SUMMER SPOTLIGHT: Dolphins High School Media Day Steals The Show

Larry Blustein
August 06, 2018 - 10:56 am

Larry Blustein

With the kickoff of the 2018 season now less than two weeks away, the Miami Dolphins gave programs from Miami to the Palm Beaches a little big time sendoff last Saturday.

With the Dolphins hosting their first scrimmage at Hard Rock Stadium, 112 high school football teams joined in to take part in the largest pre-season event ever held.

With Twan Russell (Senior Director of Youth Programs) and Jason Jenkins (SVP Communications & Community Affairs) of the Miami Dolphins leading the way, athletes, coaches and parents joined in one of the most impressive events of its kind.

From group interviews, to question and answer sessions, photos and videos to an appearance on the live WQAM South Florida High School Radio Show, there was more than enough to keep everyone happy – from 8 a.m. until things shut down close to 6 p.m.

“This is an event that we are really proud to host,” said Jenkins. “Getting involved with the youth and high school football is something that this organization has long been about.”

From early Saturday morning when Coral Springs, North Miami Beach, Hialeah Barbara Goleman and Cardinal Gibbons started things off – to Monsignor Pace wining things down close to 6 p.m., this day was indeed about exposure and having fun.

Whether it was a small group of players that attended – or a huge contingent that came out, this day was about showcasing some of the best football players in the nation.

They came from Palm Beach Gardens, Somerset Canyons, South Dade, Southridge, Miami Edison, Coral Glades, Ferguson, Braddock, Wellington, Plantation, Western and Nova.

Defending state champions were on hand – such as Champagnat Catholic (2A), Chaminade-Madonna (3A), Plantation American Heritage (5A) and Miami Northwestern (6A).

Prospects spoke about the year ahead – while taking in a photo opportunity at this impressive facility.

“What this has been over the six years that we have hosted here and at Nova Southeastern University, is an event that everyone took part in,” said Russell. “The players, coaches and their parents always have a great time and create memories with photos of the team and Hard Rock Stadium.”

As the Dolphins hosted the scrimmage, players were interviewed, filmed and talked to by reporters, recruiting services and fan websites, trying to get that scoop.

Josh Wilson attended his first Dolphins High School Media day, coming from Gainesville. As owner and publisher of the popular Florida High School Football website, he has the chance to attend several events, but was blown away by the amount of schools and how orderly everything was run.

“This is amazing how many schools attended and how well run it is,” Wilson explained. If people want to know how important high school football is here in south Florida, all they needed to do was attend the event.”

As schools came through, coaches and players spoke about the upcoming season. Whether it was Miami Central head coach Roland Smith and Tim “Ice” Harris from Booker T. Washington – or Roger Harriott from St. Thomas Aquinas or Dameon Jones from defending 3A state champion Chaminade-Madonna, the theme was the same.

“We are so very excited to get this season started,” said Harris, who missed out on the playoffs for the first time in over a decade in 2017. “What happened last year was we fell short, and that wasn’t a feeling that anyone associated with this program enjoyed. “This has been a very productive summer for us and we are all looking forward to this year.”

Like Harris, Roland Smith of Central’s destination on any given year is all about Orlando and the state title game. Playing in easily the toughest district in the country, Smith realizes that it will not be easy to overtake last year’s state champion Northwestern or Carol City, who won two years ago.

“Our players are hungry and have worked extremely hard this off season,” Smith pointed out. “We have one of the most challenging schedules in the country and the kids and coaches are very optimistic.”

Among the many prospects that attended the event included Samuel Brooks – a talented linebacker who was injured last season and was forced to miss the state title run for Northwestern.

The University of Miami commitment has not been on the field in action for 10 months – and the thought of getting back on the field is very exciting.

“It’s tough for a 16-year-old who loves to play the game to sit there and watch,” Brooks said. “We have the talent to win this again, and I want to be a part of it.

From Coral Gables to St. Andrew’s Academy (Boca Raton), Miami Killian, Riviera Beach Suncoast, Wellington, Piper, Norland, Monarch, Miami Beach and Palmetto, athletes couldn’t wait to take part.

SOMBER DAY FOR DOUGLAS AND COLUMBUS

For schools such as Parkland Douglas and Miami Christopher Columbus, it was indeed a tough day. 

While everyone in the world knows what happened back on Feb. 14 at Douglas, the wound for the Explorer family is much fresher – as players and head coach Chris Merritt are still trying to come to grips with the loss of Ari Arteaga, a junior who was tragically killed in an auto accident last week.

“Tough start to the season,” Merritt said. “Ari was such an important part of the Christopher Columbus family and our hearts are indeed heavy.”

No matter what school came through, there was always a great story to hear. Former FSU and NFL star Jessie Hester brought his Glades Central team to the event with his Raiders, knowing that things are finally coming back for this once impressive program.

Park Vista (Lake Worth) fresh off their first round upset win last year against Miramar, attended. So did Stranahan, Cooper City, Dillard, Hialeah, McArthur, South Plantation and Banche Ely were on hand with new coaches.

District champions attended. Belen Jesuit, North Miami, West Broward, Deerfield Beach, Miami Palmetto, NSU University School and Delray Atlantic, which finished second in Florida among 8A schools.

The stage was not only for the larger programs. Smaller south Florida schools also showed up to share the spotlight and take in such an amazing day.

Programs such as Pine Crest, North Broward Prep, Florida Christian, Somerset Academy, Village Academy, Palmer Trinity, Gulliver Prep, Inlet Grove, Jupiter Christian, Palm Glades and Westminster Academy to mention a few.

Catch the South Florida High School Sports Radio Show each Saturday morning (10-11) on WQAM (560AM - https://wqam.radio.com/media/podcast/south-florida-high-school-sports-radio). For the past 11 years, the players and coaches who are making the headlines, join the program. You will learn a lot about football recruiting!