Class, open up your history books to page 1.
Florida has been a top pipeline of high school football players in the United States for many years. In fact, in 2011 (among other years) Rivals.com reported that the state of Florida claimed the honor of “highest percentage of football players headed to a Division I FBS program.” At the college level, the state of Florida claims 10 National Titles between Florida, Florida State and Miami — there have also been over 700 players drafted from those three schools alone.
Now that our brief history lesson is over it’s easy to see that football has a rich history in the state of Florida from Pop Warner all the way to the pros. Rivalries formed from pride have shown their teeth at all levels of the game. In the NFL, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers give residents of this great state the opportunity to be an NFL fan no matter what part of the peninsula you call home, but this doesn’t mean we’re one big happy family.
When you were a kid you always wanted to be the best in your family. As you grew older you wanted to be the best on the playground, on your JV team, on Varsity, in your school, in your area, in your city, in your state and even in the country. I’d say this mentality is alive and well in the NFL and among the teams across the Sunshine State. Sure, we don’t have the same type of animosity towards each other like college programs do, but that doesn’t mean these players don’t think about it when they square off. If the Dolphins went 15-1 and won the Super Bowl but had their one loss against the Jags, Jacksonville fans could say “Yeah but, they’re not even the best team in their own state.” Sure, they’d have their Super Bowl ring to wipe their tears, but it has to sting a little bit don’t you think? I’m a big advocate of the 1v1 match ups; I don’t care about your overall record, what did you do against us when we faced off? That’s where pride comes in.
In 2011, when Tampa won only three games, the only loss I could tell you about was the 14-41 beat down we took at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars. We lost 13 games that season and that’s the only one I can remember. “Wow, we’re the worst team in Florida.”
But getting to the meat and cheese of the article, NFL Network released it’s Top 100 Players of 2012 earlier this week and I couldn’t help but notice a massive tip in the Florida talent scale. Over/under the number of Jags that made it is at 1 and 1/2. I’ll take the under, any takers? Anybody? Really? You guys are no fun. Here are the players from each team that made the list:
- No. 89, Cameron Wake
Non-stop worker, very surprised he was this low. He hasn’t missed a game in over 3 years and has accumulated 37.5 sacks in that time. Over 3,000 voters say he’s underrated. Also, no love for the newly signed Dolphins. No Mike Wallace. No Dannell Ellerbe. No Brent Grimes.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
- No. 96, Dashon Goldson
- No. 92, Gerald McCoy
- No. 67, Darrelle Revis
- No. 57, Doug Martin
- No. 52, Vincent Jackson
Three of the five players have been acquired via free agency. All players were voted underrated for their spots except Darrelle Revis.
- No. 98, Maurice Jones-Drew
Rank obviously affected by his injury. He was ranked No. 30 in the 2011 rankings. Over 2,000 voters say MJD is underrated at No. 98.
But this is just one year, I get that, so let’s look at the history shall we? I figured I wouldn’t take preseason games into account here — despite the Bucs and Dolphins playing every year — because the NFL’s about to get rid of those games anyway (BUT THAT’S FOR ANOTHER ARTICLE).
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(All records from mcubed.net)
*In case you missed it, Jacksonville beat Miami 62-7 in the Division round in the 1999-2000 playoffs. SIXTY-TWO TO SEVEN! Four passing touchdowns, three rushing touchdowns and one defensive touchdown for Jacksonville. The glory days, Jags fans.
Up to this point, it’s been all about the east coast in terms of Florida football dominance; the Bucs haven’t beaten the Dolphins since 2005 and haven’t beaten the Jags since 1995. However, in the next few seasons, the tides may be rising in the Gulf of Mexico at the expense of those in the Atlantic. With five players in the top 100, Tampa is poised to take a few games from these rivalries, starting with their Monday night matchup against Miami November 11th in Raymond James Stadium.
“It’s just one game” are the words that true sports fans cringe at. It’s not just one game; it’s pride, it’s respect, it’s bragging rights. All three teams are young, but the Bucs have shown that age doesn’t solely constitute maturity. Young players like Lavonte David, Mark Barron and Adrian Clayborn could very well be in the top 100 next year along with the five that are on the list right now. Just as the sun rises in the east, Miami and Jacksonville have had their time to shine. As it sets in the west, it may be Tampa that sees the latest success under the sunshine.