High School Football

This high school football player puts academics above sports. It’s why Yale wants him.

For the last 11 years, Clyde Townsend’s aunt, Tiffanee McNair, hasn’t just raised him, but also instilled an important lesson: School is the No. 1 priority, sports is last.

Townsend, an electric wide receiver, took it to heart so much that when he was at Southeast High, he utilized the school’s ACT training program to practice the pivotal college entrance exam.

Now at Braden River High after transferring for his senior high school football season, Townsend scored a 29 on his ACT. A perfect score is 36.

It’s why he’s receiving interest from Ivy League program Yale, among other colleges extending offers.

“I took what (my aunt) said and I’m just a hard worker in the classroom, and then I’m a dog on the field,” Townsend said.

Townsend’s high school career isn’t quite finished, though.

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Braden River’s Clyde Townsend

Before the Braden River senior takes his official college visits in January, he’s spending this week with Braden River teammate Taylor Pawelkoski and Palmetto’s Ethan Ingham and Charles Miller as Manatee County players representing the South team in the 64th Florida Coaches Athletic Association North/South All-Star Football Classic at the Villages High School in Sumter County.

The game is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday.

To get selected, players are voted by coaches in their respective area at the district meeting. The players then accept or decline the invitation.

“Coach (Curt) Bradley asked us if we would like to play in it,” said Pawelkoski, a senior linebacker. “So we thought it would be a great experience to play.”

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Braden River’s Taylor Pawelkoski

The Manatee County quartet are getting coached by Punta Gorda Charlotte head coach Binky Waldrop, who is the longest-tenured current coach at one school for Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties, on the South team.

With the players preparing for their final high school game, the two-a-day practices are simplified for both offense and defense, Townsend and Pawelkoski said.

“Usually when you go, you’re just by yourself. ... Just having a teammate with you makes a big difference,” Pawelkoski said.

It isn’t all business, though the game is a last chance to secure film for college recruiters, as the team bowled one night and held dinners other nights leading into Saturday’s main event.

The personal goals for the All-Star game vary from player by player, and Townsend and Pawelkoski’s individual goals are no different.

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Palmetto’s Ethan Ingham

“I just want to put up some points,” Townsend said.

“I’m just trying to learn from new coaches, learn different things, just trying to get better as a player and person,” Pawelkoski said.

At practices, Townsend and Pawelkoski said there were colleges on hand to scout players, but couldn’t identify all of them present.

Schools such as Shorter University, West Florida and Holy Cross are interested in Townsend, as is Yale, and he said he plans on visits with all of them in January ahead of February’s signing day.

Pawelkoski also has interest from Shorter in addition to other schools.

Pawelkoski said he’s looking forward to meeting and playing with new people.

“And just having fun,” he said.

“Competition,” Townsend said. “I’m just ready for this game to kick off. I have to show these boys what I’ve got.”

Sports reporter Jason has covered high school, college and pro sports since joining the Bradenton Herald in 2010. He’s won Florida Press Club awards for sports feature and column writing. He currently writes college and pro sports stories for the McClatchy East Region real-time team.