1960s: Henry Lawrence, Lincoln
At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds with blazing speed, the defensive lineman terrorized offenses at Lincoln in the late ’60s. However, in 1969, integration began and he was sent to Manatee High, where the coaching staff under Jack Mackie did the worst job of botching talent ever seen in these parts and ruined Lawrence’s senior year. It likely cost him a scholarship to a big-time program, but he proved them all wrong when he went on to become an NFL first-round pick and had a successful 14-year career, winning three Super Bowls with the Oakland/L.A. Raiders.
1970s: Mike Edwards, Manatee
A two-time all-state selection, the 6-foot-4, 190-pounder was all over the field. He earned his notoriety as a receiver, but was effective on both sides of the ball. He was a three-time all-county choice at multiple positions, including receiver, defensive back, defensive line and defensive end. In an era when high schools didn’t throw much, Edwards topped the Canes in 1978 with 38 catches for 620 yards (16.3 avg.) and five TDs. He earned a scholarship to Auburn, where he played for three years and was a teammate of Bo Jackson.
1980s: Zack Samuel, Manatee
A first-team Parade All-American linebacker his senior year in 1987, Samuel was arguably the county’s most versatile player of the decade. He was the first player to start four straight seasons for legendary Hurricanes coach Joe Kinnan and did it playing four different positions beginning in 1984 as a defensive end and then switching to tight end and linebacker. He comes from an athletic family that includes his uncle, Henry Lawrence. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out in college, and his career ended in junior college.
1990s: Peter Warrick, Southeast
Was the catalyst in Southeast winning its only two state titles. As a junior, Warrick caught 36 passes for more than 600 yards and nine TDs. He switched to QB his senior year, and the Noles went unbeaten with him as signal caller. He rushed for 673 yards and 13 TDs while completing 49 of 96 passes for 1,109 yards and 13 TDs. In those two seasons, he also returned four punts for TDs and was rated top receiver in the country in several publications. He went on to All-America honors at FSU and was the fourth pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.