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Lakewood ranks among state’s best at producing NFL draft picks

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Lakewood has a penchant for producing NFL talent. In the past two decades, the Spartans had nine players who were drafted, the most of any area team and the fifth-most in the state according to a list produced by MaxPreps.

Five of those players are still playing in the NFL, tops among local programs. Lakewood was the only school not from Broward or Dade County in the top five.  Nationally, the Spartans are tied with two other schools for ninth overall during that span.

The Lakewood legacy

A list of Spartans selected in the NFL Draft the past 20 years (2001-20)

2002

WR Tim Carter

College: Auburn

Drafted: 2nd round (46th overall) by the New York Giants

2009

WR Louis Murphy

College: Florida

Drafted: 4th round (124th overall) by the Oakland Raiders

2012

DB Jonte Green

College: New Mexico State

Drafted: 6th round (196th overall) by the Detroit Lions

2015

DL Dante Fowler

College: Florida

Drafted: 1st round (3rd overall) by the Jacksonville Jaguars

2017

Griffin twins
Photo credit: Seattle Seahawks

CB Shaquill Griffin

College: UCF

Drafted: 3rd round (90th overall) by the Seattle Seahawks

WR Rodney Adams

College: USF

Drafted: 5th round (170th overall) by the Minnesota Vikings

RELATED: Looking back at the locals from the 2017 draft

2018

Photo credit: Courtesy of the New England Patriots/David Silverman

OL Isaiah Wynn 

College: Georgia

Drafted: 1st round (23rd overall) by the New England Patriots

LB Shaquem Griffin

College: UCF

Drafted: 5th round (141st overall) by the Seattle Seahawks

WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling

College: USF

Drafted: 5th round (174th overall) by the Green Bay Packers

RELATED: Looking back at the NFL locals from the 2018 draft

There were several area programs included in the list. Armwood had five players selected in the NFL Draft the past 20 years, the second-highest total among local teams and tying for 16th overall in the state along with 11 others.

Here are the five Hawks taken during that span.

2002 

OL Mike Pearson

College: Florida

Drafted: 2nd round (40th overall) by the Jacksonville Jaguars

2015 

RB Matt Jones

College: Florida

Drafted: 3rd round (95th overall) by the Washington Redskins

2017

DB Leon McQuay III

College: USC

Drafted: 6th round (218th overall) by the Kansas City Chiefs

2019

Photo credit: Courtesy of the New England Patriots/David Silverman

DL Byron Cowart

College: Auburn/Maryland

Drafted: 5th round (159th overall) by the New England Patriots

RELATED: Looking back at the NFL locals taken in the 2019 draft

2020

P Sterling Hofrichter

College: Syracuse

Drafted: 7th round (228th overall) by the Atlanta Falcons

RELATED: Former Armwood star Sterling Hofrichter picked by Falcons

Gaither, Hillsborough and Jefferson each had four players drafted the past 20 years and are tied with 13 other state teams for 17th overall.

Gaither

2005 

WR J.R. Russell

College: Louisville 

Drafted: 7th round (253rd overall) by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2010

WR Carlton Mitchell

College: USF

Drafted: 6th round (177th overall) by the Cleveland Browns

2018 

QB Alex McGough

College: FIU

Drafted: 7th round  (220th overall), by the Seattle Seahawks

2019

Photo credit: Detroit Lions

CB Amani Oruwariye

College: Penn State

Drafted: 5th round (146th overall) by the Detroit Lions

Hillsborough

2003

DE Andrew Williams

College: Miami 

Drafted: 3rd round (89th overall) by the San Francisco 49ers

RB Chris Davis

College: Syracuse 

Drafted: 5th round (165th overall) by the Seattle Seahawks

2004

DB J.R. Reed 

College: USF

Drafted: 4th round (129th overall) by the Philadelphia Eagles

2016

DB Anthony Brown

College: Purdue 

Drafted: 6th round (189th overall) by the Dallas Cowboys

Jefferson

2002

WR Reche Caldwell

College: Florida

Drafted: 2nd round (48th overall) by the San Diego Chargers

2008

WR Andre Caldwell

College: Florida

Drafted: 3rd round (97th overall) by the Cincinnati Bengals

2015

LB Ramik Wilson

College: Georgia

Drafted: 4th round (118th overall) by the Kansas City Chiefs

2016

WR Chris Moore

College: Cincinnati 

Drafted: 4th round (107th overall) by the Baltimore Ravens

East Lake, Plant and St. Petersburg Catholic each had three selected in the past 20 years and are tied with 24 other programs for 44th overall in the state during that span.

East Lake

2016

Photo credit: Los Angeles Rams

TE Tyler Higbee

College: Western Kentucky

Drafted: 3rd round (110th overall) by the Los Angeles Rams

RELATED: The list of East Lake NFL draft picks could grow

2018

OL Mason Cole

College: Michigan

Drafted: 3rd round (97th overall) by the Arizona Cardinals

2020

LB Justin Strnad

College: Wake Forest

Drafted: (178th overall) by the Denver Broncos

RELATED: Justin Strnad’s difficult path to the draft

Plant 

2005

WR Mike Williams

College: USC

Drafted: 1st round (10th overall) by the Detroit Lions

RELATED: Area coaches and players react to protests and police matters

2012

TE Orson Charles

College: Georgia

Drafted: 4th round (116th overall) by the Cincinnati Bengals

2014   

QB Aaron Murray

College: Georgia

Drafted: 5th round (163rd overall) by the Kansas City Chiefs

St. Petersburg Catholic

2003

FB Casey Moore

College: Stanford

Drafted: 7th round (247th overall) by the Carolina Panthers

2007

WR Chris Davis

College: FSU

Drafted: 4th round (128th overall) by the Tennessee Titans

2014

OL Jon Halapio

College: Florida

Drafted: 6th round (179th overall) by the New England Patriots

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Lakewood’s Amari Niblack commits to Alabama

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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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Football: Local list of 2022 commits

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The Tampa Bay area always produces a tremendous amount of football talent. This year is no different. Several seniors have already pledged their allegiance to colleges. Here is the list, which is expected to grow considerably in the next few months. 

Armwood

WR Kye Stokes

College: Ohio State

Berkeley Prep

LB TJ Bullard

College: UCF

TE CJ Hawkins

College: Florida

Related: Berkeley Prep’s CJ Hawkins commits to Florida

Calvary Christian

OL Preston Cushman

College: Mississippi

Carrollwood Day

DL Brandon Cleveland

College: North Carolina State

Clearwater Academy

CB Rhyland Kelly

College: Minnesota

Clearwater Central Catholic

LB Melvin Jordan 

College: Oregon State

Gaither

DL Mario Eugenio

College: Michigan

Hillsborough

RB Jordaan Bailey

College: Pittsburgh

DB Adrian Ramsey

College: Howard

LB Joseph Sipp Jr.

College: Colorado State

Jesuit

WR Jaydn Girard

College: Wake Forest

ATH Junior Vandeross

College: Toledo

Related: Jesuit’s Junior Vandeross commits to Toledo

King

OT Tony Livingston

College: Florida

Related: Tony Livingston transfers to King

Lakewood

TE Amari Niblack

College: Alabama

Pinellas Park

PK Robert Gunn III

College: Clemson

Related: Pinellas Park’s Robert Gunn III commits to Clemson

Sickles

WR Javohn Thomas

College: USF

Tampa Catholic

OL Chris Williams

College: Florida A&M

Wharton

LB Daveon Crouch

College: Boston College

Wiregrass Ranch

QB Rocco Becht

College: Iowa State

Related: Wiregrass Ranch’s Rocco Becht commits to Iowa State

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Pinellas Park’s Robert Gunn III commits to Clemson

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Kickers typically are not offered scholarships while they are in high school. Most at the Division I-A level arrive as walk-ons with the chance to earn a scholarship based on their performance. 

Robert Gunn III is not your typical kicker. 

The Pinellas Park senior is ranked as the nation’s best at the position in the Class of 2022 according to Kicking World. That lofty status got the attention of college coaches.

Gunn III already has offers from six colleges, including Clemson and Texas.

The offer from the Tigers came on June 13 during an unofficial visit. Two days later, Gunn III ended the recruiting process by committing to Clemson. 

“I wanted to go to Clemson because of the people and how they care about the school so much,” Gunn III said. 

The Tigers have been successful landing area special teams stars. Former Jesuit and IMG standout Aidan Swanson will be a redshirt sophomore punter for Clemson this season. 

Now the Tigers will have an area kicker, too. 

This past season, Gunn III hit both of his field goal attempts and had 16 of his 19 kickoffs go for touchbacks. He also averaged 44 yards per punt.  

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