For more than two decades, Doug Gatewood has roamed the sidelines in Broward — coaching, teaching and doing things the right way.
Gatewood is a throwback to the days when coaches really cared about their players, wanting to spend time with them and doing more than preaching about family.
This is someone who grew up in a football family, playing and coaching where some of the greats have competed and left a mark. He is also a coach who will immerse himself in any job he has.
Two years ago, when South Plantation was looking for a coach, it would have been easy, with three young children and a wife (Bethany) of 15 years, to remain as the offensive line coach, but that isn’t what drives Gatewood. He wasn’t going to see a quality group of players have to go through another coaching staff.
“This was a special group of young men,” he said. “Athletes who have that certain pride about themselves. They want to get better.”
After a season in which his team finished second in the district, advancing to the playoffs, Gatewood and the Paladins were no longer a surprise. Especially when you have one of the best running backs in the country in Alex Collins.
What Collins represents to this program is quality football player who happens to be one of the best teammates any program could have. Committed to attend the University of Miami, Collins has indeed been a centerpiece for this team over the past two years. So impressive is this 5-11, 195-pounder that Wisconsin and FSU continue to recruit him hard.
Last weekend at the University of South Florida Sling and Shoot event in Tampa, many had a first look at Collins, who was rumored not to be a great receiver. Some 50 other schools, including powers Armwood and Tampa Plant, found out differently. What they watched was a truly gifted back compete as part of a team and not an individual.
“First of all, the chance to play in a great event in Tampa really made our summer,” Gatewood said. “But it also showed all those people who had never watched Alex play, he was indeed an all-around back.”
Gatewood admits that part of being old school is having zero tolerance for recruiting services or fan websites that make assessments without watching the player perform live, opting to view the same highlight film that millions have access to.
While Collins is certainly the player everyone flocks to see, he isn’t the only engine that moves this train. This is a team which has as many as six top-flight senior recruits — including athletic and very talented quarterback John Franklin.
All the speedy (4.38 at the FSU camp in the 40-yard dash) athlete has done in the off season is impress at every stop — coming away with a number of offers. Franklin has the chance to surpass 3,000 total yards this season.
In addition to Collins and Franklin, the senior class also includes receiver Howard Davis, linebacker Keon Knight, athletic Hoardley Siege and kicker Zach Leatherman.
One of the promising football players who has emerged this summer is Class of 2015 all around athletes Rodrick Archer, who represents the talent that this team has.
“We have never made a habit out of attending these 7-on-7 events,” Gatewood SAID. “I know that a lot of other programs send a bunch of assistants to coach, but this my team and I want to be part of everything they do. If playing in these events are important to them, it’s important to my entire family who makes all the trips as well.”
South Plantation played in a pool that included Palm Beach Central, Armwood, South Sumter, Tampa Jesuit, Clearwater Countryside, Tampa Carrollwood and Plant City Strawberry Crest.
Big test for Western, North Broward
In addition to South Plantation, two other Broward teams had the chance to test their skill level in Tampa. North Broward Prep tried to get an edge as did Western, which has been to quite a few statewide 7-on-7 events.