The football stadium was across the street, and their jerseys were hung above them rather then worn on their backs.
But the members of Manatee High’s offensive line lined up like they always did on the field — Jake Stickler sat next to Brooks Larkin, Kyle Mauk, Dylan Beauchamp and Michael Galati on Wednesday in the Davis Building, site of Manatee’s National Signing Day ceremony.
“We actually do that a lot,” Mauk said.
A program-record 12 Canes football players signed letters-of-intent Wednesday (the 1984 team had nine signees, said head coach Joe Kinnan), including the entire starting line, a first for the position’s coach, Steve Peebles.
“It’s about them working hard, getting their grades and furthering their education,” said Peebles, a captain on Manatee’s ‘83 state championship team, “and continue to play football, which is what they all love.”
Stickler (Georgia Tech), Beauchamp (Newberry College), Galati (USF) and Larkin (Air Force) signed with their expected programs.
Mauk, a center and three-year starter, went a different route, signing with Florida Institute of Technology after originally committing to The Citadel.
“A lot of stuff happened. Florida Tech’s close and it’s a good school,” Mauk said. “This week’s been really crazy. I am happy, happy with my decision.”
Joining the offensive line on the dais were running back Trevon Walters (Missouri), linebacker Greg Reaves (University of Albany), receiver Brodrick Yancy (Temple), defensive linemen Demarcus Christmas (Florida State), Raland Brewer (Hutchinson Community College) and Daniel Doyle (preferred walk-on at Duke), and cornerback Darian Dailey (Rutgers).
“That’s why we were good — we had good players,” said Kinnan. “I think any great team and program have kids that mesh and get along well together on the field and off the field. These guys were close to each other, they cared about each other ... Not only are they good football players and good people, the vast majority of them are great students — 3.3 (grade-point averages) and up. Most of these guys up here had knock-out grades.”
Walters, a transplant from Alabama who moved to Bradenton late in his freshman year, said he never expected to go from being a third-string running back to a scholarship recipient headed to the SEC.
“It’s pretty big to sit here with (11) other people to sign,” said Walters, who rushed for 2,823 yard the last two seasons. “I never imagined this. I always wanted to play in the SEC, but I never thought I’d get there.”
Losing 12 scholarship athletes is never easy. But Kinnan isn’t ready to cash in on the 2014 season.
“You always hate to see them go,” Kinnan said. “But our ‘84 team was the one with the most signings before ... the next year, we won the state. In ‘91, we had Tommie Frazier, Henry Smalls, Tyrone Williams — we had a great class of kids who left. The next year, we won the state. You never really know. Hopefully, that will bode well for the future.
“Sometimes when it’s least expected is when you have the most success.”
Four Manatee girls soccer players also signed Wednesday.
Jessalyn Kinlaw, who didn’t play her senior season, is headed to the University of North Florida. Sarah Wasser and Clancy Vaughan are off to Carson-Newman, and Michaella Krebser signed with Louisiana-Lafayette.
Manatee’s girls soccer team won the Class 5A-District 8 title and advanced to the second round of the regional playoffs, the first time they accomplished those feats since 1999.
At Southeast, running back Courtney Allen signed with Independence Community College, and girls soccer player Daryl Bell is headed to West Florida.
Braden River girls soccer player Abigail Holmes is headed to Miami.