Of the former Vikings, the greatest NFL success, without question, has been achieved by Dwayne Bowe, who recently inked a one-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs worth more than $9 million. Bowe, 27, earned that windfall with a Pro Bowl year in 2010, and back-to-back seasons of more than 1,000 receiving yards.
The achievements of Bowe and Barnes are no surprise to their high school coach, Nigel Dunn. “Dwayne Bowe and Antwan Barnes were incredible,” he said.
Richard Gordon, 25, is the youngest of the three in the pros, and the latest to the party. After graduating from Norland, he enrolled at Milford Academy in New York for a year before signing with the University of Miami. An injury cost him his 2009 season, but he bounced back to win the team’s most improved player award in 2010, and the Oakland Raiders took a chance on him with a late-round pick in the 2011 draft.
Others, like Bobbie Williams, have come tantalizingly close to living their NFL dream, only to see it elude their grasp.
Williams had offers from programs in college football’s premier classification, but ultimately chose to attend Bethune Cookman, the small, historically black college in Daytona Beach.
There, the play-making safety sparkled. Williams earned all-conference and all-American honors, and had high hopes that his name would be called in the 2008 draft.
It wasn’t. Disappointed, Williams earned a month-long audition with the Detroit Lions, and put himself in position to make the team with a solid training camp. But roster spots are a finite resource — and usually go to prospects with a richer pedigree — so the Lions ultimately jettisoned Williams.
“I certainly have a sour lemon in my mouth,” said Williams, who now supports his daughter by laying concrete. “But it’s life. You’ve got to move on.”
Alexander Bostic III, a linebacker who played alongside Barnes at both Norland and FIU, knows exactly how painful that is. Bostic, 27, moved to South Dakota after graduation in pursuit of a pro football career, playing a year for the Sioux Falls Storm of the Indoor Football League.
But like Williams, there came a time when the demands of life eclipsed his desire to play. Bostic is married with two children, including son Alexander IV, in Atlanta. And he traded his helmet for a hymnal. Like his father — the longtime pastor of First Baptist Church of Bunche Park — Bostic became a minister. He also runs Right Path Program, which helps student-athletes get eligible for college, and holds a series of football camps throughout the South. Naturally, he called upon some of his high school buddies to serve as counselors, and many — including Bowe and Barnes — have complied.
Manley, the star running back, has twice been named rookie of the year, but not on the football field. Since graduating from Florida Atlantic University, where he helped the Owls reach back-to-back bowl games, Manley has dedicated his life to helping kids as an elementary school teacher in Miami-Dade County.
Twice, at two different schools, he has been named the top first-year teacher — initially at Parkway Elementary, then at Myrtle Grove.
Having grown up in the community, Manley has an affinity for the kids, and especially those with difficult home lives.