It might not be a marriage made in heaven, but for former Manatee football standout Ben Axon it feels like heaven.
After living in his personal football purgatory, Axon has finally found a home and can end his nomadic ways.
The oft traveled running back is now at Butler Community College in Kansas, one of the nation’s top Juco football programs with three national titles in the past eight years.
Axon started the school year at Eastern Michigan, but left in the spring and recently joined Butler when he heard the Grizzlies needed someone to tote the ball.
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It may not seem like uplifting news for Axon, who not long ago was one of the most sought after running backs in the nation and set to attend South Carolina.
The Gamecocks withdrew the offer reportedly because of his off the field transgressions leaving him homeless. Axon has become a poster child for how quick a promising career can disintegrate.
He hopes to reach a success similar to Southeast grad Faron Hornes, who played on Butler’s ’08 national championship team and is now at USF.
Axon certainly has the talent but needs to take care of his off the field behavior and see the classroom as a friendly place.
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Things are starting to look bright for Southeast quarterback Dyron Speight. He recently picked up his first FBS (formerly I-A) offer (from Mid-American Conference Kent State) and that usually spurs others to join in the pursuit.
His teammate, Terran Williams, got his first offer from a BCS school when Iowa State told the linebacker it wanted his services. The linebacker already had offers from MAC schools Bowling Green and Kent State, and Western Kentucky from the Sun Belt Conference.
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Southeast grads Mike Vazquez, Peter Mirnyi and Brian Alexander have left Maine-Machias along with leading scorer and rebounder Cliff McDonald (from Sarasota Booker). Alexander is looking to play in Florida while the other three will play for Maine-Presque Isle. All four said they had a poor relationship with Machias head coach Brac Brady, former MCC head coach.
Mike’s younger football playing brother, Joe Vazquez, an ’06 Southeast grad, signed with Texas A&M Kingsville, a Division II school that won the Lone Star Conference championship last season.
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Coaches talk about character and all those intangibles that are critical to a championship team, but it sure helps to have talent.
The 2003 Lakewood Ranch High baseball team is a perfect example.
No team from the county sent more players on to big and better things in the past 10 years than those ’03 Mustangs, and they were the only ones to win a state title.
The team produced a major leaguer (Lastings Milledge, Pittsburgh), three NCAA Division I Players Larry Cobb (College of Charleston), Brent Solich (Louisiana-Lafayette) and Ryan LaCross (FAU); and Ryan Kennedy, who played on an NCAA Division II national champion at Tampa.
Throw in Rocky Schwartz, an outfielder good enough to play Division I college football at Houston, and there is even more athleticism.
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The decision by the remaining Big 12 schools to stay together in the same conference was met with mixed reactions, particularly in the Big East. The basketball coaches had to be breathing a collective sigh of relief while those on the football side of things might be feeling disappointed.
If the Big 12 disintegrated, there was talk Kansas and Kansas State could be headed to the Big East.
USF head mens’ basketball coach Stan Heath didn’t want to talk about Kansas-Kansas State possibilities, but he has to be feeling relieved that won’t happen, at least not in the foreseeable future. He did a miraculous job last season winning 20 games and going 9-9 in the Big East, which is like playing in your own basketball torture chamber.
The football coaches are clamoring for a ninth team so they can have an equal number of home and away games each season. Best part is that Kansas and K-State would bring respectability to the Big East without dominating.
There wasn’t much talk coming out of the Big East during all this public speculation, but Heath says the league was staying on top of everything.
“The Big East was being pretty pro-active,” Heath said. “We had our meetings where we discussed different scenarios and had people there doing work behind the scenes. Our conference is pretty strong and cohesive.”
Alan Dell, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2112.