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For years, in the month following National Signing Day, there have been many who held small college recruiting fairs across Florida to enhance the exposure of qualified athletes without a place to attend college.
This past Saturday, the Orange Bowl got involved and hosted a full combine experience.
Hosted at Nova Southeastern University, the Orange Bowl High School Showcase brought small college coaches together with several local high school coaches to watch and evaluate athletes who have already achieved in the classroom.
While the idea was born years ago away from South Florida, the number of student-athletes that this region of the country always produces was put on display.
The Orange Bowl grabbed some of the best around to work the event. And while many of these longtime difference-makers may not be household names to the youngsters of today, having Chaminade-Madonna graduate David Shula help to organize the combine was a huge boon.
The former NFL standout and head football coach was the perfect person to lead this inaugural event.
“This is a lot of fun to be out here with these outstanding athletes and coaches who have made their way down to South Florida,” Shula said. “The Orange Bowl really rolled out some great people to be a part of this.”
What the Orange Bowl did for this annual small college recruiting fair was take it to the next level. While the college coaches had booths set up along the field, they had the time to watch the athletes and then bring them in to talk and promote their respective schools.
“This is a great opportunity for the college coaches to have that chance to not only eyeball the athletes, but see them perform,” longtime Adrian (Michigan) College coach Keith Uecker said. “The only thing different was that in the past, we would sit down with the high school coaches on Saturday and then on Sunday meet with the athletes and their parents to work finances out.”
Uecker, who was a standout at Hollywood Hills High – before starring at Auburn and in the NFL with the Packers. He has been returning home for years and trying to get these quality athletes to help his school.
The college coaches came from all over to take part in this showcase.
Not only did they have the chance to see the athletes, but also they were also treated to former Miami Dolphins step up and make a huge statement.
While not one athlete and very few young coaches never had the chance to watch John Offerdahl play, they were all amazed at how this one-time great linebacker still stays in tremendous shape – as he showed on Saturday.
Many prospects watching him attempt the vertical jump were simply blown away when he proved that age is just a number.
“To watch these amazing former Dolphins come out here and actually teach the kids like this was their only job,” Palmetto head coach Mike Manasco pointed out. “You have David Shula running things and there is Terry Kirby, Dwight Stephenson, Jeff Dellenbach, Troy Stratford and Chris Chambers.”
There was also Channing Crowder. The former Dolphin linebacker and current talk show host at Miami Sports Radio WQAM was indeed worth watching the event.
Crowder, working with the linebackers, was vintage – and when the day was over – he was certainly the talk of the combine.
“I remember when I was this age and full of hope,” Crowder said. “I remember when I played and wanting a coach who was passionate, animated and 100 percent real. That’s what I try to be with these guys. I love this stuff.”
The colleges also benefitted – as they came from Hanover (Indiana), Webber International University (Florida), Heidelberg (Ohio), Western New England (Mass.), Waldorf (Iowa), North Park (Illinois), Mount St. Joseph (Ohio), Lawrence Tech (Michigan), Lyon (Arkansas), MacMurray (Illinois), Monmouth (Illinois), Christopher Newport (Virginia), Kansas Weslyan, Lawrence University (Wisconsin), Ithaca (New York), Earlham (Indiana), Southwest University (Texas), Methodist University (North Carolina), Ohio Northern, Graceland(Iowa), Saint Vincent (Pennsylvania), Franklin College (Indiana) and a number of other areas.
One of the coaches that many knew was Doug Socha. The former Delray American Heritage and Oxbridge head coach – as well as working for the Buffalo Bills this past year – is the new head coach at Keiser University.
The NAIA school, located in West Palm Beach, will begin play in 2018, but Socha and his staff have remained busy building this program from the ground up.
“This event is perfect for what we are trying to do,” Socha explained. “In fact, I am really looking for the quality football players we can get out of something like this.”
PROSPECTS TAKE CENTER STAGE
As the coaches started to do what they do best – teach – the athletes put their best foot forward.
There were a number of football players that came and made an impression and for a few hours – learned how to make the best of an audition.
Here are some of those 2017 qualified seniors who had the opportunity to turn heads:
Angel Alvarez, QB, Doral Academy
Kamal Armstead, S, Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons
Jude Barthelemy, WR, Miami Northwestern
Lamar Brewster, WR, Delray Atlantic
Kevin Bien-Aime, S, Piper
Eddie Brill, QB, Miami Beach
Alec Brown, QB, Deerfield Beach
Alex Cadelus, DL, Parkland Douglas
Christian Chain, OL, Davie Nova
Anthony Dascher, OL, Boca Raton Olympic Heights
Brendan Easley, WR, Orlando East River
Devon Elam, TE, Hialeah Gardens Mater Academy
A’Liante Haskins, DB, Plantation
Dextan Hodge, Athlete, Doral Academy
Victor Hollis, WR/DB, Lantana Sanatluces
Jo’Kwan Holmes, RB, Hialeah American
Malik Jackson, OL, Fort Lauderdale
Herio Joseph, RB, Lantana Santaluces
Gary Lacount, WR, Homestead
Kadtickson Louis, OL, Pembroke Pines Flanagan
Roudness Louis, QB, Village Academy
Henry Martinez, LB, Miami Palmetto
Giovanni Matos, DB, Miami Varela
Kamren Novaton, LB, Pembroke Pines Flanagan
Danny Ogletree, DL, Miami Palmetto
Xavier Oliver, LB, Hialeah
Alexander Seppe, RB, Hollywood Hills
Trevon Shannon, WR, Miami High
Justin Taylor, DL, Palm Beach Gardens
Murphy Theodore, WR, Doral Academy
Karinzo Ward, QB, Pompano Beach Ely