In My Opinion

Tunsil has young Lions on the rise


For much of the spring and summer, Champagnat Catholic’s football program has found a way to find the spotlight — a glow that is usually reserved for the Centrals, Booker T. Washingtons and other South Florida powers this time of year.

What coach Mike Tunsil has done for the Hialeah-based school is put the program on par with some of the elite 2A and 3A programs in the state. After all, it may have been the most visited spot in Miami-Dade or Broward counties by college coaches in May, and things do not appear to be changing anytime soon.

In his three years since starting the football program at the school, Tunsil, a one-time Monsignor Pace standout, has built his programs via the route that most successful teams travel. His extensive background with the youth football players, coaches and teams opened the door when he was putting this program together.

“This is indeed not something that is here today and gone tomorrow,” Tunsil said. “Our strong ties to all the communities for the past two plus decades have brought the players to this school. Remember, the parents are also 100 percent behind a private education for their kids.”

During the first couple of years, Champagnat had a number of key players come through the program. Five went on to college from last year alone. Still, it was tough get any respect. That all began to change after the 2012 season.

Although this senior class is solid and will be the glue to keep this team together, the real prize has to be in this junior and sophomore class, where there is an abundance of state, regional and national talent.

When the Miami Herald 2015 summer rankings appeared last week, there were six Lions in the top 50. That is what really started to get the attention of fans all over the state. College coaches were already tuned in.

From defensive backs Robert Knowles, Gerald Robinson and Maliek Jackson, to receiver Steven Claude, and linebackers Keddrick Labady and Irick McDonald, this group of 2015 players is as good as you get.

With an assist from Class of 2016 nationally rated quarterback Kato Nelson and receiver Darnell Salomon, the Lions are really starting to look like they belong. That comes after years of falling short to established 2A teams such as Dade Christian, Jupiter Christian and Glades Day.

“While we are all very excited about underclassmen we have, the success this team achieves will be because of a group of seniors who has the chance to be very special,” Tunsil said. “We have a very strong senior class that has been ready to make an impression.”

Leading the way in this group is nationally rated defensive tackle Travonte Valentine, who committed to the University of Miami on Wednesday. Coming in for his final year from Palm Bay Bayside High, this is indeed a star attraction to this program.

In addition to Valentine, Louisville-bound safety Michael Johnson and running back Franklin Labady are also elite players.

Labady is a game-breaker who showed his skills the past two years at Edison. He is a speedy, tough runner who could easily put a 2,000-yard season together.

The Lions will also look to prospects such as Western Kentucky commit defensive back/receiver Jason Williams, linebacker Nathaniel Holloway and defensive tackle Moises Rivera, a 6-0, 280-pounder.

We are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current Classes of 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

All you have to do is send a You Tube or Hudl link and information about the athlete to: Larry Blustein at Check out our list of statewide prospects as well on the High School Blog.

Read more Larry Blustein stories from the Miami Herald

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