1 -- Peter Warrick turned 34 on Sunday, a reminder of how fast Father Time travels and how Manatee County has been blessed with exceptional football players.
No matter how you slice it, Warrick was the best high school football player the county has ever seen.
He led Southeast to two state championships -- as a receiver in 1993 and quarterback in ’94 -- and during his last two years the Seminoles were 29-1.
The only loss was a game he didn’t play his senior year because of injury, and it likely cost Southeast a national championship because the Noles were rated No. 1 in the country by USA Today before the defeat. He was an All-American at Florida State and might have won the Heisman Trophy if not for that shopping-spree incident.
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Along with Warrick, here are Manatee County’s Best 11 plus one:
2 -- Adrian McPherson (Quarterback-Southeast): Revolutionized the way the position was played in these parts. In his senior year (2000), threw for 3,736 yards and a then single season state record 42 touchdowns. Finished his career with 7,246 passing yards and 86 TD passes, which ranked him second all-time. Off the field troubles at FSU derailed a promising future; Now with the CFL Montreal Alouettes, still trying to resurrect his career.
3 -- Tommie Frazier (Quarterback-Manatee): The best to play quarterback at Manatee. He ran head coach Joe Kinnan’s option to perfection while racking up 63 touchdowns and 4,200 total yards in two seasons as a starter. Came into his own in college, when he led Nebraska to two straight national titles (1994/’95). If not for a blood clot condition, Frazier could have been Manatee County’s first Heisman winner.
4 -- Henry Lawrence (Lineman-Lincoln, Manatee): At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds with speed, strength and agility, it’s hard to argue the county has seen a better lineman since he arrived in the 1960s. Lawrence had an incredible career at Lincoln that ended prematurely during the first year of integration in ’69, when he attended Manatee for his senior season. He went from All-American to bench warmer in a great travesty of football justice. But he went on to have a 14-year NFL career, winning three Super Bowls, and was the first player from Manatee County to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.
5 -- Willie Lee Jones (Linebacker-Lincoln): People who played with Jones talk about him as if he were a Paul Bunyan-type folk hero. He was 6-3, 230 pounds, and according to Lawrence would have run a 4.3 40-yard dash if tested in ’68, his senior season. Lawrence said Jones was just as good as NFL linebacking legends Dick Butkus and Lawrence Taylor. Jones played at Tampa and was drafted by the Dolphins in ’72 but opted to play in the CFL because he said the money was better.
6 -- Zach Samuel (Linebacker-Manatee): A first-team Parade All-American in 1987, he was the first player to start four seasons for Kinnan, and he did it playing various positions beginning as a defensive end in 1984, then switching to tight end and eventually linebacker. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out in college, and he was never able to get his career at the next level going.
7 -- Mike Jenkins (Defensive back-Southeast): He was a Super Prep All-American in 2002 when he played safety/cornerback and finished the season with 42 tackles, six blocked kicks and two interceptions while putting time in at running back, where he gained 859 yards and scored 11 TDs. A first-round draft pick by Dallas in 2008, Jenkins made the Pro Bowl in ’09 and is trying to get back to that level after a subpar 2010 season.
8 -- Mike Edwards (Receiver-Manatee): Manatee County’s consensus best player of the 1970s, the 6-4, 190-pounder was a two-time all-state selection and three-time all-county pick despite playing multiple positions. He gained his notoriety as a receiver, which earned him a scholarship to Auburn, where he played with Bo Jackson.
9 -- Ray Bellamy (Receiver-Lincoln): At 6-5, 215 pounds, he had it all: size, strength, speed and soft hands. That made Bellamy the choice of the University of Miami to break the color barrier at a football program south of the Mason-Dixon Line in the late 1960s. Off the field, he shined, becoming Miami’s first black student body president. A car accident ended what appeared to be a career in the NFL.
10 -- Jarwarski Pollock (Receiver-Southeast): Arguably the most productive receiver in Manatee County history. As a senior, caught 76 passes for 1,344 yards and 21 TDS that ranked him among the top 10 high receivers in the country and finished career with 30 TD catches. Set single season reception record junior year at North Carolina.
11 -- Tyrone Williams/Jon Dowling (Defensive backs/Manatee and Southeast respectively): Take your pick. Williams was arguably the best athlete to play at Manatee, and Dowling set the county record his junior year with 14 interceptions. illiams had a standout career at Nebraska and won the ’96 Super Bowl with the Packers. Dowling is trying to restart his college career at Western Kentucky after leaving Florida. Both played offense in high school and were impressive.