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.
Outgoing seniors Sony Michel and Isaiah McKenzie were two big names on hand to watch the Plantation Anerican Heritage spring game on Thursday afternoon.
But the team's biggest name wasn't even on campus.
Dual-threat quarterback Torrance Gibson, rated the No. 1 player at the athlete position by both ESPN and 247Sports, missed the school's intrasquad scrimmage for disciplinary reasons.
Gibson — who tweeted Monday "Minor setback for a major comeback. Just wait on it" — did not give a reason himself via text message Thursday for his absence.
"I'm not playing," he said.
Gibson did acknowledge he is not injured.
"No," he said, "I can't play."
Heritage athletic director Karen Stearns did not want to comment on Gibson's situation to “respect his privacy,” but also acknowledged he is not injured.
As for the defending Class 5A champions' offense, it moved as well as it could behind freshman quarterback Jason Brown.
Brown — who held his head high and proceeded to keep working while struggling during the first half of play — had two interceptions and a fumble, but got on the scoreboard with a goal-line fade pass to junior receiver Brandon Johnson towards the end of the first half.
Senior linebacker Christain Irving (5-11, 205) caught both interceptions, and ecstatically said on the sidelines he had “magnets in his gloves.”
Junior linebacker Bradley Clement (5-10, 225) and junior weakside defensive end Brian Burns (6-5, 205) also were standout players on defense. Five-star cornerback Tarvarus McFadden (6-3, 195) had his fair share of frustration with the offense avoiding his side of the field.
When Gibson does return to the helm of the Patriots' offense, he'll have his share of weapons to compensate for the departures of Michel and McKenzie.
The Patriots have a trio of running backs at their disposal in senior speedster Travis Jackson (5-7, 180), junior Shaddrick Lowery and sophomore Kyshaun Bryan (5-10, 185). Gibson will also look to continue his chemistry with Johnson and fellow junior wide receiver Dredrick Snelson.
As for Michel and McKenzie, they will be roommates when they arrive at the University of Georgia on May 31.
And as for the current crop of Heritage players, coaches from Florida State, Georgia Tech, Minnesota, Jacksonville and Florida Tech were on hand for the game. LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder — former Heritage coach from 1983-1987 — visited the school earlier Thursday.
The 2014 Walker Football Academy at Cooper City High School in Cooper City focuses on developing the Junior High football player through its Fundamental Football Skills Camp for boys in grades 4th through 7th or ages 10 to 13 years.
The Walker Football Academy requires a completed football camp application with parental/guardian signature along with payment to secure a position at the camp.
Campers must bring a water bottle, towel and wear cleats. The wearing of sun screen and a visor are strongly recommended. A Monday through Friday session will be offered from 9 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. June 9-13. The cost is $125 and includes a T-Shirt.
Camp will be held on the grounds of Cooper City High School, 9401 Stirling Road, Cooper City, FL 33328. To receive an application please email The Walker Football Academy at email@example.com or stop by the front office at Cooper City High School (Head Coach Brandon Walker) or Archbishop McCarthy High School (Head Coach Byron Walker).
The Walker Football Academy will be coached by McCarthy High Head Coach Byron Walker, an FACA Hall of Fame Coach, a 12 time Coach of the Year, an FACA At-Large Board Member, who coached the Florida-Georgia All-Stars and North-South All-Stars and coached teams which have played in 10 State Football Championship games winning.
Three State Titles, Six Runner-up titles and advanced to the State play-off series Twenty-three times. Coach Walker will be joined by his son, Brandon Walker, Head Coach of the Cooper City High School Cowboys, a three year collegiate coach (University of Delaware and Fordham University), who has coached high school football for nine years.
For additional information please call Coach Byron Walker at 954-583-7747 or Coach Brandon Walker at 954-830-6225.
So Plantation High coach Steve Davis made sure to soak the experience all in on Thursday night.
Ryan Shazier, whom Davis coached for four years at Plantation and grew into an All-American linebacker at Ohio State, was taken with the 15th overall pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday. It's the first player Davis has ever coached to go in the first round.
Shazier, a 6-1, 237-pound athletic freak who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds at the NFL combine, also became the first Broward County player to be taken in the first round since the Arizona Cardinals drafted former Pompano Beach Ely cornerback Patrick Petersen with the fifth pick in the 2011 draft.
"It was an awesome experience," said Davis, who said he got a chance to hug Shazier -- along with 15 family members -- shortly after he stepped off stage with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
"The funny thing about it was Pittsburgh was real quiet throughout the whole process. They didn't call his agent. If they didn't take him the Dallas Cowboys were on the phone with his agent saying they were going to take him at 16. It was exciting and a great moment."
Shazier grew up the son of a pastor -- and not just any pastor. Vernon Shazier is the team chaplain for the Miami Dolphins and a motivational speaker for the team. Davis said both of Shazier's parents did a tremendous job raising him especially as he struggled growing up battling Alopecia, a condition in which hair is lost from some or all areas of the body.
"It was rough for him as a child," Davis said. "It wasn't cool to be a bald headed guy when you're a little guy. His hair was in patches. He developed a rough exterior, but always had a great heart. And now he's grown into a young man who wants to help other people."
Davis, who had former Plantation players Brandon McGee (2013, 5th round) and Josh Robinson (2012, 3rd round) taken in the previous two drafts, said he knew Shazier was going to be a special talent since his freshman year at Plantation.
"He was on JV and they were playing Boyd Anderson. Ryan sacked the quarterback, picked up the fumble and ran it in for a touchdown," Davis said. "The funny thing was right before he got over the goalline he held it up to celebrate and the ball slipped out of his hands. That was like a life lesson. He said he never did that again. But you could see the ability."
Somehow, the hometown Miami Hurricanes didn't. Davis said Shazier never got an offer from Randy Shannon's coaching staff before he was fired on the final day of the 2010 season. Davis said it was tough for him to stomach especially since UM had recruited McGee from him the year before.
"I hate to share that because how I feel about UM and they're the hometown team, but it was a head scratcher," Davis said. "Ryan had offers on the table from Alabama, LSU and was committed to Florida before Urban Meyer left. Miami had been recruiting him since his sophomore year. Other teams saw what freakish ability he had and that he was going to be a linebacker. Everybody else knew they would have to coach him up. That's why you coach."
Davis said the day after Al Golden got the job at Miami he called to offer Shazier a scholarship. But it was too late. Shazier was already on his way to Columbus, Ohio to play for Jim Tressel.
"I look at it like all things happen for a reason. Ryan led the Big Ten in tackles two years in a row," Davis said. "People make mistakes. That's one unfortunately they made."
-- BY MANNY NAVARRO
By MANNY NAVARRO
If you are a high school football recruit and you aren't considered a four- or five-star recruit there is no need to panic. Your chances of being a future NFL first round pick aren't impossible.
Don't believe me? I spent this afternoon looking up the recruiting backgrounds of the Top 50 NFL Draft Prospects according to ESPN and found some intriguing information on how many stars they were given in high school.
Of the top 50 players expected to be taken over the next three days, Rivals.com rated 26 either 4- or 5-star recruits and 24 were 3-star recruits or worse according to the scouting website.
Here's the breakdown: Six five-star recruits; 20 4-star recruits; 17 3-star recruits; six two-star recruits and 1-no star recruit.
Who is the player that didn't have any stars coming out of high school? Former Miami Central and Nebraska cornerback Stan Jean-Baptiste. He moved to North Carolina as a senior and ended up having to go to Fort Scott Community College in Kansas where eventually a couple of BCS programs offered him including the Cornhuskers. So it's safe to say he's the ultimate long shot entering tonight's draft.
Now, as my colleagues at @SBNRecruiting were quick to point out, there are far fewer 5- and 4-star recruits than 3-star recruits or less. So the elite talent usually rises to the top. But it's not impossible for 3-star recruits and others to climb to the top. Take a look at the examples below.
ESPN TOP 50 NFL PROSPECTS
1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
- Rivals.com 5-star and No. 1 overall player in 2011 from Rock Hill, S.C. Visited Alabama and Clemson.
2. Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
- Rivals.com 4-star and No. 90 overall player in 2011 from Thibodaux, La. Visited LSU.
3. Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
- Rivals.com 2-star, unranked from Fort Pierce Westwood, Fla. Only other offer was from Liberty.
4. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
- Rivals.com 5-star, No. 15 overall player in 2011 from South Fort Myers. University of Miami was in the running.
5. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
- Rivals.com 4-star, No. 48 overall player in 2011 from Missouri City, Tex. The son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, he committed to the Aggies in July before his junior year. USC was also in the mix.
6. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
- Rivals.com 3-star, No. 37 among DTs in 2010 from Pittsburgh, PA. He picked the Panthers over Toledo and Rutgers.
7. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
- Rivals.com 3-star, unranked overall in 2011 from Galveston, Texas who was a basketball standout. Only other offers were Colorado State and Tulane.
8. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
- Rivals.com 4-star, No. 194 overall player in 2009 from Scottsdale, Arizona. His only other official visit was to Minnesota. Lewan told Canesport in Oct. 2008 he got a surprise offer from UM out of the blue after they saw his highlights on the internet.
9. Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
- Rivals.com 4-star, No. 22 among offensive tackles in 2009 from Indianapolis. Notre Dame was his only official visit.
10. Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
- Rivals.com 4-star, No. 43 overall in 2011 from New Orleans. Hurricanes were a finalist, but Rivals.com noted Beckham hadn’t talked much with the Hurricanes’ new coaching staff back in January 2011.
11. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
- Rivals.com 3-star, No. 21 among tight ends in 2011 from Greensboro, N.C. Committed to Butch Davis as a junior and stayed with them through an NCAA investigation.
12. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
- Rivals.com 2-star, unranked in 2010 from Jefferson, Georgia. Other offers were from Middle Tennessee State and Utah State.
13. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
- Rivals.com 5-star, ranked No. 7 overall in 2011 from Orlando Dr. Phillips High. Only other visit was to Michigan.
14. C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
- Rivals.com 4-star, ranked No. 56 overall in 2010 from Theodore, Ala. Only other visit was to Auburn.
15. Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
- Rivals.com 3-star, unranked in 2010 from Baltimore, Maryland. Followed older brother’s steps to Virginia Tech and picked Hokies over Maryland and Kansas.
16. Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
- Rivals.com 4-star, ranked 49th overall in 2009 from Richmond, Va. Took visits to Tennesee, West Virginia and North Carolina.
17. Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
- Rivals.com 4-star, ranked 14th best outside linebacker in the country in 2011 out of Plantation, Fla. Made a late switch from Gators to Buckeyes after the retirement of Urban Meyer. LSU was also in the mix. Never received a UM offer.
18. Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
- Rivals.com 3-star, ranked 44th overall as a pro-style quarterback in 2010 out of Oviedo, Fla. Took unofficial visits to Clemson, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Tennessee, but committed to UCF early and stuck with it.
19. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
- Rivals.com 4-star, ranked 240th overall in 2011 class out of Stockton, Calif. Once committed to UCLA, he switching to the Beavers after they crushed USC.
20. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
- Rivals.com 4-star, ranked 26th best athlete in 2010 out of Huntsville, Texas. Committed to Oklahoma State early and stuck with them. He didn’t take any other official visits.
21. Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
- Rivals.com 3-star, ranked 31st among safeties in 2011 out of Port St. Joe, Fla. Committed to Charlie Strong in September of his senior year, visiting Maryland in October and stuck with the Cardinals.
22. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
- Rivals.com 3-star, ranked 14th among dual-threat QBs in 2011 out of Kerrville, Texas. Switched from being an Oregon commitment after receiving an offer from A&M in August of his senior year.
23. Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
- Rivals.com 3-star, unranked among 2011 JUCO recruits out of Santa Rosa, J.C. Didn’t get any scholarship offers coming out of high school in Fairfield, Calif.
24. Marqise Lee, WR, USC
- Rivals.com 4-star, ranked 36th overall in 2011 out of Gardena, Calif. Took a late visit to Miami after making previous visits to Florida and Oregon but decided to stay home.
25. Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
- Rivals.com 4-star, ranked 50th overall in 2010 out of Los Angeles. Picked the hometown Bruins over Notre Dame and Florida State.
26. Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
- Rivals.com 3-star, unranked in 2010 out of Suwanee, Georgia. A previous Vanderbilt commitment, Roby decided to follow former Buckeye Cameron Heyward, a family friend, to Columbus.
27. Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
- Rivals.com 5-star, 22nd overall in 2011 out of Monroe, Ga. Flipped his commitment from Notre Dame to Georgia Tech back to Notre Dame in mid January, a big victory for Brian Kelly.
28. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
- Rivals.com 4-star, 113th overall in 2011 out of Miami Northwestern. Was going to be a Hurricane before Randy Shannon was fired. Picked the Cardinals along with teammate and receiver Eli Rogers.
29. Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
- Rivals.com 3-star, 62nd among outside linebackers in 2009 out of Odenville, Ala. Committed to Auburn and stuck with them even after Tommy Tuberville resigned and Gene Chizik was named his replacement.
30. Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech
- Rivals.com 3-star, unranked in 2010 out of Washington, D.C. Visited Illinois, Kansas State and Syracuse and ultimately picked the Yellow Jackets because of the previous relationship he had with Al Groh, who became Georgia Tech’s defensive coordinator.
31. Joel Bitonio, OT, Nevada
- Rivals.com 2-star, unranked in 2009 out of Long Beach, Calif. Had no other offers other than Nevada. “I want (the players) to see that it doesn’t matter what Rivals.com or scouts say,” Bitonio told the Long Beach Press-Telegram a couple days ago. “That’s the high school myth. It’s about what you do on the field. Anyone can say anything they want. It’s your actions that matter.”
32. Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
- Rivals.com 5-star, No. 4 overall in 2011 out of Hyattsville, Maryland. Had one of the most dramatic recruitments in recent memory. He committed to Auburn on Signing Day on ESPN only to have second thoughts moments later. After three days of indecision, he signed with Alabama.
33. Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
- Rivals.com 4-star, No. 2 fullback in 2009 out of Naples, Fla. A Cincinnati native, Hyde was a slam dunk signee for Ohio State even after spending a year in prep school.
34. Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA
- Rivals.com 4-star, 63rd overall in 2009 out of Provo, Utah. Finalists were BYU, Utah, LSU, UCLA and USC. His last visit was to see the Bruins.
35. Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
- Rivals.com 3-star, 49th overall among receivers in 2011 out of Dayton, Ohio. Stuck with the Hooisers after the coaching change and picked them despite late visits to UConn and Western Kentucky. Only had two BCS offers.
36. Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
- Rivals.com 4-star, 85th overall regardless of position in 2010 out of Jacksonville, Fla. Was a University of Miami commitment for over a year and decided to switch to Notre Dame even after the Irish had just fired coach Charlie Weis.
37. Marcus Martin, C, USC
- Rivals.com 3-star, 28th overall among offensive guards in 2011 out of Los Angeles. Stuck to his eight-month commitment despite a late push from Arizona and a visit to Colorado.
38. Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
- Rivals.com 4-star, 194th overall regardless of position in 2010 out of New Madrid, Missouri. Picked hometown Tigers in November of his senior year over offers from Georgia Tech, Illinois, Nebraska and Arkansas.
39. Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
- Rivals.com 4-star, 29th overall regardless of position in 2011 out of Lake City Columbia, Fla. Made a Signing Day decision picking the Seminoles over LSU, Tennesse and Florida.
40. Stan Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska
- Rivals.com no stars in 2009. Went to Miami Central and moved to North Carolina his senior year where he received no offers and eventually signed with Fort Scott Community College. Signed in Nebraska in June 2010 after getting offers from Colorado, South Florida, Iowa State, Middle Tennessee State and Arkansas State.
41. Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
- Rivals.com 3-star, 6th overall among tight ends in 2009 out of Minneapolis, Minn. Decided to stick with the hometown Gophers and commit in November of his senior year after visits to Ohio State and Wisconsin.
42. Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
- Rivals.com 3-star, 45th overall among safeties in 2010 out of Fairfield, Calif. Chose the Cougars in September over offers from Army, Cal-Poly, Nevada and San Diego State.
43. Demarcus Lawrence, OLB, Boise State
- Rivals.com 3-star, unranked among JUCOs in 2012 out of Butler County Community College (Kansas). Grew up in Aiken. S.C. Picked Boise State after visits to Kansas State, USF and Tennessee.
44. Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
- Rivals.com 2-star, unranked in 2011 out of Palo Alto, Calif. A basketball and football star in high school, Adams received only two football offers – the other was from San Diego State. He told Rivals in Aug. 2010 he ran routes like former Miami Hurricane Santana Moss.
45. Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
- Rivals.com 4-star, 235th overall regardless of position in 2011 out of Spokane, Wash. Was committed to Washington State before switching to then-coach Steve Sarkisian a week before signing day.
46. Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
- Rivals.com 2-star, unranked in 2010. Moved to Mobile, Ala. At the age of seven and was a star for Davidson High School. But he had only three FBS offers. The others: New Mexico and Louisiana-Monroe.
47. Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
- Rivals.com 4-star, 52nd overall regardless of position in 2011 out of San Antonio, Texas. Committed to the Raiders in April of his junior year and didn’t visit elsewhere.
48. Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
- Rivals.com 5-star, 18th overall in 2011 out of Lutcher, La. Committed to LSU coach Les Miles in January of his junior year and stayed committed.
49. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
- Rivals.com 3-star, unranked in 2010 out of Madison, Ala. Had only a couple of other BCS offers: Arkansas State, Kansas and Tulane.
50. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
- Rivals.com 2-star, unranked in 2010 out of Rolling Meadows, Ill. Had only two other offers: Montana State and Illinois State.
Former Central, FSU star RB Devonta Freeman throws out first pitch at Wednesday's Marlins game, waits for NFL Draft
By MANNY NAVARRO
Devonta Freeman said his first love in life was baseball.
Wednesday afternoon, the 22-year old former star running back at Florida State and Miami Central got to live out a lifelong dream, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Marlins Park before the Marlins took on the Mets.
"I threw a strike," Freeman said with a smile on his face. "But it probably went 50 miles per hour. Not 90."
"As a kid I played catcher, pitcher and first base. I was better at baseball than football. I loved it. It was an honor just to be on that mound and throw the pitch today. It's something you always see on TV and never think ‘This can really happen to me.’"
Freeman, who grew up the eldest of seven children in the Pork ‘N Beans projects in Liberty City, has made a lot of dreams come true lately.
At Central, he led the Rockets to their first state title, rushing for 308 yards on 36 carries en route to earning MVP honors in the Class 6A state title game. This past January, he won a national title with the Seminoles, becoming the first FSU running back since Warrick Dunn in 1996 to run for over 1,000 yards.
In a couple days, he'll make another come true in the NFL Draft. Given a third round grade by the NFL Draft committee in January, Freeman said he's heard he could go as early as Friday's second and third rounds. Secretly, Freeman says, he would love for the hometown Miami Dolphins to take him.
"I only visited two teams -- the Dolphins and Vikings," Freeman said. "I wish I could say where I'm going, but I have no idea at all.
"I'd love to stay home. This is home. Ain't nothing like home. One reason I would love to be here is because I could give back to the community. I can relate to others from my area, my neighborhood. I can talk to them, tell them 'Look at me I made it. All you need is that tunnel vision and belief and take it one day at a time.’ "
That tunnel vision is what Freeman said got him and his best friend, Syracuse safety Durell Eskridge, out of the projects. That along with some help from rapper Luther Campbell, a mentor and coach of their at Liberty City Optimist.
"Pork 'N Beans is the toughest neighborhood in Florida because you never know what you're going to get," Freeman said. "You can walk down the street and somebody could start shooting. An argument can break out, people start fighting. Somebody could rob you. How we kept our tunnel vision was we knew what we wanted in life.
"We saw so many people that fell victim to the streets. We said we don't want this life. We wanted to change and do something different. We were basically the man of the house in our homes growing up. We knew we had to provide for our mama's and our families. And that's what we did. Since that day we've never looked back."
Freeman said he and siblings often went to sleep at night hungry growing up. His mom worked in a warehouse making minimum wage and "there were a lot of times we had to wait until breakfast in the morning to eat because the fridge was empty." Freeman helped as much as he could, working three jobs since the age of 12.
One of those jobs was at the Richardson Funeral Home where Freeman delivered flowers and ushered grieving families to their seats. He would make $50 for each funeral.
"At the Richardson funeral home we would carry the flowers out the back. Other days, I'd be back there sometimes when they would be cutting the body open, cleaning the body out," Freeman said. "I saw a lot of people I knew, a lot of young people too. I'd see him cut them open, peel the back of their head to the front to do something with the brain. It was a hard working job."
When he wasn’t at the funeral home or working at a local car wash, Freeman said he would go over to Campbell’s house to do odd jobs.
"He would have us pressure clean the pool or rake the leaves up, wash the cars, clean the walls," Freeman said. "He's always been a great help to the kids in our community."
Freeman said one of the first things he plans to do once he signs an NFL contract is to stop by the old funeral home and donate school supplies.
"I know it's not a lot what I'm going to get with that first check, but just to give back a little bit would mean something," Freeman said.
"I love football. The money is going to put me in a better situation and my family in a better situation. But it's not going to make or break me whether I have it or I don't have it. I'm going to grind regardless."
Freeman says he plans on finishing school eventually and getting his degree in sports management.
"I've got 30 something hours to go," he said. "I'm going to finish."
List compiled by Larry Blustein
MIAMI-DADE FALL TOP 25
1. Mark Walton, RB, 5-11, 185, Booker T. Washington
2. Dionte Mullins, WR/DB, 6-0 170, Miami Gulliver Prep
3. Darnell Salomon, WR, 6-3, 185, Hialeah Champagnat Catholic
4. Cedric Wright, S, 5-10, 185, Miami Gulliver Prep
5. Chidi Valentine Okeke, OL, 6-6, 305, Hialeah Champagnat Catholic
6. Freddie Pender, WR, 6-4, 190, Miami Southridge
7. Donavan Thompson, LB, 6-0, 195, Miami Central
8. Kato Nelson, QB, 6-0, 180, Hialeah Champagnat Catholic
9. Elbre Gaiter, WR/DB, 5-8, 160, Miami Westminster Christian
10. James Sutton, LB, 5-11, 205, Miami Westminster Christian
11. Stephen Calvert, QB, 6-2, 175, Miami Carol City
12. Joseph Jackson, DE, 6-6, 240, Miami Gulliver Prep
13. Keldrick Caesar, OL, 6-3, 290, Miami Edison
14. Keino Mike, RB, 5-8, 175, Coral Gables
15. Shakur Cooper, LB, 6-2, 195, Coral Gables
16. Jotavius Barrett, Athlete, 5-10, 175, Hialeah Champagnat Catholic
17. Jamel Cook, S, 6-3, 185, Miami Central
18. Rashad Smith, S, 6-0, 185, Homestead
19. Gee Stanley, LB, 6-2, 190, Coral Gables
20. Jerron Rollins, WR, 6-3, 180, Miami Christopher Columbus
21. Kier Thomas, DE, 6-2, 220, Miami Central
22. Hosea McMullin, LB, 5-11, 195, Miami Booker T. Washington
23. Dicaprio Bootle, DB, 5-9, 170, Miami Killian
24. Dontye Carriere-Williams, DB, 5-10, 175, Miami Booker T. Washington
25. Steven Newbold, WR, 5-11, 165, Miami Carol City
List compiled by Larry Blustein
BROWARD FALL TOP 25
1. Nick Bosa, DE, 6-4, 240, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas
2. Sam Bruce, WR, 5-8, 165, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas
3. Devin Bush, LB, 6-0, 210, Pembroke Pines Flanagan
4. Trayvon Mullen, DB, 6-2, 175, Coconut Creek
5. Dredrick Snelson, WR, 6-0, 190, Plantation American Heritage
6. Cavin Ridley, WR, 6-1, 185, Coconut Creek Monarch
7. Devin Gil, S, 6-1, 205, Pembroke Pines Flanagan
8. Aaron Thompson, DE, 6-3, 240, Fort Lauderdale Dillard
9. Binjimen Victor, WR, 6-4, 175, Coconut Creek
10. Bradley Clements, LB, 5-11, 210, Plantation American Heritage
11. Malek Young, WR/DB, 5-10, 175, Coconut Creek
12. Brian Burns, DE, 6-6, 230, Plantation American Heritage
13. Deon McIntosh, RB, 5-8, 170, Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons
14. Chris Cotto, WR, 6-1, 180, Hallandale
15. Brandon Johnson, WR, 6-3, 180, Plantation American Heritage
16. Darrell Malone, Jr., DB, 5-11, 165, Weston Cypress Bay
17. Tyler Huntley, QB, 6-0, 180, Hallandale
18. Louie Berkowitz, OL, 6-3, 260, Plantation American Heritage
19. Jaelyn Faulk, DB, 5-9, 165, Hallandale
20. Roodney Leon, OL, 6-3, 280, Deerfield Beach
21. Calvin Jackson, WR/RB, 5-9, 175, Coral Springs Charter
22. Matthew Croyle, DL, 6-1, 260, Coconut Creek Monarch
23. Tyrik Jones, LB/DE, 6-2, 230, Plantation
24. Kole Stealy, QB, 6-2, 180, Weston Cypress Bay
25. Marcus Garvin, DB, 5-9, 165, Fort Lauderdale Stranahan
List compiled by Larry Blustein
BROWARD FALL TOP 25
1. Jordan Scarlett, RB, 5-11, 195, St. Thomas Aquinas
2. Torrance Gibson, QB, 6-4, 200, Plantation American Heritage
3. Calvin Ridley, WR, 6-2, 170, Coconut Creek Monarch
4. Tarvarus McFadden, DB, 6-3, 195, Plantation American Heritage
5. Shawn Burgess-Becker, S, 6-2, 190, Coconut Creek Monarch
6. Tyrek Cole, DB, 5-10, 175, Miramar
7. Kendrell McFadden, S, 6-3, 190, Miramar
8. Jovon Durante, WR, 6-1, 175, Miramar
9. Jason Strowbridge, DE, 6-4, 245, Deerfield Beach
10. Devante Peete, WR, 6-5, 198, St. Thomas Aquinas
11. Sh’mar Kilby-Lane, LB, 6-2, 220, Hallandale
12. Ronnie Hoggins, DB, 5-10, 165, Coconut Creek Monarch
13. Leeward Brown, OL, 6-4, 300, Miramar
14. Anthony Bennett, DE, 6-3, 225, Weston Cypress Bay
15. Brandon Boyce, NT, 6-0, 240, St. Thomas Aquinas
16. Ryan Stanley, QB, 6-2, 200, Pembroke Pines Flanagan
17. Rashard Causey, DB, 6-0, 190, St. Thomas Aquinas
18. Dusan Etienne, OL/DL, 6-7, 320, Hollywood Hills
19. Roderick Acher, S, 6-1, 200, South Plantation
20. Alex Anderson, RB, 5-11, 190, Miramar
21. Deltron Sands, RB, 5-8, 175, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas
22. Juwann Taylor, LB, 6-3, 210, Hallandale
23. Richard McIntosh, DL, 6-4, 240, Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons
24. Richie Cooper, WR, 5-10, 180, Hallandale
25. Adrienne Talan, LB, 6-1, 195, Flanagan