Be warned: 'What If' thinking in football should be done at your own risk

adell@bradenton.comJune 26, 2013 

Sometimes it's the smallest thing that can have a major impact on our lives leading us to engage in "what if" thinking.

To alleviate the anxiety level of those suffering from the "what if" syndrome, here is an attempt to answer the unanswerable. Be warned: Your headache could get worse.

What if Adrian McPherson had gone to North Carolina instead of Florida State?

Southeast basketball coach Elliot Washington warned McPherson about going to Tallahassee, which some referred to as the Wild West during the height of FSU's football success. McPherson came oh-so close to going to North Carolina, even wearing a Tar Heels shirt around town before he announced his decision. If he had gone, the chances are McPherson would've been an all-ACC quarterback and playing in the NFL today. Instead, he went to war-torn Tallahassee and wound up in one of the biggest scandals in college football history.

What if Joe Kinnan had gotten the head football job at University of South Florida?

He was one of the finalists for the USF job, and if he had gotten the job the Bulls would've won a couple of Big East titles and former head coach Jim Leavitt would not have been caught up in a major college football scandal (amazing how these things keep cropping up) for allegedly hitting a player. What would've happened to Manatee High football is anyone's guess, but no one at Southeast would've minded.

What if Lakewood Ranch and Braden River had never been built?

The happiest person would be Southeast football coach and athletic director Paul Maechtle. His school would be a sports dynasty, and those football games with Manatee would still be raising passions. On the downside, Rocky Schwartz would still be standout player, but not the pioneer of Lakewood Ranch football, and Lecory Ruffin would be good but not a hoops legend. Oliva Ortiz would still be Oliva Ortiz, which means greatness. We would've never gotten to know Shawn Trent and wondered what happened to Don Purvis.

What if St. Thomas Aquinas had been caught cheating?

The state football dynasty would've lost a few more games, and Manatee would have a few more state titles. Since Kinnan's return in 2005, the Canes are 1-4 vs. Aquinas with their only victory coming in 2011 when they won the state title. Since '03, STA has a state-best 126-15 record with four state titles. There have been many allegations about STA recruiting, and all of Manatee's four losses have been in the postseason. If the Canes had won some of those games, Kinnan would've been anointed sainthood.

What if Ray Bellamy had not been in that car accident?

The former Lincoln High great is known for breaking the color barrier for major college football in the South when he enrolled at Miami. College Hall of Fame running back and four time all-pro Chuck Foreman, who played for Miami, said before his injury Bellamy was the best receiver in Miami's storied football history -- better than Canes/Dallas Cowboys Hall of Famer Michael Irvin.

What if Brion Carnes had gone to Western Kentucky?

As a senior, the Manatee quarterback's life had become tabloid material with his flip-flopping over what college he would attend. USF head coach Skip Holtz imposed his much-criticized ultimatum, giving Carnes a deadline, which he never met and caught the wrath of the Manatee football program. It was Holtz's smoking gun and maybe a reason most kids from here didn't want to play for him.

The best option for Carnes was WKU with Willie Taggart as head coach. Everyone thought it was a done deal, and then at the persuasiveness of Tommie Frazier he switched to Nebraska. Now Carnes is fighting to find playing time at Northern Iowa. If he had gone to WKU, he likely would've already been a starter.

What if Peter Warrick had not gotten hurt?

Southeast started the '94 season first in USA Today's national rankings. It won the state title but lost one close game to Riverview when Warrick couldn't play because of an injury. If not for his absence, the Noles would've finished the season unbeaten to become the only national high school football champion from Manatee County.

What if Chris McNear played college football?

A lot of high school phenoms don't make it in college, but McNear deserves a second thought. He was here and gone in a flash. In his one season under Kinnan he rushed for 1,797 yards, averaging 8.9 yards per carry. In four playoff games, he ran for 185.5 yards per game. The next thing you know he disappeared.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.

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