Saturday Morning Quarterback

Too cold? Not for Miami 4 in North Dakota
Dec 27, 2013

 

 

If you’re like me, you thought this week was a little too cold.

But then I came across a story from The Miami Herald written by Kathleen McGrory. I was going to run it in Friday’s Democrat, but the length was waaaaayyy too long. I did, however, post it on lebanondemocrat.com.

Four Miami high school football players, used to playing in front of thousands of fans on sticky Friday nights in South Florida have found themselves playing collegiately for Mayville State.

Like Cumberland, it’s an NAIA school. Instead of playing before thousands at the high school which produced current Louisville star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the foursome now play for a 1,000-student institution in a town of 1,800 in the middle of cornfields where the few fans who turn out for the games shivered their way through Saturday afternoons.

It’s located at about the last place one would expect to find four Florida guys – North Dakota.

The quartet – Rashad Flanders, Jerrill Jenkins, John Lamour and Dantrel Horne – grew up in the rough-and-tumble Liberty City. Mayville State? In North Dakota? It might have well been on Mars.

They are black in a place where few blacks can be found. The language barrier – English is spoken in both places but the accents and slangs are strange on both sides. Unlike most of the students who are from the Dakotas who drive home on weekends, they can’t make a quick trip to South Beach, making it a lonely life after the season ended. Then there was the difference in temperatures, sometimes a 100-degree difference.

The Mayville assistant coach who brought them there, Nathaniel Gill, had made a similar move coming out of high school in a predominantly black Houston neighborhood. He stuck it out at Mayville and graduated with a degree in physical education.

Other high school players from the South have matriculated north for years. When Darren Neal was an assistant coach at Friendship Christian in the 1990s and early 2000s, he had a connection to a junior college in International Falls, Minn., which if you are a regular watcher of weather reports, you know it as a place where it’s sometimes the coldest city in the lower-48 states. About a half dozen or so players from Lebanon, not just from FCS, signed with Rainy River Community College.

I have no idea how those guys fared in the deep north. Often when high school kids sign with a small college or juco, it’s like they’re signing on with the Witness Protection Program, they’re never heard from again. I know a few of them [and I assume most, if not all, of them] came back to Lebanon, and I suspect it was sooner rather than later.

The Liberty City four stuck it out, bonded with their teammates, got jobs, found girlfriends and generally began to establish roots in the quiet Upper Midwest, away from the shootings and gang activity back home.

Who says teams from the North have an advantage in cold-weather games in that “they are used to it”? When it’s zero-degree wind-chill factor, perhaps only Eskimos are climatized to those conditions.

Don’t want to get into too much more detail. You can check it out on lebanondemocrat.com

Also on our website is a story you may have read on this page yesterday about quarterback Jon Kitna returning to the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys to back up Kyle Orton with Tony Romo likely on the shelf for the rest of the season [even if owner Jerry Jones] doesn’t want to admit it.

Kitna is 41 and retired from the league a couple of years ago after 15 seasons and four teams, including the Cowboys. He’s currently a high school math teacher and football coach in his native Tacoma, Wash., where the quarterback is his son.

He reportedly will pick up a $53,000 game check for the season finale. If Dallas can somehow beat the Philadelphia Eagles and reach the playoffs, there will be more money coming.

Fifty-three grand is more than what many teachers make in an entire year. But Kitna has said he won’t pocket the money for himself, it’s going to be donated to his high school.

Next time you want to vent about greedy athletes, think about Jon Kitna for a minute.

 

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