Yesterday we gave you a heads-up on some stats about local guys who've hiked to one of the great peaks in professional sports -- a spot on a Super Bowl roster. Big bragging rights go to Palm Beach County, and specifically Glades Central High School in Belle Glades. Five former Raiders are playing in the game.
Inside the illustrious program, the Glades Central team is excited, but familiar names in the prime time has also almost become routine for the school. That was the vibe we got off the Raiders' current coach, Roosevelt Blackmon, when New Times got him on the phone this week to talk about the upcoming game.
"I hope you don't ask me who I'm going for," Blackmon said while booming out a laugh. On Tuesday morning, Glades Central was just back in from the holiday vacation, and the coach had spotted only a few of his players.
"We're doing offseason lifting and conditioning, so the [players] that I've seen, they're excited about seeing people from our area," he said. "It's a sign of hope that you can be able to reach your goals. Keep up the hard work; it can happen. I'm proud for each one of those guys that's in the game. We've got great alumni on both teams."
Blackmon is not only a Glades Central alum but a former NFLer himself, with two seasons under his belt in Green Bay and Cincinnati. Since heading back to his old school to coach, he's worked with two of the players hitting the field in New Orleans -- Ravens' receiver Deonte Thompson and 49ers defensive tackle Ray McDonald.
The five former Raiders aren't the only alums to land in the big game -- the Jets' Santonio Holmes was the Super Bowl MVP in 2009. In part, Blackmon says it's the latest iteration of the trend that perpetuates the next generation of Glades Central alums in the NFL. The school has produced the most professional football players of any other high school in the country, and the precedent -- not the community's much bugled crime and poverty -- is what keeps the ball rolling.
"If you're a football player, you say you want to be the next one when you hear so many things about people making it to the NFL from Glades Central," Blackmon explained. "We're not the only place with a bad area. Does it give you some motivation to better yourself as a person and take care of your family? Yes."