Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Know Your Muck

They didn't teach it at any of the schools I went to, so the first I ever heard of the muck - the rich, dark soil abundant in the area around Lake Okeechobee in Florida - was in a Sports Illustrated article many years ago.Years later (but still several years ago) there was an article in USA Today mentioning how unusual it was that so many NFL players would come from the same high school in such a small town - that town being Belle Glade - located at the southeast end of the lake - and the school being Glades Central HS. Although those articles certainly caught my eye, neither prompted me to do any further research. But when I started this blog back in August 2008 and discovered that at least half of all football players with dreads come from Florida, that's when I began to take notice.

According to Wikipedia, Muck City is the nickname for both Belle Glade and the surrounding area; and as you may already know, it's an area known for being equally rich in football as it is in soil. The high schools in Belle Glade (population 17,467) and Pahokee (13 miles to the north, population 5,649) have sent close to two dozen players to the NFL and dozens of others to college football teams across the country - an extraordinary feat for an area with so few people. Indeed, the annual football game between Glades Central and Pahokee HS has become such a big event that it is dubbed "The Muck Bowl" and was featured in a series the NFL Network did a couple of years ago on great HS rivalries.

You may recall I very briefly referred to Muck City in my preview of the 2013 NFL draft. Well, before we get started with this year's preview, you are hereby challenged to take the following quiz to find out just how well you ..... know your muck.
(Quiz answers are located after the last section of the draft preview)


1. Which 2007 graduate of Pahokee has recorded a total of 9.5 sacks in his first three NFL seasons after being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the 5th round in 2011?

     A. Josh Bynes   B. Terrence Cody    C. Pernell McPhee    D. Courtney Upshaw 

2. Who is the 2005 graduate of Pahokee who had the two longest TD runs for the Atlanta Falcons in the 2013 season?

    A. Steven Jackson    B. Jacquizz Rodgers    C. Antone Smith    D. Jason Snelling

3. Through the 2013 NFL season, how many career touchdowns has St. Louis Rams CB Janoris Jenkins (Pahokee '08) scored?

    A. 1    B. 2    C. 3    D. 4

4. Through the 2013 NFL season, how many career touchdowns has San Francisco 49ers DE Ray McDonald (Glades Central '02) scored?

    A. 0    B. 1    C. 2    D. 3

5. Who is the graduate of Pahokee who, in a caper worthy of inclusion in "America's Dumbest Criminals", was arrested for attempted armed robbery, causing him to be dismissed from the team during his freshman season at Tennessee in 2009?   

    A. Antonio Richardson    B. Nu'Keese Richardson    C. Rico Richardson    D. Shaquille Richardson

6. Which of these players transferred from Florida to South Florida (where he is on the current roster) in 2011 after being a 5-star recruit during his senior season at Pahokee in 2009?

    A. Bradley Battles    B. Todd Chandler    C. Chris Dunkley    D. De'Joshua Johnson

7. Who is the 2009 graduate of Pahokee who was the intended Michigan Wolverines ball carrier that got crushed by South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney - causing his helmet to fly off - in a highlight reel play in the 2013 Outback Bowl?

   A. Junior Hemingway    B. Martavious Odoms    C. Denard Robinson    D. Vincent Smith

PART 2. EITHER/OR (Which HS did they attend, Pahokee or Glades Central?)
  1. WR Reidel Anthony (former Buccaneers 1st round draft choice - 16 TD in 5 NFL seasons)
  2. CB Bill Bentley (Lions' 3rd round draft choice in 2012 - 0 INT in 2 NFL seasons so far)
  3. RB/WR Antwon Chisholm (19 career TD for Hampton U Pirates from 2010 to 2013)
  4. S Louis Oliver (former Dolphins 1st round draft choice - 27 INT and 2 TD in 8 NFL seasons)
  5. CB Alphonso Smith (former Broncos 2nd round draft choice - 8 INT and 2 TD in 4 NFL seasons)
  6. WR Deonte Thompson (15 receptions, 0 TD in 2 NFL seasons with Ravens so far)

PART 3. JEOPARDY  (Be sure your response is in the form of a question)

--- I'll take Muck City for 200, Alex
--- The answer is ....

This 1994 graduate of Glades Central and former Florida Gator is the Jacksonville Jaguars' all-time leading rusher, amassing 11,271 yards in his 11 seasons with the team ('98-'08).

--- Muck City for 400

This 1999 graduate of Pahokee and former Florida State Seminole set the NFL record for most receptions in a season by a rookie (101) as a member of the Arizona Cardinals in 2003 and has made 65 career (regular season) TD catches, including 7 for the San Francisco 49ers in 2013.

--- Muck for 600

A 2008 graduate of Glades Central and former Miami Hurricane with sick dreads, he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the 4th round in 2012 and has taken a punt return to the house in each of his two seasons with the team.

---- Muck for 800

After graduating from Glades Central in 2002, he starred at Ohio State for three seasons before being drafted in the 1st round by the Pittsburgh Steelers and was named MVP of Super Bowl 43.

---- Muck for 1,000

A 1977 graduate of Pahokee, this linebacker, a 2nd round draft choice by the New Orleans Saints, was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.


This Muck City native was a 1st team selection as a WR on my 2013 All-America with dreads team and is a potential 1st round selection in the 2014 NFL draft.
   HINT: Don't ask, "Who is Sammy Watkins?" (he's from Fort Myers)
   HINT #2: KB + TD = FSU + BCS + W
Still don't have it?
   HINT #3: See photo above.
Well, if you're totally clueless and still haven't figured it out, let me spell it out for you .....


Perhaps a year ago, a lot of people might not have known who is Kelvin Benjamin. But not now. And after he made himself very well known with a sensational, 15-touchdown, redshirt sophomore season for Florida State - capped by the 2-yard game-winning TD catch with 13 seconds remaining in the BCS title game - Benjamin, highly recruited during his senior season at Glades Central in 2010, is passing up his final two seasons with the Seminoles and taking his talents to the NFL.

Not the least of his talents is his ability to make leaping catches. His draft profile on (link below) describes him as an "outstanding jumpball catcher." I describe him as Calvin Johnson without the great speed. At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, KB has similar size as Johnson, the Detroit Lions superstar WR; but at 4.61 seconds in the 40-yard dash (his time at the NFL Combine in late February), he is much slower than Johnson and seemingly not fast enough to be a 1st round draft choice.   

Not to worry though. An article from the SB Nation site on Benjamin (link below) from three weeks ago argues that Benjamin is plenty fast enough. His 'slow' 40 time is the result of him not being a fast starter; but once he gets moving, good luck trying to stay with him. That plus his ability to consistently make catches above the coverage will serve him well in what hopefully will be a long, successful career. The writer of the SB Nation article certainly thinks it will be long and successful, concluding his analysis by saying, "One month from now Kelvin Benjamin will hear his name called at the NFL draft, maybe at the end of the first round, maybe even later. Ten years from now we will all look back and agree that he should have gone higher."

You can see highlights of the drills Benjamin performed at the Combine on the link below (although the video gets blurry at times). If the top ranked receivers in the draft all get picked in the first 20 picks, Benjamin will have a great chance to be picked late in round 1, likely either by the 49ers or Panthers. But if he somehow doesn't get picked this Thursday night, he won't have to wait for long on Friday.


Not that it's anything to be ashamed of, but WR Martavis Bryant was overshadowed during his junior season in 2013. He couldn't help but be - both his dreads and his performance on the field. Bryant's dreads, only long enough to barely start inching their way outside of his helmet, were dwarfed by the ultra-long dreads of fellow junior WR Sammy Watkins (see photo of the two on right at Clemson's pro day on Mar. 6). And with Watkins putting on a highlight reel performance nearly every Saturday, earning all-America honors as well as the distinction of being the top ranked WR in the draft, it was easy to not notice what Bryant was doing.
Well, Martavis was no slouch himself. Having averaged 20 yards per catch and scored 7 TD last season, he decided it was time to take his big-play ability to the next level. And after running a 4.42-second 40 at the Combine (barely less than blazing speed), overshadowed became a thing of his past. Although he weighs 30 pounds less than Benjamin, he's nearly as tall (6-4) and has that same ability to outjump defenders and make the catch. The article from Bleacher Report (link below, from Feb. 23, the day WRs performed at the Combine) takes note of his shortcomings as well as his strengths; but the bottom line is his skill set = early round draft pick. 

How early? In an article from the Anderson Independent Mail from last week (link below), NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock rates Bryant as a 2nd round pick. He also mentions that he worries about Bryant being a one-year wonder (meaning his strong 2013 season was preceded by two unsuccessful seasons). But remember, they were saying the same thing about Cordarrelle Patterson before last year's draft, and he had a fairly decent rookie season. No, I don't think that Bryant is a better player than Patterson. But it will be disappointing if we don't see him take at least one to the house this fall.

If any of these players with dreads aren't selected by the end of Day 2 of the draft, it's going to be a serious disappointment for them.

OT Antonio Richardson - Tennessee
OT Billy Turner - North Dakota State
G Cyril Richardson - Baylor
WR Kelvin Benjamin - Florida State
WR Martavis Bryant - Clemson
WR Sammy Watkins - Clemson
RB Tre Mason - Auburn
DE Jadeveon Clowney - South Carolina
DT Will Sutton - Arizona State
CB Bradley Roby - Ohio State
CB Jason Verrett - TCU
S Calvin Pryor (photo on right) - Louisville

In last year's preview only 11 of the 14 players I had in this category were picked in the first three rounds. I missed on Khaseem Greene (4th round), Phillip Thomas (4th), and Andre Ellington (6th).


When I read a piece a couple of months ago from the Garnet Report blog on CB Victor Hampton (link below, from Jan. 16), I was planning to make this part of my preview the feel-good story of a former troublefinder who matured and blossomed into a role model and team leader during his three seasons at South Carolina.

But then when I recently went looking for another story on Hampton, I found out that unfortunately his troublefinding ways have returned - and at the worst possible time. Nearly a month ago Hampton did a 15-minute interview with Columbia TV station WIS (link below, if you have the time for it - the last 5 minutes are less dull than the first 10) in which he admits he's experiencing high anxiety that his troubled past will cause him to fall in the draft.

Well, if he was worried then, he's probably a nervous wreck now - because in the 7 days immediately following that interview he was involved in not one, but two incidents that surely will make teams think twice about drafting him at all.

Getting arrested for a domestic argument (no matter how minor) and getting into a fight in a nightclub (even if no charges were brought) are no way to apply for a job in the NFL, Victor. The draft profile of Hampton (link below) indicates he could be drafted as early as the 4th round. But that's probably out of the question now. He'll go much later than that, but I don't think he'll fall all the way out of the draft. My advice to you Victor is to forget about watching the first two days of the draft. And don't watch the third day either, not unless you're prepared for a long wait.


Victor Hampton will not be the only player with dreads wondering just how much his past misdeeds have lowered his draft stock. The good news for RB Isaiah Crowell is that, unlike Hampton, his misdeeds are far in the past. As has been well documented, Crowell, a former 5-star HS recruit, was suspended - twice - during his freshman season at Georgia in 2011; but the thing that got him dismissed from the team altogether was his arrest the following summer for having a gun in the car he was driving. Even though the charges were dropped, that arrest is the first thing a lot of people think of when they hear his name.

In a recent interview (a small portion of which is on the link below, from Crowell gave his side of the story of that arrest; and if he indeed is telling the truth, that plus the fact he has stayed out of trouble in the 2 years since then should lower any red flags that NFL teams have raised about his character. At least you'd think so.

If Crowell does end up falling in the draft, it won't be because he lacks the talent. Not wanting to sit out a year after leaving Georgia, he transferred to FCS school Alabama State, where he was a star - to the tune of 30 TD in his two seasons with the Hornets.  In the outstanding Bleacher Report article on Crowell (link below) from 2 months ago, his agent has this to say about his client: "We polled just about every team, and unequivocally they say that Isaiah has the talent - size, speed, strength, everything - to be a starter at the NFL level."

Well then, let's see which team will put their money where their mouth is. For what it's worth, Crowell, whose video from the combine you can view on the link below, says he'd draft himself in the 2nd round if he was a GM. Uh, no, Isaiah. That ain't gonna happen. But probably sometime this Saturday he should finally find out which team he'll be playing for next season. 

Not only me, but all of these players with dreads will be very surprised if their names aren't called sometime in the draft.

TE Marcel Jensen - Fresno State
FB Trey Millard - Oklahoma
RB/WR Dri Archer (photo on right) - Kent State
RB Isaiah Crowell - Alabama State
RB Devonta Freeman - Florida State
DE Will Clarke - West Virginia
DE/DT Ed Stinson - Alabama
DT Khyri Thornton - Southern Mississippi
LB Lamin Barrow - LSU
LB Ronald Powell - Florida
CB Walt Aikens - Liberty
CB Victor Hampton - South Carolina
S Tre Boston - North Carolina
S Craig Loston - LSU
S Dezmen Southward - Wisconsin

Only 14 of the 18 players I had in this category last year were drafted. The earliest picked was Dallas Thomas (2nd round). Of the four I missed, three saw action during the regular season - Robert Lester, Xavier Nixon, and Nickell Robey. Adrian Bushell was not on anyone's roster last season.


None of the players labeled as "small school studs" in Lindy's 2014 draft preview magazine have dreads (as David Bass did last year), so I had to find a couple on my own. The first has nobody to blame but himself that he ended up at a small school. But when you don't take care of business in the classroom and your grades aren't good enough, you end up in Division 2.

I had the telecast of the Division 2 (real) national championship game on for only a few minutes one Saturday last December (and with the sound muted); but that was long enough for me to notice that the cornerback wearing jersey #1 for Northwest Missouri State had some sick dreads. Then moments later .... whoa, both corners for Northwest Missouri have sick dreads. But I didn't bother to find out who they were. Fast forward two months from then to the final day of the NFL Combine, the day all the DBs work out. And when I saw Brandon Dixon for the first time, I was like, "Who is Brandon Dixon??" When I found out he was from none other than Northwest Missouri State, I was like, "Now I remember. He's an NFL prospect?" I had no idea.

And so I hit Google and almost immediately found out something else: the two cornerbacks with dreads for NW Missouri are twins (!) - Brandon wearing #1 and Brian Dixon in jersey #2. The St. Joseph News-Press article on the link below is from September 2012, shortly after the twins made their debuts for the Bearcats, and it mentions their academic shortcomings are the only reason they weren't at Division 1 schools.

As twins have a tendency to do, Brandon and Brian both had 5 INT in 2012, both had 1 INT in 2013, and both scored 2 TD during their two seasons at Northwest. But apparently, only Brandon is an NFL prospect. An article from the Saints tailgate blog (first link below) from a month ago thinks Brandon would look good in a Saints uniform and could be drafted as early as the 4th round. But it's probably going to be later than that that Dixon, whose combine video you can see on the second link below, will hear his name called on Saturday, if at all.


There have been many basketball players who attended public high schools in Chicago that have gone on to stardom and even superstardom at the college and pro levels. But elite level football players coming through the CPS system have been few and far between. Hoping to add his name to the list of those few is a player by the name of Keith Lewis (who?), who played the last two seasons in a conference called the USCAA (what?) for the Dragons of Virginia University of Lynchburg (where?)

If any of you are hardcore followers of this blog, you might remember I made a reference to VUL once before - when I posted the 2012 dread all-America team. VUL caught my attention because it was a team that had so many players with dreads. Never did I imagine a year later that we'd be talking about the possibility of any of them being drafted. According to the article in the Lynchburg News & Advance from Mar. 14 (link below), after two seasons in junior college followed by two years where he didn't play at all, Lewis arrived at VUL in 2012 determined to make the most of his God-given talent. And what exactly is that talent? Well, as Randy Moss might put it, "straight speed, homey."

The line in the article that bears repeating is the quote from his JC coach: "There's not five guys faster than Keith Lewis in this year's draft." Lewis used that speed (he ran a 4.22-second 40 yard dash at his pro day) to help him take 5 interception returns to the house in his two seasons with the Dragons. True, the receivers he'll be facing in camp this summer will be just a bit more talented than those in the USCAA. But heck, if he can't cover anybody, just give him the damn ball on offense.

The two links below are videos of a couple of Lewis' workouts. The first is from his pro day on Mar. 7 and the other shows him at a recent workout he had with the Kansas City Chiefs. Lewis has been making the rounds, visiting several teams for private workouts, as those teams want to see if it's worth spending a draft pick on him. I'd be willing to bet (not much, of course) that he will be drafted. But if not, no doubt he'll have plenty of offers to sign as a free agent.

These players with dreads might get selected near the end of the draft; but more than likely they'll be the ones doing the selecting - that is, selecting which free agent offer to sign.

TE Nic Jacobs - McNeese State
WR Kenny Bell - Alabama
WR Isaiah Burse - Fresno State
WR Tevin Reese (photo on right) - Baylor
WR Derel Walker - Texas A&M
RB Timothy Flanders - Sam Houston State
RB Senorise Perry - Louisville
RB Darrin Reaves -UAB
DE Denico Autry - Mississippi State
DT Ken Bishop - Northern Illinois
LB Derrell Johnson - East Carolina
CB Brandon Dixon - Northwest Missouri State
CB Deven Drane - Cincinnati
CB Keith Lewis - Virginia U-Lynchburg
CB Dayonne Nunley - Miami (Ohio)
CB Shaquille Richardson - Arizona
CB Charles Sawyer - Mississippi
CB Marcus Williams - North Dakota State
S BooBoo Gates - Bowling Green
S Pierre Warren - Jacksonville State
S Nickoe Whitley - Mississippi State

7 of the 26 players I listed in this category last year were drafted - all in the 7th round except for Tourek Williams (6th). In addition 6 others signed as free agents and played in the regular season last season, three of whom played in all 16 games (Jahleel Addae, Ray Ray Armstrong, and Jayson DiManche).

Part 1.
1. C - Pernell McPhee
2. C - Antone Smith
3. D - 4
4. C - 2
5. B - Nu'Keese Richardson (photo below)
6. C - Chris Dunkley
7. D - Vincent Smith
Part 2
1. Reidel Anthony (Glades Central '93)
2. Bill Bentley (Pahokee '07)
3. Antwon Chisholm (Glades Central '10)
4. Louis Oliver (Glades Central '85)
5. Alphonso Smith (Pahokee '04)
6 Deonte Thompson (Glades Central '08)
Part 3
Muck City 200 - Who is Fred Taylor?
Muck City 400 - Who is Anquan Boldin?
Muck City 600 - Who is Travis Benjamin?
Muck City 800 - Who is Santonio Holmes?
Muck City 1,000 - Who is Rickey Jackson?

After not playing in 2011 or 2012, Nu'Keese Richardson scored 4 TD in 2013 for NAIA school Pikeville. He attended FAU's pro day last month:

This might be the first time ever that a player with dreads is the #1 player picked in the draft - Jadeveon Clowney. In fact, the first two picks might be players with dreads. But I don't want to see Clowney and Sammy Watkins go 1 and 2. The best case scenario for me would be if the Falcons trade up to the 1st or 2nd pick to draft Clowney and then the Jaguars take Watkins 3rd overall. Later in round 1 I'd love it if the Bears picked Calvin Pryor. But, I know, I must be dreaming. Honestly, I'd be thrilled if even just one of those three things happen. 

I suppose if I'm going to wrap up my coverage of the 2013 season in college football, I'd better do it before the 2014 season gets underway. But I've got a lot of catching up to do, and I'd estimate I'm at least three weeks away from being ready to post anything.


  1. did you find any new players with dreads in the nfl this offseason? I found Damontre Moore and Jared Odrick have been recently growing dreads. Olivier Vernon and Asa Jackson cut their dreads off

    1. Other than trying to keep up to date on the player transactions, I have not been paying any attention to the NFL since last season ended; so no, I have not found anybody. Obviously we'll find out more after OTA practices begin.

  2. Mario Harvey cut his dreads off

  3. Ziggy Ansah has been growing dreads