Soon after being named a Sun Belt Conference first-team selection for the second straight year, former Southeast High standout Jon Dowling announced he is leaving Western Kentucky and will enter the 2014 NFL Draft.
The junior showed exceptional ball skills with his wing span, size and speed.
"I'm proud to announce I am declaring for the NFL draft! I'm excited about my future! Thank you Topper Nation your support meant everything," Dowling tweeted Friday.
Dowling started his career at the University of Florida and transferred in the middle of his freshman year when he became arguably the most prized recruit for then-WKU head coach Willie Taggart.
The 6-foot-3, 198-pound Dowling appears to have all the attributes NFL teams are looking for in cornerbacks these days, though he could be considered a safety. He has been clocked at 4.42 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
This past season, he had three interceptions, seven pass breakups and 67 tackles. As a sophomore in 2012, he picked off six passes and had seven pass breakups and 68 tackles.
Considered a hard hitter, Dowling tied UCLA's Anthony Barr for most forced fumbles this past season with six. Last year, Dowling had two forced fumbles. A linebacker, Barr is rated second overall on Mel Kiper's big board for the 2014 draft.
Dowling played his best against the best.
In four games against SEC teams during the past two years, Dowling showed he was NFL-ready with three interceptions, three pass breakups, a forced fumble and 23 tackles.
Dowling is expected to add to the growing reputation that Manatee County can churn out NFL-caliber defensive backs better than any other area of its size in the country.
He is hoping to join current NFL defensive backs from his home county in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Denver), Mike Jenkins (Oakland) and Mistral Raymond (Minnesota). Bayshore grad Fabian Washington retired from the NFL a few years ago. Manatee High grads Tyrone Williams and Alvoid Mays won Super Bowls with Green Bay and Washington, respectively.
BR to retire No. 3
Courtney Mirabella will receive the highest athletic honor Braden River can bestow when the school will retire her number Wednesday night during halftime of the boys basketball game between the Pirates and Riverview.
The softball pitching phenom is a three-time Bradenton Herald Player of the Year and last year was the only player from Florida to be named to the Max Preps All-American team.
Mirabella is a freshman at the N.C. State, where she recently completed a successful fall ball season. The right-hander expects to be in the starting rotation when the regular season begins in the spring.
"I really excited. It's a big honor," Mirabella said. "I did pretty good in fall ball. We won all eight of our games, and I pitched in four. We have three pitchers who will be in our rotation and I expect to play a lot. The players are very smart in college, and everything is thought out more. I used my change-up more than I did in high school."
Back to basketball
It appears Trevon Young is headed back to the hardwood.
Braden River's career scoring and rebound leader received his release from the University of Florida football team a few days ago and will likely return to basketball, according to Braden River head basketball coach Matt Nesser.
The 6-7 Young received a scholarship offer to play at Eckerd last year, but was persuaded to play football at Florida by Gators head coach Will Muschamp. Young started the season at tight end, but was moved to interior lineman.
Other schools were after Young to play basketball, but when it became apparent that Florida was going to offer him a football scholarships they lost enthusiasm.
Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.