s All-American as a senior. Joined Emmitt Smith as only Floridians picked to USA Today All-Time Team (20 years) in 1991. Starred at FSU. Now in 13th NFL season, all with Tampa Bay. Was 2002 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and 2005 Pro Bowl MVP.
Rickey Jackson, Pahokee, 1977. Jackson and Pahokee teammate Remoise Johnson were dynamic bookend DEs in high school. Scouting reports said not to run to Johnson’s side, but teams quickly found out that running to Jackson’s side was an unacceptable alternative. Starred at the University of Pittsburgh. Became a 6-time Pro Bowl selection at LB in the NFL, winning a Super Bowl ring in 1995 with the San Francisco 49ers. Played most of his pro career with the New Orleans Saints and is among the NFL all-time leaders in sacks (128) and fumble recoveries (29).
Ray Lewis, Kathleen (Lakeland), 1992. Was team MVP at Kathleen in junior and senior seasons, playing LB, RB and KR. Recorded 207 tackles with 10 sacks, 3 blocked FGs, 8 INTs and 6 TDs via kick or punt returns in HS career. Played 3 years at University of Miami, finishing with 393 career tackle. Drafted by the Baltimore Ravens, where he has played 12 seasons with 8 Pro Bowl appearances.
Wilber Marshall, Astronaut (Titusville), 1979. Parade All-American in 1979 on a team with Cris Collinsworth at QB. Honored this year as the5th former star in the University of Florida Ring of Honor. Racked up 343 tackles and 23 sacks for the Gators. Played 12 NFL seasons, with 23 INTs, 2 Super Bowl rings and 3 Pro Bowl appearances.
Bennie Blades, Piper (Sunrise), 1983. Named to All-Time All-Broward Team in 1999. Played at University of Miami. Won Jim Thorpe Award in 1987 as top collegiate defensive back. Member of College Football Hall of Fame. First-round pick by Detroit Lions in 1988. Spent nine seasons in NFL.
Leroy Butler, Robert E. Lee (Jacksonville), 1985. Had 139 tackles as LB and 388 rushing yards on 18 carries as WB in senior year at Lee, which he helped lead to 3 district titles. First team Class 3A All-State, All-South and Florida Super 24 selection. Signed by FSU. Made famous by “puntrooski” play at Clemson in 1988. An All-Pro selection 5 times, a Pro Bowl selection 4 times and 1996 Super Bowl champ with Green Bay Packers. Originated the infamous “Lambeau Leap.” Retired from football in 2001.
Ken Riley, Union Academy (Bartow), 1965. One of 9 Union Academy graduates who made it to NFL before school closed in 1968. Played offense and defense in high school and QB at FAMU, where he was a 3-time All-American. Moved back to the secondary in the NFL, where he played 14 seasons with 65 INTs. Was later head football coach (1986-93) and athletic director (1994-2003) at FAMU.
Deion Sanders, North Fort Myers, 1984. One of state’s great all-time athletes. First-team all-area in football, basketball and baseball as a senior before playing 2 pro sports. A standout option QB in HS. Two-time consensus All-American at FSU while also dabbling in baseball and track (1988 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier). Listed as No. 1 cornerback on Sports Illustrated’s All-Century college team. Played 14 NFL seasons, with 6 Pro Bowls and 53 career INTs. Also hit .533 for Atlanta Braves in the 1992 World Series and was leading the National League in stolen bases in 1997 when he returned to football.
Sean Taylor, Gulliver Prep (Miami), 2000. Set state scoring record with 44 TDs as a member of Gulliver Prep’s 14-1 Class 2A state title team in 2000. Attended the University of Miami as a safety. Became 5th overall selection by the Washington Redskins in 2004 draft.
“Neon” Leon Bright, Merritt Island, 1973. Rushed for 4,036 yards and 77 TDs when Mustangs were at top of Florida’s big classification (1972 state champs) with a prolific offense. Led FSU in rushing with 713 yards in 1973 and was backup RB and renowned courageous punt returner for New York Giants. Fielded 141 punts without calling for a fair catch in 5 NFL seasons.
Reggie Nelson, Palm Bay (Melbourne), 2002. Standout defender and return specialist for Pirates’ 2002 Class 4A state title team. Averaged 45 yards per punt return and 26.8 per kickoff return, totaling a state record 1,531 return yards as a senior. A first-team All-American as a junior free safety at UF in 2006 with 6 INTs and 2 blocked punts. Now a rookie starter for Jacksonville in the NFL.
Warren Sapp, Apopka, 1990. Did it all for Apopka, even punting, and was a first-team All-State pick as a LB. Converted to DL at the University of Miami. Earned consensus All-America honors and Bronko Nagurski Tropy as the nation’s top defensive player in 1994. Now in his 13th NFL season, has made Pro Bowl 7 times and was 1999 AP Defensive Player of the Year. Entered 2007 season with 94 sacks.
Pat Summerall, Columbia (Lake City), 1947. All-state selection in football and basketball in the late 1940s. Also lettered in baseball and tennis. All-Southwest Conference football and basketball player at Arkansas. Played 10 seasons in NFL for Chicago Cardinals and New York Giants, scoring 567 points during his career. Award-winning sports broadcaster. Inducted into Florida High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006.