When Ryan Shazier walked across the stage two weeks ago in New York, put on the Pittsburgh Steelers' cap and embraced the Commissioner, it sent a message to every youth and high school football prospect in south Florida that dreams do come true.
What has become common place through the years, area athletes have not only made it happen in high school and college, but have shown so much skill and athleticism, this region of the country continues to be a pipeline that ushers quality football talent from local football fields and brings them to a professional level.
Whether it’s Shazier, a one-time Plantation standout who carved out a positive reputation at Ohio State before landing with the Steelers in the first round (15th selection), or a dozen other south Florida-bred athletes who found a home this year with NFL teams, the reality that the next great football prospect will be lining up at a school near you this coming fall.
There is no hiding that south Florida has become ground zero during spring football each and every year – as hundreds of colleges flock to programs from Deerfield Beach to Homestead. That’s why having a first round selection such as Shazier – or former Miami Northwestern standout Teddy Bridgewater being selected in the first round is no longer a major surprise.
For Bridgewater, who was chosen by Minnesota with the final pick of the first round, there was really never any doubt to when this Louisville standout would be chosen. Even though he was picked 32nd, there are those who still feel that he was by far the most NFL-ready quarterback coming out of college this year.
While Bridgewater didn’t wow many with his pro day workouts, there were teams – such as the Vikings who felt otherwise. Remember, during the season, many felt that if he was the No. 1 pick overall by Houston, it would not be a total surprise, but unfortunately, instead of focusing on what he did over three years – leading the Cardinals to over 30 wins – they opted to dwell on what he did in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt.
While Shazier and Bridgewater were south Floridians chosen in the first round, former St. Thomas Aquinas and Southwest Miami defensive back Lamarcus Joyner was impressive enough for the St. Louis Rams to select him in the second round.
The FSU product, who grew up in Miami-Dade’s inner city, just down the road from Bridgewater, was easily one of the most athletic football players in this year’s draft. He is a true south Florida product, having played youth football and high school in two counties and being viewed as one of the nation’s premier athletes.
The south Florida player rush didn’t end with those three talented performer. Nebraska’s Stanley Jean Baptiste – who attended tiny Westlake Prep – and was coached by current Champagnat Catholic head coach Mike Tunsil – was another area player who was selected in this year’s draft. The New Orleans Saints chose the safety in the second round.
The south Florida talent explosion continued into the third round with St. Thomas Aquinas defensive back product Dezmen Southward (Wisconsin), who was chosen by Atlanta, and lineman Brandon Linder (University of Miami) – selected by Jacksonville.
In the fourth round, Miami Central running back Devonta Freeman (FSU), was taken by Atlanta. Freeman, who began his career in high school at Edison before leading the Rockets to the state championship, was joined by St. Thomas Aquinas and Wisconsin running back James White (New England) and Piper and Utah State safety Nevin Lawson (Detroit).
The fifth round also highlighted south Florida talent with former Miami Central lineman Kevin Pamphile, who emerged at Purdue and was selected by Tampa Bay, and one-time South Dade standout defensive end Ed Stinson (Alabama), who will be headed to Arizona. FAU defensive back Keith Reaser (Killian) was selected by San Francisco.
This year’s south Florida talent extended to the seventh and final round with one-time Pompano Beach Blanche Ely defensive back Jabari Price (North Carolina) finding a home with Minnesota, and former Stranahan lineman Demetrius Rhaney (Tennessee State), who landed with the St. Louis Rams.
“When you look at all the south Florida talent that got drafted – and those who signed on as free agents, it is truly amazing,” said Central assistant coach Alexander Snipes. “We take great pride in the athletes we produce down here. It speaks volumes for all the programs in Miami-Dade and Broward.”
We are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current Class of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. All you have to do is send a You Tube or Hudl link and information about the athlete to: Larry Blustein at Floridakids1@aol.com.
Follow Larry on Twitter at twitter.com/larryblustein.
The 7th Annual Miami Dolphins 7-on-7 High School Football Tournament Presented by Under Armour and the National Guard will take place Friday, June 13-15.
Friday, June 13
5 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. – Symposium held in The Arena at the Don Taft University Center on the campus of Nova Southeastern University in Davie (3301 College Avenue, Davie, FL 33314).
Saturday, June 14
8 a.m. - 2 p.m. – 7-on-7 games at Central Park in Plantation (9151 NW 2nd Street, Plantation, FL 33324).
Sunday June 15
9 a.m. – 7 on 7 Championship Games at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens (347 Don Shula Drive, Miami Gardens, FL 33056).
The 7th annual 7-on-7 tournament three-day event begins on Friday, June 13 with a symposium focusing on character development and specific skill training. The character development portion includes guest speakers, including NFL players and coaches. The high school players will be taught practical life lessons and preparation for standardized tests, along with discussions on life after high school, personal development and community service.
On-field components of the NFL’s High School Player Development (HSPD) Program include fundamental skill development by position, reviews and individual competitions. As part of on-field training, players focus on both an offensive and a defensive position and eventually apply their newly-learned fundamentals to live drills.
Over 50 high schools from the Tri-county area and Southwest Florida will be represented at the event, including: American Senior High School, Archbishop Curley, Booker T. Washington, Calvary Christian, Cardinal Newman, Carol City, Champagnat Catholic, Coconut Creek, Columbus, Deerfield Beach, Dillard, Douglas, Dr. Krop, Dwyer, Flanagan, Fort Lauderdale, Gulliver, Hialeah Gardens, Island Coast, Jupiter Christian, Keys Gate, Lake Worth, Mater Academy, Miami Country Day, Miami Jackson, Miami Killian Senior, Miami Pace, Miami Senior High, Miami Springs, Miami Sunset, Miramar, Monarch, North Miami, North Miami Beach, Northeast, Nova, Piper, Seminole Ridge, South Plantation, Southridge, Stranahan, Suncoast Community, Taravella, Village Academy, Western, Westland Hialeah and Westminister Academy.
The high school football tournament will begin on Saturday, June 14 at 8:00 a.m. The tournament will consist of Round Robin play and then move into a single elimination format. The final 8 teams will play on Sunday, June 15 at Sun Life Stadium that will crown one high school football champion.
The winning high school team will represent South Florida and the Miami Dolphins in the 2014 HSPD National Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana on July 14th – 15th. Former winners Booker T. Washington and Glades Central have won the national championship in previous years.