In my opinion

Dolphins shine spotlight on local schools

 

Yet another facet of recruiting was introduced to South Florida athletes this past Saturday at Sun Life Stadium — an experience that many will never forget unfolded away from the playing field.

The Miami Dolphins Inaugural High School Media Day took place, bringing players, coaches and media agencies from throughout the region. Once again, the big winner on this day was the players and coaches who found that this part of the recruiting process could be rewarding.

Starting at 8 a.m. and ending after 5 p.m., dozens of local standouts, hopefuls and coaches took in the entire event.

“This was a big time production,” said Hallandale defensive back John Battle IV, who is already committed to LSU. “You get a photo taken, a video interview done and have the chance to answer questions — just like the Dolphins do — in a press conference.”

This next step in the recruiting process was one that former Dolphins and current team Youth Marketing Directors Twan Russell and Troy Drayton look at as another tool in this process.

“This is an excellent opportunity for many of the top players to continue to be recognized,” Russell pointed out. “It is also a very good way for under-the-radar talent to be talked about.”

While Fort Lauderdale’s St. Thomas Aquinas, Miami Booker T. Washington, Miami Central and Fort Lauderdale University School grabbed much of the media attention, there were other schools and players who had the chance to rub elbows with some of the best in the country.

North Miami Beach coach Jeff Bertani, fresh off the practice field, wanted to ensure that his standout receiver Steve Ishmael and young quarterback Cedric Wiggins got their two minutes in the spotlight.

“You look at our program — and what we have done for the past 20 years — and I would say that things have worked out very well for a lot of young men,” Bertani said. “Something like this that the Dolphins are hosting is great for everyone, and we are honored to take part in it.”

At Cypress Bay, Mark Guandolo’s Lightning has no time to rebuild. This team needs to reload quickly with teams such as Miramar and Everglades poised to make a playoff run.

“The Dolphins really added to a part of this recruiting process that was missing,” Guandolo said. “Dealing with the media is an important part of this thing year-round.”

Champagnat Catholic has been one of the teams that everyone was watching all summer. One of the key additions, University of Miami defensive line commit Travonte Valentine, was blown away by the experience.

“This is a really big time event that they are having here,” said Valentine, who played for Palm Bay Bayside in Central Florida last season. “The Miami Dolphins dress in these locker rooms and hold their press conferences where we did.”

Teams such as Miami Northwestern and Miami Jackson that are used to the spotlight, but programs such as Florida City Barrington Christian, Pompano Beach, Deerfield Beach Zion Lutheran, Miami Country Day and Pembroke Pines Charter were in a spotlight that was new to them.

“This gives us the chance to be on the same stage as the teams that get all national hype,” Hollywood Hills junior linebacker Juwann Taylor said. “We come out here and get to talk with the media and put our names out there.”

One of the closest schools to the event — Miramar — made good use of the center stage Saturday. For senior linebacker Ryan Samuels, it signals the final year of a career in which his teams finished among the best in Florida. Samuels, a three-year starter and one of the top scholastic prospects in the state, has contributed to the success of the program and believes this is one of those programs that will be around for a long time.

“Coach [Damon] Cogdell really came in here and has been the total head football coach,” Samuels said. “He made sure that everything was in order off the field before anyone ever got the chance to do what they do with a football in their hands.”

As the players spent the day trying to tell the media why their teams would be the best, programs filed in to stake their claim. North Broward Prep was on hand. So was Miami Belen Jesuit, Davie Nova, Miami Palmetto, West Broward, Hialeah Mater Academy, Blanche Ely, Homestead, Coral Springs, Miami Norland, Western, Hialeah, Somerset Academy and many more.

“From everything we heard, this was a very successful event,” Russell said. “It was a unique setting in the fact that we had as many of the top prospects as you will find anywhere in the country — under one roof — for the day.”

We are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current Class 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 Floridakids1@aol.com. Check out our list of statewide prospects as well on the High School Blog.

Follow Larry on Twitter at twitter.com/larryblustein

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