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Getting to know Jesuit’s Joe Pesansky

Bob Putnam

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Joe Pesansky moved from Virginia to the Tampa area this summer. He enrolled at Jesuit and emerged from a crowded competition as the starting quarterback. Since then, Pesansky has become one of the best signal callers in school history, throwing for 2,819 yards and 34 touchdowns. Tonight, he will lead the Tigers into the Class 5A state semifinals against Plantation American Heritage. The Holy Cross commit talked this week about bouncing around from state-to-state, his initial lack of love for football and the difficulties of finding shoes for his oversized feet. 

On the move

Pesansky has lived in five states: Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The frequent family moves are due to his father’s job at Enterprise Rentals. That is the reason Pensansky is in Tampa. At that time, Virginia had shut down high school sports because of the coronavirus pandemic. “My dad’s job wanted him to come down here. We decided it was the best move to make,” Pesansky said. 

Accidental quarterback

Growing up, Pesansky played baseball, basketball and soccer. He had no plans to play football when he started high school. In fact, he wanted to join cross country in the fall to stay in shape for other sports. His friends and coaches eventually convinced to become a quarterback as a freshman. 

Bigfoot

Pesnasky has had size 15 feet since he was 13 years old. That can cause problems when finding shoes. “It’s pretty hard, sometimes,” Pesansky said. “ I can find (shoes) at a Nike outlet, or Ross, but most of the time I have to order them online.”

College Football

Seminole’s Chris Miller selected to coach in Tropical Bowl

Bob Putnam

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Seminole’s Chris Miller was named one of the head coaches for the Tropical Bowl, an all-star college football game featuring mostly FBS players who are potential NFL draft picks. 

Miller will coach the American team. He left Thursday to start practices for Sunday’s game, which kicks off at 11 a.m. at Kissimmee’s Celebration High. 

The staff Miller assembled includes Warhawks assistants Rob Ewing and Chris Parker and former Admiral Farragut standout Kreg Brown. 

After spending more than a decade as a player and a coach at Admiral Farragut, Miller left to become coach at Seminole in 2013. 

This is his third year coaching in a college all-star game. He was the receivers coach for the National Bowl in 2018 and was offensive coordinator for the game in 2019. 

Two locals are playing in this year’s Tropical Bowl — USF defensive back Mike Hampton (Hillsborough) and Florida International offensive lineman Shane McGough (Gaither).  

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Football

Hillsborough track star Erriyon Knighton reportedly turns pro

Bob Putnam

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Hillsborough’s Erriyon Knighton, who solidified himself as one of the nation’s top sprinters after an impressive performance this summer, has decided to forgo his high school and collegiate eligibility by signing with Adidas according to a report by Track and Field News. 

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Knighton becomes the second area track athlete to turn pro before exhausting his amateur status. In 2015, former Gibbs and Baylor sprinting sensation Trayvon Bromell signed with New Balance. A year later, Bromell was in the Olympics. 

Knighton is on the same path.  

At the Junior Olympics this past summer, Knighton won the 200 meters in a wind-legal time of 20.33 seconds, the fastest-ever recorded in the 16 year old’s age group (15-16) at the Junior Olympics and the nation’s top time by a high school athlete at that point last year. 

Knighton shaved 56 seconds off his personal best set in June of 2020. And his blistering 20.33 time was just 0.20 seconds off the under-18 world record set by Usain Bolt. 

That was not all. 

In the 100 meters, Knighton again sprinted to the head of the class at the Junior Olympics, this time winning in 10.29 seconds, a time that was tied for the nation’s top mark by a high school athlete this past year.

Those eye-opening times got the attention of the track-and-field aficionados — and the sporting world.

It also put him on the fast track to potential Olympic stardom. That was in part why he made the decision, according to Track and Field News. 

By doing so, Knighton is all but giving up a promising career in football. 

Knighton’s big-play ability, combined with his speed, made him a bona fide football prospect. He is already ranked as a four-star recruit and considered the state’s 15-best player for the Class of 2022 on 247 Sports’ composite list.

As a junior this past season, Knighton had 201 rushing yards, 484 receiving and accounted for eight touchdowns.  

Colleges took notice. Knighton has offers from several Division I-A programs, including Florida, FSU, Michigan and Tennessee. 

Knighton’s future is coming into his focus.

So is his vision. 

This summer, Knighton failed a physical because of poor eyesight. He had 20/100 vision in one eye and 20/80 in the other. He now has glasses and plans on getting contacts. 

“It didn’t really bother me in track,” Knighton told Prime Time Preps at the time. “I could still see. The only thing that was blurry was when I tried to read plays from the sideline in football.”

The picture is clear. No more football and track at Hillsborough, followed by four more years of both sports in college. 

The focus is now on the Olympics, something that Knighton said was a possibility this summer. 

“I might lean towards track, slightly,” Knighton told Prime Time Preps this summer.. “I’m thinking about the Olympics more and more.” 

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Football

Locals to watch in Sunday’s NFL wild-card games

Bob Putnam

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Several locals are playing in NFL wild-card games this weekend. Here are the ones on active rosters for Sunday’s games. 

Baltimore Ravens

WR Chris Moore

High school: Jefferson

College: Cincinnati

New Orleans Saints

RB Tony Jones Jr.

High school: St. Petersburg Catholic/IMG Academy

College: Notre Dame

Diontae Johnson
Photos courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers

WR Diontae Johnson

High school: Lennard

College: Toledo

WR Ray-Ray McCloud

High school: Sickles

College: Clemson

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