High school football in Bradenton, where to start? How about the recent NFL Draft, where history was made when two Manatee County standouts were taken in the first round: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie of Lakewood Ranch High (No. 16) and Mike Jenkins of Southeast High (No. 25).
How about that memorable December night in 1985 when not one, but two state championships were being decided right here in our town: the Class 5A title game at Manatee High's Hawkins Stadium, and the 4A title game less than 10 miles away at Southeast's John Kiker Stadium. How about the Friday night in Miami in December 1983, when Manatee High defeated Miami Southridge for the first of the Hurricanes' four state titles. Or during what is now known as Super Bowl I, suiting up for the Green Bay Packers was an end named Bill Anderson, who happened to have graduate from Manatee High. Maybe we should go all the way back to 1914, when Julian C. Howard, a science teacher at Manatee County High, assembled a squad that went undefeated through a four-game schedule and started a tradition of excellence that defines high school football in Bradenton. Manatee won state titles in 1983, 1985, 1989 and 1992. Southeast won titles in '93 and '94. Both have made five trips to the state championship game. Fifteen area players have dotted NFL rosters. There have been college All-Americans and a Heisman Trophy runner-up. How about this: from 1993 and 2000, you couldn't win a national title without either a former Manatee Hurricane or Southeast Seminole on your roster. Yes, when former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne grew tired of losing national title games, he came to Bradenton to find a quarterback who would run his option offense to perfection. That quarterback was Tommie Frazier, now known as "Touchdown Tommie" through the state of the Nebraska and the author of a pair of national titles for the Cornhuskers. The second, against Florida in 1995, came in a game that featured five former Hurri-canes and Seminoles. Frazier won MVP honors that night just a month after finishing second in the Heisman Trophy voting. Quarterback Steve Spurrier won the 1966 Heisman Trophy at Florida with the help of former Manatee High receiver Richard Trapp. Trapp is one of eight Hurricanes to play pro football. He's joined by Anderson, Ed Culpepper, Roger Pettee, Stacey Dawsey, Tyrone Williams, Alvoid Mays and Henry Lawrence. Southeast has produced four NFL players Peter Warrick, John Reeves, Danny Boyd and Adrian McPherson. Bayshore has churned out two Pig Goff and Fabian Washington. Warrick and Washington were both first-round picks in the NFL Draft. Cincinnati made Warrick the fourth overall pick in 2000 the spring after the receiver took home MVP honors during Florida State's national championship victory over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. Washington was the 23rd overall pick in 2005, going to Oakland. Anderson played in the first Super Bowl. Henry Lawrence was an All-Pro lineman with the Raiders and member of the Raiders' three Super Bowl championship teams. Tyrone Williams won a Super Bowl with the Packers. Alvoid Mays won one with the Redskins. Warrick was a member of the Seattle team that lost to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XL. Lawrence and Frazier were named to Florida's all-time Top 100 team. Joe Kinnan, who coached the Hurricanes to those four state titles, was named as a coach on Florida's all-time high school team. Folks around Bradenton are still sore that Southeast's Paul Maechtle, who took the Seminoles to five state title games and won two of them, was left off that team. You kind of expect a reaction like that around here. High school football is that serious.