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Jerome Brown among FHSAA Hall of Fame inductees



Jerome Brown

Jerome Brown’s jersey number (99) was retired by the Philadelphia Eagles more than two decades ago. The University of Miami has already inducted him into its sports hall of fame. The community center in Brooksville is named in his honor.

There have been so many tributes through the years for the former Hernando standout who was killed in a car crash, along with his 12-year-old nephew, in June of 1992. 

Now the state is paying homage to Brown, too.

Last month, the Florida High School Athletic Association informed Hernando administrators that Brown would be included in this year’s hall of fame class. The state’s governing body for high school sports made it official by listing all of the inductees in a release last week. Brown joins Keswick Christian volleyball and girls basketball coach Karrmayne King as the locals in the 2020 class.

The ceremony will be held at the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center on Sept. 27.

“This was something that was a long time coming,” Dee Brown said of his father’s induction. “It helps to keep his memory alive.”

The talent was evident in high school. Brown dominated opposing high school linemen, earning Parade All-American honors as a senior in 1982. He also excelled as a kicker, often booming the ball between the uprights on kickoffs. 

Even though Brown weighed more than 250 pounds, he could move, particularly around the base paths. Brown was among the leaders in stolen bases on the 1982 squad that was ranked second in the state. 

At Miami, Brown used his size and speed to make an immediate impact. He played as a freshman on the 1983 national championship team and was a consensus All-American as a senior in ‘86.

Jerome Brown
Jerome Brown/Photo credit: Miami Athletics

 “Jerome wanted to quit his freshman year (at Miami),” said Tim Jinkens, who coached Brown in junior high and became one of his best friends. “He was getting a little homesick, but he stayed.”

Often, Brown returned to visit, bringing along college teammates such as Alonzo Highsmith and Melvin Bratton. 

The trips home continued once Brown got to the NFL. The Eagles’ first-round pick (ninth overall) in the 1987 draft joined one of the most ferocious defensive lines ever assembled. Brown teamed with Hall of Famer Reggie White on one side to wreak havoc. 

Jerome Brown and Reggie White
Jerome Brown and Reggie White/Photo credit (including feature above): Philadelphia Eagles

The two became close. White often was a guest instructor for the youth camps Brown held in Brooksville during the offseason. 

Their friendship was featured in the NFL films documentary series A football life. 

White was scheduled to speak at a Billy Graham Crusade the day Brown died. Still stunned by the news, White choked back tears while telling the crowd what had happened to his beloved teammate. 

Brown was a Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection each of his last two seasons (1990 and ‘91) before he died. The Eagles retired his jersey the following season. His locker remained intact. Teammates vowed to win a Super Bowl title as a tribute to Brown. 

That did not happen until 2018 when the Eagles beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LII (52). The title came on Brown’s birthday. He would have turned 52 that year. 

There are plenty of Eagles’ fans in Brooksville, all of whom were rooting for their adopted team to win in Brown’s honor that day. 

“The kids might not know as much about him, but there are still plenty of people at the school who still talk about Jerome,” said his sister, Cynthia Brown Jackson, now a social worker at Hernando High. 

In 1995, Jinkens helped put together the Jerome Brown Youth Foundation, which provides annual scholarships. Five years later, the Jerome Brown Community Center opened, funded in part by some former Eagles players. The facility has become a popular recreational outlet for children. 

The weight room at Hernando High is named after Brown. But the school wants to do more. Last year, Leopards athletic director started the Jerome Brown Project to help raise funds for an artificial turf field, to build a statue of Brown and to name the field after him. Donations have slowed down so it might take five or six years for everything to be complete.    

“There are so many things that have gone on in the community to keep Jerome’s name alive,” Jinkens said. “His induction into the FHSAA Hall of Fame just adds to that.”  

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College Football

College football: Athlete update



The top performances from former area stars in week five of the college football season. 

DB Dane Belton, Jr., Iowa: The former Jesuit standout had one of the Hawkeyes’ six interceptions in a win over Maryland.

QB Devin Black, Sr., Bethune Cookman: The former Armwood standout accounted for 258 yards (131 rushing, 127 passing) and two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing) in a loss to South Carolina State.  

DL Zachary Carter, Sr., Florida: The former Hillsborough standout recorded three tackles and a sack in a loss to Kentucky.  

QB Austin Day, Sr., Marist: The former Clearwater standout threw for 149 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Valparaiso. 

RB Jerome Ford, Jr., Cincinnati: The former Armwood star ran for 67 yards on 17 carries in a win over Notre Dame. 

RB Dominic Gonella, So., North Dakota State: The former Bloomingdale standout ran for 37 yards on seven carries in a win over North Dakota. 

WR Travell Harris, Sr., Washington State: The former Jesuit standout had seven catches for 46 yards in a win over California. 

DB Kym-Mani King, Jr., Iowa State: The former Mitchell standout recorded three tackles and picked off a pass in a win over Kansas. 

RB Keyvone Lee, So., Penn State: The former American Collegiate standout ran for 74 yards on eight carries in a win over Indiana. 

DB T.J. Limehouse, Jr., West Florida: The former Armwood standout recorded a team-high 16 tackles in a win over Delta State. 

LB Micah McFadden, Sr., Indiana: The former Plant star recorded eight tackles in a loss to Penn State. 

QB Braxton Plunk, Jr., Mount Union: The former Plant City standout threw for 313 yards and five touchdowns in a win over Otterbein. 

QB Tyler Riddell, Fr., East Tennessee State: The former Chamberlain standout threw for 268 yards and a touchdown in a win over Wofford. 

WR Mike Roussos, Sr., Columbia: The former River Ridge standout averaged 19 yards per kickoff return and 15 yards per punt return in a loss to Princeton. 

RB Deon Silas, Fr., Iowa State: Ran for 30 yards and a touchdown on three carries in a win over Kansas. 

RB Brian Snead, Jr., Austin Peay: The former Armwood standout ran for 73 yards and a touchdown on seven carries in a loss to Tennessee State. 

TE Michael Trigg, Fr., USC: The former Carrollwood Day/Seffner Christian standout had two catches for 51 yards and a touchdown in a win over Colorado. 

RB Treshaun Ward, Fr., FSU: The former Tampa Bay Tech standout accounted for 95 yards (66 rushing, 29 receiving) in a win over Syracuse. 

LB Kee Whetzel, Sr., West Florida: The former Countryside standout recorded 10 tackles and a ½ sack in a win over Delta State. 

WR Mario Williams, Fr., Oklahoma: The former Plant City star had three catches for 29 yards in a win over Kansas State. 

LB Stephon Williams, Jr., West Florida: The former Calvary Christian standout recorded five tackles and 1 ½ sacks in a win over Delta State. 

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College Football

Iowa State now a hotspot for local football recruits



Since arriving at Iowa State five years ago, Matt Campbell has guided the program to four straight bowl appearances, including a Fiesta Bowl win this past season that vaulted the Cyclones to No. 9 in the final AP poll, the highest ranking in school history. 

That success is due in part to the talent accumulated in Florida, especially the Tampa Bay area. 

There are currently five local players on the roster, all of whom were recruited by Campbell’s staff. Anthony Johnson, a former standout at St. Petersburg, starts at cornerback. Two other defensive backs, T.J. Tampa (Lakewood) and Kym-Mani King (Mitchell), should get significant playing time this season. 

It does not end there. 

This offseason Iowa State had perhaps its biggest haul of local talent with three offensive stars — Wiregrass Ranch quarterback Rocco Becht, Tampa Bay Tech receiver Greg Gaines III and Berkeley Prep athlete Xavier Townsend — all committing to the Cyclones as part of the 2022 class.  

Gaines is a four-star recruit while Becht and Townsend are both three-star prospects according to 247Sports. The addition of that trio helped the Cyclones’ current recruiting class rise to No. 5 in the Big 12 and No. 23 nationally. 

The recruiting efforts are not just limited to the staff. Becht, who committed in April, said he tried his best to get more offensive talent from the area to join him. 

“I talked to Greg and Xavier everyday,” Becht said of his recruiting pitch to that duo. “I was on them from the beginning.”

Rocco Becht

Iowa State’s staff also zeroed on those targets — and the area.

“The Tampa Bay area is a huge priority,” said Cyclones assistant head coach/linebackers coach Tyson Veidt, who recruits locally. “Some of our best players are from there and it has helped us develop some all-around continuity.”

Iowa State has a knack for landing playmakers in the bay area, particularly on the defensive side. It started more than a decade ago with linebacker Jeremiah George (Clearwater) and defensive back Leonard Johnson (Largo), both of whom played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their NFL careers. 

There has been even more of an emphasis on the area with Campbell and his staff.

That comes from experience. 

Before taking over the Cyclones, Campbell was an offensive coordinator (2009-11) and head coach (2012-15) at Toledo. During his time with the Rockets, the program landed several prospects from the area, including former Lakewood star Bernard Reedy, who went on to play in the NFL. 

In fact, Campbell had at least one local commit in each of his recruiting classes as Toledo’s head coach. That helped the Rockets rank among the top two recruiting classes in the MAC in three of the four years during Campbell’s tenure. 

The trend has continued at Iowa State. 

And it is having an impact, especially with the camaraderie among locals. 

“Well, of course, the decision was for me and my future as a student athlete,” said Townsend, who committed to the Cyclones on Sunday. “But it was icing on the cake knowing a couple of my boys are coming up with me.”

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College Football

Lakewood’s Amari Niblack commits to Alabama



Lakewood’s Amari Niblack had offers from 15 schools entering this week, including Florida, Florida State, Georgia and LSU. 

Then Niblack went to a camp at Alabama and picked up an offer from the Crimson Tide. 

That was all the three-star prospect needed to make up his mind. 

On Thursday, Niblack announced on social media that he committed to Alabama. 

A 6-foot-4 pass catching target, Niblack can play receiver or tight end. This past season, he had seven receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns according to the stats listed on MaxPreps. 

This is the second straight season Alabama has landed an area receiver and the third time in the past five seasons the Crimson Tide has picked a local skill player.

Agiye Hall, who starred at Armwood and Bloomingdale, was part of the 2021 class. He was an early enrollee and has already made an impact with several highlight-worthy catches in the spring game. 

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