High School Football

Maleek Huggins comes from Southeast High football family. Now he’s making name for himself

Growing up in a Southeast High football household, Maleek Huggins was surrounded by stories, history and personal legacies.

His uncle, Craig Huggins, was the quarterback of the Seminoles’ 1988 state runner-up team that lost to Niceville in the Class 4A championship game.

His father, Arthur Huggins, also played at Southeast.

His half-brother, Marquel Neasman, starred as a quarterback at Southeast before signing to play college football at UCF.

Marquel’s half-brother, who Maleek considers a brother since they grew up together, is Sharrod Neasman, who played at Braden River High and Florida Atlantic, and he was on the roster of the Atlanta Falcons when they lost Super Bowl LI to the New England Patriots.

Maleek Huggins, though, is carving out his own legacy.

“Southeast’s been going through some bumps and bruises for the past couple years and I’ve always been like, ‘Wait ‘till I get there ... and change it,’ ” Huggins said. “That’s all I’m trying to do.”

Southeast High quarterback Maleek Huggins accounted for 12 touchdowns (eight passing and four rushing) during the Seminoles’ 3-0 start. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

Added Southeast head coach Brett Timmons: “When I talk to Maleek is that Maleek needs to create a legacy for Maleek. Maleek will not be Marquel Neasman. Maleek will not be Craig Huggins. Maleek will not be Arthur Huggins.

“Maleek is Maleek Huggins and whatever legacy he creates is what he creates. It’s not trying to recreate something his predecessors have done.”

A junior quarterback, Huggins has accounted for 12 touchdowns — eight passing and four rushing — as Southeast took a 3-0 record into Friday night’s Class 6A-District 12 opener against Port Charlotte.

He’s 27 of 48 for 450 passing yards, while gaining 225 rushing yards on 22 carries.

On Sept. 20, Southeast started slowly on offense. Bayshore’s defense intercepted Huggins — one of three that night.

Second-year Southeast coach Brett Timmons on Maleek Huggins: “Maleek is Maleek Huggins and whatever legacy he creates is what he creates. It’s not trying to recreate something his predecessors have done.” Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

But each time the offense stalled, Huggins didn’t panic. He went back to the sideline and kept a cold-as-ice demeanor.

On the field, Huggins led the offense on multiple scoring drives. He showed off his arm strength with deep heaves and hard striking throws on short routes.

When the pocket collapsed, Huggins used his athleticism to evade tacklers and escape with his dual-threat feet. He tallied two rushing touchdowns in the first half of the 36-21 victory over the Bruins.

“He’s our version of Kyler Murray,” Timmons said of the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma and the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. “Similar size and stature and number. He’s a special player. He’s a special talent.

“At this level, you kind of put your best athlete at that position and make the defense play 11 on 11.”

Brandon Spaugh and the Southeast Seminoles took a 3-0 record into Friday night’s home game against Port Charlotte. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

This is Huggins’ second season quarterbacking Southeast’s offense, and Timmons said he’s grown exponentially from last season.

Timmons said Huggins spent the summer breaking down and watching film and getting his mechanics right, which is paying off now.

Huggins’ arm strength has always been present, but now he’s more accurate, Timmons said.

“He can play on the next level,” Timmons said. “... If anybody can get past his height and size and just sees what kind of athlete he is and as a person, they’ll get a hell of a player.”

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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.