“What one has, one ought to use; and whatever he does he should do with all his might.” – Cicero
These words were put into the history of our world sometime before 44 BC or, if you were paying attention in World History class more than four decades before Jesus Christ; who many accept as their ultimate motivator was born. Motivational axioms have been circulated throughout thousands of years of existence, and while Modern Era manipulators of capitalism regurgitate the same messages of hope, dedication and perseverance dressed as ground-breaking advances in philosophy through any one of the countless platforms they have at their disposals, the foundation (better yet philosophy) remains the same. It is a philosophy that has been constructed out of simply using the talents you were given without constant interrogation as to why you were given them. You don’t need to possess a doctorate or be a character from ‘Star Wars’ to understand “Do or do not; there is no try.”
As the 2015 edition of the NFL’s Draft descends upon us in the next 24 hours, the rhetoric and the hype will twist and turn more than the famous section of Lombard St. in San Francisco. The analysts and their analysis will become more or less white noise at some point during the evening, but the message should be anything other than white noise. The dream of being chosen to play at the pinnacle of the profession becomes a reality for many guys from the Tampa Bay area this weekend signifying the end of an era and the beginning of what is hoped to be a long and fruitful career path.
Some won’t be drafted in the traditional sense and will have to start from the beginning as if they were scrawny freshmen trying to make the junior varsity. Some will get drafted in later rounds and will have more-than-reasonable chances of making the roster and better-than-average chances at making more money in their first contract than some of us have earned in our lifetimes. Others, like Dante Fowler Jr. and Nelson Agholor will be experiencing a scenario that MAYBE 1% of us in this world have experienced or will ever experience when their names are called.
In the last 60 years, there have been just 22 players from the four counties of Polk, Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough taken in the first round of the draft, but has averaged a 1st round pick every other year the last decade. Those five started with Mike Jenkins (Leto/Ohio State) in 2004 at the 29th-pick, then Mike Williams (Plant/USC) with the 10th-pick to Detroit in 2005. Broderick Bunkley (Chamberlain/FSU) made it 3-for-3 in consecutive years in 2006 when he was chosen with the 14th-pick to Philadelphia. The Pouncey Twins round out that first round list with Maurkice taken as the 18th-pick in 2010 to the Steelers and Mike as the 15th-pick to the Miami Dolphins in 2011.
Thursday, we have the guarantee of the highest pick in the history of the area in Fowler Jr. and a REALLY good shot at doubling-up on 1st-rounders if the majority of the pundits are correct and Agholor is taken by either the Saints at #31 or the Patriots with the 32nd-pick. Dante figures to land with other former standouts from the area Ryan Davis (Blake/Bethune-Cookman) and Jeremy Deering (Leto/Rutgers) on the Jacksonville Jaguars with the 3rd-pick. If not, he lands no lower than the 5th-pick to Washington and will soon find himself on national primetime television every time the boys from DC play a divisional opponent. Agholor, the former Berkeley Prep and USC stud, could go as high as the 20th-pick to Philadelphia, but has not been projected any later than the 41st-pick to St. Louis which firmly plants his spot in the record books.
Fowler Jr. was a special player coming out of Lakewood High School, but the list of names he would join (and ultimately sit atop of) is what is perhaps even more special. Fowler would join the likes of Tom Carter, the 17th-pick from Notre Dame in 2003 Draft and William Floyd, who was the 28th-pick in the 1994 Draft out of Florida State. He would make the 5th player from Lakewood to be either a first or second round pick since 1955, which would give the Spartans the distinction of having the highest total number of 1st or 2nd rounders in the area with five. Ernest Givens (34th-pick in 1986 Draft) out of Louisville and Pat Terrell (49th-pick in 1990 Draft) from Notre Dame would now follow Fowler on that list of distinguished alumni. Fowler would also become the 6th player from Pinellas County since 1955 to be taken in the opening round and 13th overall in that span of time. His selection would also guarantee that Lakewood has the most first and second round choices, breaking a tie with Kathleen at four, and puling farther ahead of Lakeland and Robinson with 3 players each on that list.
Agholor would make Hillsborough County’s 15th first or second round choice and will become Berkeley Prep’s highest pick in the history of the school. If he lands at the end of the first (side note: we think he will be), Agholor would be the county’s 8th first round pick and the first since Plant’s Mike Williams adding to the synergy they both represent Hillsborough County and the University of Southern California. If he is taken at the top of the second, he would be the 8th second round selection since 1955 and the most recent area 2nd-rounder since Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas in 2010. Nelson was the exception to so many rules when it came to watching players that have “it” and was grown well before his time was called upon to do so. We talk all the time about why kids stay close to home for obvious reasons, but we also discuss why players leave the Sunshine State’s tropical nest and head west with somewhat enigmatic opinions and viewpoints as to why. Agholor was one of those young men that was pre-conditioned to handle the challenge.
Nelson added-on to his illustrious career from the prep scene in which he compiled over 7,500 yards and 84 touchdowns over 3,000 miles from home as one of the Men of Troy and in an environment filled with more distractions and sensory overloads than a Quentin Tarantino flick. Agholor finished his three-year career with the Trojans with nearly 2,600 yards in receiving and 20 touchdowns. He finished 1st in the Pac-12 in receiving touchdowns and 2nd in receiving yards in 2014, and even led the conference in punt return yards in 2013, flashing those dynamic skills we were blessed to have witnessed every time he went out on the field as a Buccaneer. Fowler Jr. finished his three-year career with the Gators compiling 140 tackles, (33.5 of those for losses) along with 14.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. On many Saturdays over the last three seasons, Fowler was the ONLY reason to get excited about Florida Football.
So, while we wait in guarded optimism and not-so-quiet anticipation for the culmination of a childs’ dream, let us stop and say “thank you.” It is a most-sincere and heartfelt thanks from the bottom of our pigskin-lined hearts and minds possible. We thank you AND ALL of the young men that we sat back and debated the merits of on-and-off message boards, radio and television. We thank you for the indelible images you’ve left us with. The specific image of Agholor sitting in a broom closet, located at the back of a double-wide trailer that was the entire athletic offices while BP was being renovated and turned into the pristine location it is today; the image of him being interviewed by BCP and the sounds of him declaring as a SOPHOMORE that he would be attending USC and that he would make an impact in this world beyond the gridiron.
The countless images of Fowler Jr. chasing after some poor, unsuspecting quarterback or unassuming running back that was honestly just there to make someone proud and then watch as he made them completely re-evaluate their stance on the sport once he caught them. These are the images juxtaposed with the imaginations to realize we have yet to see their best (now against THE best) that compel us to give thanks and appreciate the “new” standard you have set for the next wave of Bay-Area-Ballers to aspire to; for that we actually say thank you for doing what you’ve done with all your might. Cicero, and all of the other great philosophers and motivators thank you as well. Good luck and God Bless, fellas and as Cicero might’ve added, “Sic itur ad astra.” (Translated: “such is the path to immortality.”)