Miami Gardens had Braswell, now 27, listed as a missing person for much of 2011, although he eventually surfaced — only to land in trouble again for allegedly threatening his girlfriend at gunpoint and leading police on a chase through West Broward. He awaits trial on charges of aggravated assault with a firearm and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
But for the most part, the 2002 Vikings are ordinary guys who shared an extraordinary bond, living productive lives with strong ties to this day to their school.
When Norland’s football team captured the school’s second state championship last fall, the stands were filled with graduates of the 2002 class. Bowe and Barnes would regularly call Athletic Director Ira Fluitt on game nights, and requested that he put them on speaker phone, so they could offer words of encouragement.
When asked his fondest recollections from his high school days, Barnes didn’t speak of Bailey’s unlikely touchdown, but of a team sleepover from earlier that year. They had all been locked in the school cafeteria the night before a regular season game, and when the lights went out, the pranks began.
“Guys were afraid to go to sleep,” Barnes said.
When Manley exchanged vows with his college sweetheart this past March, the gala was part-wedding, part-reunion.
Barnes was there. So were Garrett Brown and Rick Maxwell, former Norland wide receivers who together started a custom T-shirt business. Spence, the Vikings’ starting quarterback who still lives in the area, wouldn’t have missed it
“We’d do anything for him,” said Omar Meza, the Norland defensive back-turned-crane operator. “We’re all friends forever.”
OLDER AND WISER
Bailey was there, too. The school and friendships forged there have been a rock through a lifetime of struggle.
When Sean Sr. died before his son’s 13th birthday, Angela Page — Sean’s mom — was left as the family’s lone breadwinner. She owned a modest nail salon, and the family managed to get by until another family tragedy.
Dana Cody, his younger sister, was cooking hamburgers and fell asleep. When she awoke, the house was in flames.
Though no one was hurt, the blaze splintered the family. Mother and daughter moved to Alabama, while Sean stayed local, living with his uncle Robert within the Norland district lines. He went out for football, and was determined to play wide receiver, despite the team’s depth at that position and his diminutive stature.
But size meant nothing on that cold December night, when he raced down the field and into Norland folklore.
While that moment is immortal for Norland fans, Bailey’s life has moved on.
He enrolled at Tuskegee University the following fall, and walked onto the football team. After graduation, he opened a car wash in Alabama.
By then, his mom and sister had moved back to South Florida, and bought a house in Miami Gardens. Life was good. Then his mother was diagnosed with leukemia.
Bailey gave up his business and moved back home to care for his mom during her worst days. She died last November. Now, he lives in her house with his sister, who has taken over the nail business. Bailey uses his mom’s old cellphone — it’s still her voice on the recorded greeting.
Bailey can become emotional when discussing that cold night in Tallahassee, but insists that the catch doesn’t define him, that the real highlights of his life are ahead.
But when the subject of the 2002 Norland Vikings comes up, people still like to relive “The Catch” — “all the doggone time.”