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footstepsfrom#27
05-27-2009, 12:27 PM
You wanted something positive...so here ya go...I tried to write something with a bit more substance than a guy throwing darts...pretty interesting stuff.

Alphonso Smith and the Muck City Boys of the NFL

Special to the Orange Mane
By footstepsfrom#27

Long before Bronco rookie cornerback Alphonso Smith was shadowing ACC recievers or running combine drills for NFL scouts, he was preparing for a way out of the rural poverty he was raised in.

He was chasing rabbits.

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=adelson/070416)

In the soggy heat of south Florida's Lake Okeechobee region west of Palm Beach and roughly halfway between Miami and Orlando, Smith grew up in tiny Pahokee, an isolated agricultural burg of 6,500 people not far from a state prison and steeped in poverty where the rich black earth is known for growing three things, sweet corn, Florida sugar cane and a bumper crop of college football players. Together with nearby Belle Glade, a town three times the size of Pahokee, the locals call this isolated rural area "Muck City", named for the black soil as much as the sweltering heat.

Each Spring in Muck City, the 300,000 acres of sugar cane fields are set on fire to burn the leaves off the stalks and leave the cane to be husked by tractors churning over the earth and through the smoke. As the stalks dissapear, so do the hiding places for thousands of rabbits of all types living in the cane fields. By age 7, Smith, like other Pahokee boys, took advantage of the opportunity to increase his speed and agility by chasing the furry critters in the Florida heat. Catching one meant a meal, maybe a little pocket money for a rabbit pelt as well.

“Those rabbits help you out a lot,” Smith said. “It gives you the agility you need. It’s better than a 20-yard shuttle or three-cone drill or any of that stuff I can assure you of that. I don’t think its significance has been overblown, but it’s only a fraction of what forms a good football player from our area."

Muck City and it's rabbits are legendary here. Bobby Bowden and Urban Meyer reguarly stop by to visit with prospects. In the middle of nowhere, it's a veritable football factory producing some great talent.

Football thrives in Muck City because there isn't much else to do...at least nothing constructive. Typical of much of the rural poverty in the south, Pahokee has little in the way of jobs or opportunity to offer residents. One third of the population lives below the poverty line and a quarter of familes are headed by single mothers. Smith noted that to find any kind of decent job one had to travel to West Palm Beach or Okeechobee by car. Many people here are to poor to afford one. Boys learn at an early age that there are two primary options in Muck City, playing sports or selling drugs.

Pittsburgh Steelers wide reciever Santonio Holmes, who grew up in nearby Belle Glade, admits to dealing while he was in elementary school and says he's not proud of it but notes that he made the decision to stop and do something with his life. Despite the isolation from urban areas, crime is still a reminder of the area's deeply embedded poverty. Amidst the problems, Muck City has produced far beyond its share of promising players. Along with Holmes, nine of his senior class teamates recieved college scolarships and he and 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald both went on to the NFL. Other NFL players from either Belle Glade or Pahokee include the Cardinals Anquan Boldin, runningback Fred Taylor and former New Orleans Saint linebacker Ricky Jackson. This year at least 5 Pahokee players are in line for major college scholarships from a school with 600 students.

Country singer Mel Tillis also grew up in Pahokee.

Sports offers an option, but no promises, a fact driven home last year as 17 year old Norman "Pooh" Griffith, Pahokee High School's senior star defensive end and team captain, was shot in the head leaving a school dance. The family is suing the Boys & Girls Club who hosted the dance for inadequate security. A 15 year old has been arrested.

The incident was only the latest black eye in a string of ugly and embarassing public stains for Pahokee. In 2007, following on the heals of three state championships in four years, Smith's high school football coach Leroy Foster, resigned after admitting he engaged in sexual activity on multiple occasions with a male school principal and a female secretary on the school's premises in a sex scandal that began in 2001 while he was at another school and lasted several years. Foster originally stated he was leaving to pursue his Masters degree but admitted the allegations when the story broke.

Barely had the shockwave subsided and another scandal broke, this one involving local minister Rev. Richard Harris, an influential public booster for the school's athletic programs. Harris was arrested in April on charges of video taping himself having sex with high school kids, including football players at his home in Belle Glade. Harris allegedly used promises of influencing college coaches for scholarships on their behalf to lure the kids in and has been charged with sexual battery, engaging in lewd or lascivious battery, child abuse, showing obscene material to a child and promotion of a sexual performance by a child. Police say Harris targeted boys 14-17 years old, particuarly football players. Anquan Boldin remembers him trying to hang around his younger brother DJ Boldin, who led the SEC in receptions last year for Wake Forest, but said he and his mother kept him away from Harris because they felt like something was wrong about him.

Controversy has struck the football program at Pahokee in other ways as well. Last February, a day after national signing day, Tennesee Vols coach Lane Kiffin accused Pahokee high school officals of trying to funnel kids to Urban Meyer's Florida Gators program and suggested that cheating and incompetence ran wild at Pahokee. Not satisfied with these remarks, Kiffin also remarked to assembled Vol boosters that Pahokee had no gas stations that worked and the people were to poor to afford shirts or shoes. Pahokee residents responded with anger and UT assitant coach Eddie Gran was ordered off the campus by school officials in May when he arrived to speak to a player. Bloggers at both UT and U of Florida picked up the conflict and stoked a war of words between fans, students and alumni of both schools. In April Kiffin accused Meyer of recruiting violations over a Pahokee player and Florida officials filed a complaint with the SEC over his remarks. Kiffin has since appologized multiple times to Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson but bad blood remains between both universities and between UT and the Pahokee community.

In the midst of this environment Alphoso Smith somehow found a way to not only survive, but to thrive. Smith was a sensational high school star at Pahokee who scored almost every way imaginable. A two way starter and all state cornerback, Smith also starred at quarterback, throwing for 2,400 yards and 32 TD's his senior season and rushing for 640 more yards and 6 TD's. He scored on interceptions, fumble recoveries, punt and kickoff returs for TD's. He led Pahokee to a 13-1 record and was MVP in the state title game, finishing runnerup for Florida player of the year. A three sport star, he started on the basketball team and anchored Pahokee's state champion 1600 meter relay team in track. Playing with Boldin, the two chose Wake Forest over the big Florida schools and in his Deacon debut after redshirting his first year, he broke up 3 passes by Vanderbilts Jay Cutler. Smith was chosen either 1st or 2nd team Freshman All American his first year by five national voting organizations. By his junior year he was named on All American teams by Walter Camp, the Associated Press and Sports Ilustrated and voted 1st team all ACC.

All the attention and the awards have apparently not damaged the Pahokee kid who grew up in the rural poverty of Muck City. Avoiding the streets and the drugs, and the other problems some of his friends could not, he's apparently not forgotten where he came from but decided to use the experiences to help others. In the spring of 2008, Smith traveled with Wake Forest teamates Kevin Patterson and Chantz McClinic to Kenya and Tanzania with the Nyanya Project, a non profit organization that trains grandmothers taking care of orphans who lost their parents to AIDS. Kenya and Tanzania have an estimated 1.5 million grandmothers taking care of AIDS related orphans, so the group supplies them with job skills and helps them build businesses selling agricultural products and hand crafts. Macys department store is now carrying necklaces and candles made by the project's participants. "Nyanya" is Swahili for "grandmother' and is the brainchild of a Wake Forest journalism instructor who created the project in 2006.

The school formed a partnership with the University of North Carolina's School of Arts-School of Theater and took 20 students, including 4 UNC student film makers who chronicled the experiences that the students went through in their trip. Smith and the other students studied the culture and people, read through information in preparation for the trip, and were instructed to journal about their experiences. Once there, they helped build shelters and provided assistance in creating clean drinking water projects in Kenyan and Tanzanian villages. When they returned to Wake Forest they delivered presentations on their experiences.

East Africa's a long way from the sugar cane fields of Pahokee amd the NFL is farther still, but if his early life and the choices he's made so far are an accurate indication, Smith's probably going to keep Bronco fans happy they're watching him chase NFL recievers for a long time.

How tough can that be for a guy used to going one-on-one with jackrabbits?

http://npaper-wehaa.com/pub-files/1214157567485e92ff4eee2/pub/Yes-Weekly-05-19-2009/lib/12427735694a1338412874a.jpg
Smith and Wake Forest teamates with kids in Kenya

TonyR
05-27-2009, 12:46 PM
A three sport star, he started on the basketball team and anchored Pahokee's state champion 1600 meter relay team in track. Playing with Boldin, the two chose Wake Forest over the big Florida schools and in his Deacon debut after redshirting his first year, he broke up 3 passes by Vanderbilts Jay Cutler. Smith was chosen either 1st or 2nd team Freshman All American his first year by five national voting organizations. By his junior year he was named on All American teams by Walter Camp, the Associated Press and Sports Ilustrated and voted 1st team all SEC.

How about that?!?

telluride
05-27-2009, 01:54 PM
A three sport star, he started on the basketball team and anchored Pahokee's state champion 1600 meter relay team in track. Playing with Boldin, the two chose Wake Forest over the big Florida schools and in his Deacon debut after redshirting his first year, he broke up 3 passes by Vanderbilts Jay Cutler. Smith was chosen either 1st or 2nd team Freshman All American his first year by five national voting organizations. By his junior year he was named on All American teams by Walter Camp, the Associated Press and Sports Ilustrated and voted 1st team all SEC.

How about that?!?

Well, to be fair, the Vols were in the Red Zone and Cutler did throw them right at Smith. :wiggle:

Hulamau
05-27-2009, 02:22 PM
Yep footsteps this one beats the dart story :-)!! Good find! :peace:

thumpc
05-27-2009, 02:29 PM
I bet rabbit that rabbit tastes good.

footstepsfrom#27
05-27-2009, 02:45 PM
Yep footsteps this one beats the dart story :-)!! Good find! :peace:
Naw I didn't find it I wrote it...something positive since nobody thinks I can do that.

Hulamau
05-27-2009, 03:11 PM
Better yet then join the Denver Post :-)

Was wondering about that wild ass town he came from and those pervert coaches! Sound have known with the African AIDs relief connection .. good story anyway!

footstepsfrom#27
05-27-2009, 03:27 PM
Better yet then join the Denver Post :-)

Was wondering about that wild ass town he came from and those pervert coaches! Sound have known with the African AIDs relief connection .. good story anyway!
Well the facts of the story are all true, not made up...anyway I feel better about the kid now after researching him some and finding intangibles...he's been fighting some odds already so maybe he's well prepared.

SouthStndJunkie
05-27-2009, 03:34 PM
Solid work, footsteps.

Breck Bronc
05-27-2009, 04:13 PM
Nice effort. There were a couple of instances where a "too" should have been used instead of "to". Also, Wake Forest is in the ACC, not SEC

footstepsfrom#27
05-27-2009, 07:44 PM
Nice effort. There were a couple of instances where a "too" should have been used instead of "to". Also, Wake Forest is in the ACC, not SEC
Ha ha...point taken.

To/too and your/you're...always goofin' that up. ;)

BroncoBuff
07-19-2009, 05:25 PM
IHe chose Wake Forest over the big Florida schools, and in his Deacon debut after redshirting his first year, he broke up 3 passes by Vanderbilts Jay Cutler.:~ohyah!:


Smith was chosen either 1st or 2nd team Freshman All American his first year by five national voting organizations. By his junior year he was named on All American teams by Walter Camp, the Associated Press and Sports Ilustrated and voted 1st team all ACC.Let's hope he starts that fast in the League.

footstepsfrom#27
07-19-2009, 05:38 PM
:~ohyah!:


Let's hope he starts that fast in the League.
I think the chasing rabbits thing is intriguing...McD should have a few hundred brought in and let the whole defense practice this...how cool would this be? LOL

Boobs McGee
07-19-2009, 06:41 PM
Nicely done sir, great read.


You should send a copy to the post :thumbs:

Hopefully he sticks to the straight and narrow, and that talent just comes BLAZIN through this year

BroncoBuff
07-19-2009, 07:33 PM
I think the chasing rabbits thing is intriguing...McD should have a few hundred brought in and let the whole defense practice this...how cool would this be? LOL

Chase them up the stairs at Red Rocks.... :~ohyah!:

footstepsfrom#27
07-19-2009, 08:53 PM
Nicely done sir, great read.


You should send a copy to the post :thumbs:

Hopefully he sticks to the straight and narrow, and that talent just comes BLAZIN through this year
Nah...Woody would probably steal it. ;D

dbfan21
07-20-2009, 05:49 AM
Good article footsteps! I played HS football in Palm Beach County and played in a fall jamboree agianst Fred Taylor, who went to Glades Central HS. Since he and I both played offense, we were never on the field at the same time. It was our senior year and my school has a pretty solid team. We went 9-2 that year and had the #1 QB in the state of FL. Anyway, Fred showed us what a special talent looked like up close.

He took it to the house twice...both runs over 80 yards. One of the runs, he ran all the way to the left sideline, but our D had him bottled up, so he reversed field and ran to the right sideline, then all the way down the field. On paper, it was an 80-yard run, but it was more like a 140-yard run with the ground he had to cover. We lost 17-13 that night.

He was lightning fast and strong. The Belle Glade/Pahokee area produces amazing football players!!

Pat Bowlen
07-20-2009, 07:01 AM
Fred was a guy who, had he been healthy throughout his career, would not be forgotten. After Terrell went down he was the one guy I wanted to replace him with.

lazarus4444
07-20-2009, 08:54 AM
Chasing rabbits, damn....Can't wait to see this kid play.

footstepsfrom#27
07-20-2009, 02:04 PM
Good article footsteps! I played HS football in Palm Beach County and played in a fall jamboree agianst Fred Taylor, who went to Glades Central HS. Since he and I both played offense, we were never on the field at the same time. It was our senior year and my school has a pretty solid team. We went 9-2 that year and had the #1 QB in the state of FL. Anyway, Fred showed us what a special talent looked like up close.

He took it to the house twice...both runs over 80 yards. One of the runs, he ran all the way to the left sideline, but our D had him bottled up, so he reversed field and ran to the right sideline, then all the way down the field. On paper, it was an 80-yard run, but it was more like a 140-yard run with the ground he had to cover. We lost 17-13 that night.

He was lightning fast and strong. The Belle Glade/Pahokee area produces amazing football players!!
It's a cool story...Florida is like Texas with all the future NFL players. I played at Green Mountain HS in the Lakewood area...nowhere near the talent in CO...the only guys I remember playing against who went to the NFL were Columbine's Lavell Short who played NT for the Broncos...he was a fullback and a freaking load...him and John Salley a safety who I played with at GM and he went on to the Falcons for about 3 years or so after playing at Wyoming...and Dean Hagum who played at Arvada West and went on to play DT for the Cowboys and Redskins. Other than that...my only claim to fame was once playing in a pickup basketball game with the Golden State Warrior's Joe Barry Carrol while he was still in HS at Denver East...remember him? First pick in the NBA draft out of Purdue as a 7'0" center. I think he blocked 20 shots in that game.

The Smith story is cool...wonder why the Post or someone hasn't run it with all the other human interest stuff they like to do in the off season?

lazarus4444
07-23-2009, 10:20 PM
I read this story again. The above was a reprint, if you goto http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?id=3286059 there is a video about it there too.

footstepsfrom#27
07-24-2009, 04:13 AM
I read this story again. The above was a reprint, if you goto http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?id=3286059 there is a video about it there too.
A reprint? It's not a "reprint". I researched and wrote the story from multiple web sources. Actually ESPN got their story from me. If you right click on the story then select "view page information", it shows this as "referring URL":

http://www.orangemane.com/BB/showthread.php?p=2480757

ESPN stole my story!! Ha ha...so much for professional journalism...where's my Byline? >:'(

lazarus4444
07-24-2009, 01:44 PM
LOL! Go figure, congrats.

theAPAOps5
07-24-2009, 01:50 PM
I think the chasing rabbits thing is intriguing...McD should have a few hundred brought in and let the whole defense practice this...how cool would this be? LOL

Its not just an article I believe, I think there was a video story about it too on ESPN.