They showed up by the half dozen, wearing their high school football jerseys and school colors — some of them with baseball caps of the college programs they’ve already committed themselves to play for in the coming year.
In all, more than 300 football players and coaches from 73 Miami-Dade and Broward County high schools attended the Miami Dolphins’ inaugural South Florida High School Media Day at Sun Life Stadium on Saturday — the first of its kind in an NFL city according to the Dolphins.
And by all accounts, it wasn’t so bad.
“I have big dreams of being in the NFL, so to come here and see the inside of Sun Life Stadium was great,” said Miami Booker T. Washington running back Krondis Larry, a Samford commitment. “It motivates you for where you want to be at in life.”
The Tornadoes, the No. 1-ranked team in the preseason according to USA Today, were joined by traditional local powers and defending state champions Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, University School and Miami Central at Saturday’s festivities.
Trash talk? There certainly was at least a little. Although the regular season for most isn’t set to begin until the final weekend in August, Booker T. will open its season Aug. 24 at Norcross, Ga., ranked sixth by USA Today.
The first big showdown in town? Seven-time state champion Aquinas versus four-time state champion Miami Northwestern on Aug. 31 at Sun Life Stadium.
“We know we have two pretty huge games coming up and we’re just trying to take it one step at a time, focusing on what we need to do — not really them. It’s kind of just an us thing right now,” said Raiders quarterback Wade Freebeck, a transfer from Western High and a University of Pittsburgh commitment.
The Raiders, ranked 11th by USA Today, will take on nationally-ranked John Curtis (La.) at the New Orleans Superdome on Sept. 13 after taking on the Bulls. Curtis is the defending national champion.
While some of South Florida’s elite teams are focused on competing for national championships, others spoke Saturday of trying to turn things around after losing seasons in 2012. South Broward coach Josh Shapiro, one of 26 new head coaches in South Florida, takes over one of five programs who finished winless in 2012 (Archbishop Carroll, Hialeah Gardens, Pompano Beach and Zion Lutheran were the others).
“The goals are we’re going to change the culture and win as many games as we can,” Shapiro said. “There’s a talented group of kids here. It’s a fresh start for me, for the kids to come in with a new set of expectations. Being at a new school is always excited.”
As usual there were plenty of fresh haircuts on display from defensive linemen with mohawks to quarterbacks with the surfer look. Cardinal Gibbons’ Peyton Bender fell into the latter category with a haircut teammate and standout receiver Trevon Lee said girls love.
“I like to wakeboard a little bit outside of football, play guitar,” said Bender, a Washington State commitment. “Me and my [older brother Chase, a quarterback at Colgate] kind of have a band. Not really. He plays drums and I play guitar. We mess around a little bit.”
Bold predictions? There were a few. Miami Jackson coach Antonio Brown, who led his team to the Class 5A state semifinals last year, said he thinks his team can put up triple-digits in a game this year.
“Our slogan is ‘Spot the ball’ on offense,” Brown said. “On the defensive side, we’re going to unleash organized chaos. Our goal is to score 50 points in a half. So, totally, we would like to score 100 points.”
Five players and a coach from each school participated in the event, which encompassed photo, video and interview stations inside the Dolphins locker room and team media room.
“I think the media day was very successful and is the start of something special,” Miami Dolphins Youth Programs Director Twan Russell said. “It’s beneficial for both the media and the programs; the kids get a first-class experience being in a professional setting, while the media can get all their coverage in one location.”
The Dolphins said they plan on hosting the event again next year.