Earlier this week, in preparation for tonight’s first round of the National Football League Draft, there was a graphic that was posted, and it certainly told the story of how potent south Florida is when it comes to producing talent that finds it way to professional football.
What that graphic showed was in the last decade, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas (17), Plantation American Heritage (10), Miami Central (7) and Miami Northwestern (7) sent 41 players into the NFL. That doesn’t include some of the other schools that have produced one, two, three, four, five and six.
When the bell sounds this evening, signaling the three-day event from Kansas City, Fort Lauderdale University School and Northwestern are predicted to add to that total.
Daniel Luque remembers it like it was yesterday. A three-star prospect coming out of University School, Zay Flowers was used him everywhere, and he shined.
Receiver, defensive back, special teams performer, he did it all, and while colleges were interested, it was Boston College that offered this 5-11, 170-pound speedster an opportunity to do his thing right away.
As a freshman in 2019, Flowers established himself as a player to keep an eye on, playing in all 13 games with two starts, rushing for 195 yards, and catching 22 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns.
In the coming years, he started to do the very thing that Luque and his high school coaches predicted. His ability to do so much on the football field, set him apart, and for those colleges who didn’t look in his direction, they learned fast.
Flowers has been talked about as a first-round selection tonight. Not transferring this past year showed NFL teams a lot. For a 3-9 team, he caught 78 balls for 1,077 yards and 12 touchdowns.
With teams such as the Texans, Ravens, Bills, Vikings, Giants and Chiefs being mentioned, this south Florida talent will add his name to a growing list of Miami-Dade and Broward standouts to make an impact at the next level.
PITT KNEW ALL ABOUT CANCEY
When nationally recognized recruiter Charlie Partridge was adamant about Northwestern’s Calijah Kancey, he was indeed in the minority.
Partridge and the University of Pittsburgh were sold on the under 6-foot defensive lineman, drawing comparison to a decent Panther, Aaron Donald, who was also someone who didn’t have the “measurements” for the NFL.
While many schools – including Miami were not sold on his height – Partridge and Pitt felt that over time this way under-the-radar talent would be special.
For those who didn’t believe in what he brought to the table, it was 2021 when things began to fall into place as he started all 14 games at defensive tackle, earned first team All-ACC honors and third team Associated Press All-American. Coming up with 13 tackles for loss and seven sacks, he firmly placed himself in an elite group.
From that year, it was evident that dozens of college recruiters and coaches had blown their evaluation, never taking into consideration that he was dominant in one of the most talent-rich areas in the country.
This evening, with many pre-draft predictions in place, this impressive defensive lineman has been linked to every team from New Orleans to the Jets, Eagles, Tampa Bay and several other teams in search of a playmaker who had talent and ran the fastest combine ever for a defensive tackle!
SOUTH FLORIDIANS ARE DRAFT ELIGIBLE
As much of the attention will focus on Kancey and Flowers, there are others from Miami-Dade and Broward Counties who are eligible for this draft.
There are several prospects who will have their opportunity via the draft or free agency.
Yasir Abdullah (Edge, Louisville, Miami Carol City)
Deslin Alexandre (Edge, Pittsburgh, Deerfield Beach)
Jordan Battle (S, Alabama, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas).
Kemore Gamble (TE, Florida/UCF, Miami Southridge)
Dorian Hall (S, FIU, Hollywood South Broward)
D.J. Ivey (CB, University of Miami, Homestead South Dade)
Anthony Johnson (CB, University of Virginia, Hollywood Chaminader-Madonna)
Mikel Jones (OLB, Syracuse, Hialeah Gardens Mater Academy).
Kenny McIntosh, RB, Georgia, Fort Lauderdale University School).
Kris Mull (LB, Washington, UAB, Coral Gables).
Taiwan Mullen (CB, Indiana, Coconut Creek).
D.J. Scaife (OG, University of Miami, Miami Killian)
Shaun Shivers (RB, Indiana/Auburn, Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna)
Tyler Steen (OT, Alabama/Vanderbilt, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas).
Tyrique Stevenson (CB, University of Miami, Miami Southridge)
Kadeem Telfort (OL, UAB, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas).