After a weekend of some top-quality football, the Super Bowl face-off is all sealed up: On February 3, the San Francisco 49ers will knock heads with the Baltimore Ravens in New Orleans for all the marbles.
Wrapped up in a soundbite, that news doesn't seem to have a lot of import for South Florida football fans. But if you dive into the roster, you'll see that Florida natives not only make up a disproportionate chunk of the 124 Super Bowl players but that a disproportionate number of those NFL Floridians hail from Palm Beach County. And, if we tighten the lens some more, most of those players are coming out to two troubled communities on the county's western edge.
As the Palm Beach Post's High School Buzz blog points out, five of the Super Bowl players come out of Belle Glades and Pahokee, communities not only known for pumping out football elite but also for crushing poverty and high crime.
The Baltimore Ravens have wide receiver Anquan Boldin and defensive tackle Pernell McPhee of Pahokee, plus receiver Deonte Thompson and injured running back Damien Berry of Glades Central. San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Ray McDonald is a Glades Central alum.Palm Beach's total for Super Bowl players actually is more than any of the states in the union outside of Texas, California, and Georgia. All this is pretty significant, especially considering the sordid history of the Belle Glades area.
Two other locals who made it to the big game: Baltimore safety Emmanuel Cook (injured) is a Riviera Beach native who played at Palm Beach Gardens High. San Francisco rookie guard Joe Looney played at Lake Worth.
As former New Times staffer Lisa Rab examined in a March 2012 cover story, the community has had little luck in shaking off the either/or odds facing most of its young men -- either you jetpack out of town on a football scholarship or you likely end up reaching for a gun. The latter was the fate of the story's central figure, former Belle Central football star Corey Graham Jr.
Back to the Super Bowl: Florida will field the most natives two weeks from now for the Big Game: 14. The roster is also filled out with notable college players who have passed through the region. Below is a handy list hammered together by the Palm Beach Post's Daily Dolphin blog, so you know who you're screaming at after the chemicals in that cheese dip fire you up a little too much by the third quarter.
Palm Beach County
Ravens WR Anquan Boldin (Pahokee HS)
Ravens DT Pernell McPhee (Pahokee HS)
Ravens WR Deonte Thompson (Glades Central HS)
Ravens RB Damien Berry* (Glades Central HS)
Ravens S Emmanuel Cook* (Palm Beach Gardens HS)
49ers DT Ray McDonald (Glades Central HS)
49ers G Joe Looney (Lake Worth)
Ravens LB Josh Bynes (Boyd Anderson HS)
Ravens CB Cary Williams (Chaminade-Madonna HS)
Ravens S Christian Thompson* (Blanche Ely HS)
49ers LB Tavares Gooden (St. Thomas Aquinas HS)
Ravens WR Tommy Streeter* (Miami-Northwestern)
49ers DT Ricky Jean-Francois (Carol City HS)
49ers RB Frank Gore (Coral Gables HS)
University of Miami
Ravens LB Ray Lewis
Ravens S Ed Reed
Ravens OT Bryant McKinnie
Ravens WR Tommy Streeter*
Ravens RB Damien Berry*
49ers RB Frank Gore
49ers LB Tavares Gooden
University of Florida
Ravens WR Deonte Thompson
49ers DT Ray McDonald
Florida State University
Ravens WR Anquan Boldin
* On Injured Reserve