TAMPA — Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris was famously quoted as saying stats are for losers.
Just don’t tell Jefferson High’s Quentin Williams.
He took the county and state passing record book — the one with Robert Marve, Aaron Murray and Tim Tebow on the cover — and used it as kindling in the Dragon Express as it chugged its way to a state championship.
Just don’t tell Plant’s James Wilder Jr.
He paddled Countryside in the playoffs, but took his belt off when he played Lakeland. Five touchdowns later, the Dreadnaughts were the Dread-Nots, and Plant was headed back to the state title game.
Just don’t tell Armwood’s Josh Grady.
He had great stats. Some passing. Some running. But the best stat of all — needing 19 seconds to get into field-goal range in a state semifinal — nudged the Hawks up Interstate 4 to Orlando.
Stats can be for winners, too, you know.
These three guys — Williams, Wilder and Grady — are sharing our Player of the Year award for pulling off the most difficult of tasks: reaching expectations.
All were expected to play for state titles.
And they did it in a season that may be remembered as the apex of Tampa Bay football.
Excluding one or the other just didn’t seem to make sense.
Their presence, along with a stud-filled class of players, might just make this the best all-Suncoast team — comprised of players from Pasco, Hernando, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties — ever.
My, oh, my.
This team has:
• Wilder, one of the top recruits in the country and Tampa Bay’s best ever, in my opinion.
• Williams, who won a state championship and set every passing record in the process while putting up more than 5,000 yards in total offense this season.
• Grady, who accounted for 38 touchdowns and 3,000 yards of total offense.
• Record-setting Jefferson wide receivers Andre Davis and Chris Moore, who caught everything, including a bad break in the state title game when he broke his collarbone … but only after catching a touchdown pass.
• Three running backs who totaled almost 5,000 yards and 60 touchdowns.
• Offensive linemen headed to Florida State (Jordan Prestwood), Nebraska (Tyler Moore) and Georgia (Zach DeBell).
• Defensive linemen headed to Miami (Anthony Chickillo), and Florida State (Dante Fowler, though he’s only a junior), and linebackers like Anthony Harrell (Wake Forest) and Ramik Wilson, who can pretty much go anywhere he wants.
And I haven’t even mentioned guys like Nelson Agholor, who has Southern Cal and Florida, among others, drooling over him; speedsters like Frankie Williams; stud defensive backs like Jermaine McKinney and Jamie Byrd.
Oh, and don’t even get me started on some of the guys who only made second team.
This team is deep, deep, deep.
Even our 1993 team, which could lay claim to being the most successful post-prep, wasn’t this deep. But it did produce a handful of NFL players like Shaun King (Gibbs), Keith Newman (Jefferson), Jay Feely (Jesuit), Cornell Green (Lakewood) and Troy Hambrick (Pasco), and others who I’m surprised didn’t make it, like Springstead’s Ed Chester (blew out a knee in college) and Boca Ciega’s Hank Grant.
Heck, the second-team quarterback was a future baseball major-leaguer named Kris Wilson.
Other great teams are still waiting to be judged. The 2006 team has already produced NFL players Dexter McCluster (Largo), Javier Arenas (Robinson) and Riley Cooper (Clearwater Central Catholic), with others potentially joining them soon, like Stephen Garcia (Jefferson), A.J. Jones (Middleton) and Colin McCarthy (Clearwater Central Catholic).
But in looking at past teams (and we’re talking first team here), I’m not sure there has ever been such a high number of major Division I-A recruits who have accomplished so much. Ten of them played for a state championship, 22 won at least one playoff game.
They can be for winners, too, you know.