Miami-Dade and Broward high schools have sent scores of wide receivers, defensive backs and running backs to major colleges and the NFL … but very few in the way of quarterbacks.
Within the past decade, however, that has changed.
Teddy Bridgewater, formerly of Miami’s Northwestern High and now of the Minnesota Vikings, earned some Rookie of the Year honors last season, joining South Floridians Geno Smith (Miramar, New York Jets) and Thad Lewis (Hialeah-Miami Lakes, Philadelphia Eagles) in the NFL.
In addition, former Miami Central quarterback Rakeem Cato is starting and playing well in the Canadian Football League for the Montreal Alouettes.
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“Teddy is the marquee name, the first-rounder who had a sensational rookie year,” Central coach Roland Smith said. “He’s the one that the young guys in South Florida will idolize.”
But it’s more than just the pros. Former Dade and Broward quarterbacks are starting for top-15 programs such as Michigan (Jake Rudock) and Florida (Treon Harris).
There’s also a record-setting quarterback at Western Kentucky and several backups looking to move up a notch at schools such as Ohio State, Washington State, Arizona, Auburn and Duke.
Numerous coaches surveyed for this story agree that the success of South Florida quarterbacks is on the rise, and the main factor cited is the training they are receiving.
“Because of the evolution of 7-on-7 passing camps, more kids are throwing the ball year-round,” South Dade’s Nate Hudson said. “Kids are getting coached up in the passing game.”
In the 1980s,’90s and early 2000s, skilled South Florida athletes who played quarterback in high school were often switched to other positions once they arrived in college. It happened to Miami High’s Eddie Brown and Carol City’s Ethenic Sands, who both became receivers for the Miami Hurricanes.
That still happens on occasion, but not as often as before when many college programs used an option offense and wanted fast, athletic quarterbacks who ran first and passed only when absolutely necessary. The problem was that option quarterbacks had no future in the NFL.
“Now, more colleges run spread offenses and want quarterbacks who can throw and run,” Roland Smith said. “And that’s the type of dynamic athletes that we have a lot of down here.”
Cypress Bay coach Marc Guandolo said the success of Bridgewater, among others, is important because of the influence it’s having on young quarterbacks in this area.
Guandolo speaks from experience. He grew up in Pittsburgh, an area that for decades was producing some of the greatest passing arms in football history.
Johnny Unitas was drafted into the NFL in the 1950s, Joe Namath in the ’60s, Joe Montana in the ’70s and Dan Marino and Jim Kelly in the ’80s — all from Western Pennsylvania.
Success bred success.
“There was a carry-over effect,” Guandolo said. “But we’ve never really had that for [South Florida quarterbacks]. When I was coaching at [Miami] Southridge in the ’90s, we had the Davis brothers [running backs Darren and Troy Davis]. Kids grew up wanting to be running backs like them.”
Now, more and more South Florida kids want to be quarterbacks.
Hudson said that for many of the talented black kids in South Florida, it was important to see players such as Doug Williams and Warren Moon have success as NFL quarterbacks. Although neither is from South Florida, they were pioneers as black athletes at the game’s most important position.
Bridgewater, because he is local and still active in the game, has allowed other kids to dream.
“Moon and Williams set the standard,” Hudson said. “But Teddy’s success — that’s big for South Florida.”
Top active quarterbacks from Miami-Dade and Broward
Name, high school (current team) Comment
Teddy Bridgewater, Northwestern (Minnesota Vikings) Gold standard for Dade-Broward QBs
Geno Smith, Miramar (New York Jets) Got punched out, lost his starting job
Thad Lewis, Hialeah-Miami Lakes (Philadelphia Eagles) Third-stringer with Philly
Rakeem Cato, Central (Montreal Alouettes) Threw a TD pass on his first pro drive
Jake Rudock, St. Thomas Aquinas (Michigan) Starter leading Wolverine revival
Treon Harris, Booker T. Washington (Florida) Took over as starter after Will Grier suspension
Quinton Flowers, Jackson (South Florida) He’s a sophomore starter
John O’Korn, St. Thomas Aquinas (Michigan) Could start for Michigan in 2016 and 2017
Jerrard Randall, Chaminade-Madonna (Arizona) LSU transfer getting playing time as senior backup
Sean White, University (Auburn) Has had significant playing time as redshirt freshman
Brandon Doughty, N. Broward Prep (Western Kentucky) WKU career leader in passing yards, TDs
Mike White, University (Western Kentucky) Doughty’s heir apparent
Peyton Bender, Cardinal Gibbons (Washington State) Redshirt freshman is the backup QB
Nicodem Pierre, Coral Reef (Duke) Redshirt freshman backup listed as a QB/RB
Torrance Gibson, American Heritage (Ohio State) Freshman QB/WR signed with defending national champs
Maurice Alexander, Booker T. Washington (FIU) Freshman will have to wait his turn
Ryan Stanley, Flanagan (FAMU) Freshman will have to wait his turn
Jake Allen, St. Thomas Aquinas (committed to Florida) Plays QB for one of the premier programs in the nation
Tyler Huntley, Hallandale (committed to Utah) Putting up huge numbers as senior
Kato Nelson, Flanagan (committed to Akron) Transferred after winning state at Champagnat
Jhakari Harrison, Coconut Creek (committed to S. Illinois) Prep playmaker on talented team