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First families of North Suncoast football

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Thu. August 30, 2012 | Matt Baker | Email

First families of North Suncoast football

Dust off your history books and genealogy charts. From two generations of Darren and Troy Hambricks to long legacies across county lines, a handful of families have left lingering imprints on high school sports in Pasco and Hernando counties. The North Suncoast’s bloodlines are as tangled as they are talented, but here’s our attempt to sort out the most notable family trees by examining the past legends with the present and future stars of Friday nights.

First families
The North Suncoast’s top five athletic families, with a focus on football but a nod to other notable successes.

The Hambricks
Long before he became one of Tampa Bay’s best athletes, Darren Hambrick was a water boy, riding the bus with Pasco’s football team and watching cousins Michael and James tear through high school defenses on their way to college.

“A lot of that started from them,” Darren said.

Darren is the most well known of the North Suncoast’s first family of sports, but the Hambrick family tree stretches all across the North Suncoast.

His father, Julious Grant, played pro baseball, and his uncle, Jim “Mudcat” Grant, was an All-Star pitcher.

James played college football in South Dakota, and Michael was a second-team all-county running back who eventually became a linebacker at Georgia.

Darren and his younger brother, Troy, watched and learned from them.

They helped Pasco win the 1992 state championship — the only one in North Suncoast history. Team Darren placed fourth in the 1993 state track meet, and after stops at Florida and South Carolina, the ferocious linebacker led the Dallas Cowboys in tackles in 2000.
Three years later, the more reserved Troy led the Cowboys in rushing as Emmitt Smith’s replacement.

In 1999, the Times picked Darren as the top athlete in Pasco County history. Troy was No. 6.

“We just wanted to put our stamp on this area,” said Troy recently in Lacoochee, off of a street that bears his uncle’s name.

That stamp still shows two decades later.

Darren’s son of the same name is a menacing senior linebacker at Hernando with back-to-back 80-tackle seasons and offers from Missouri and others. Troy’s son, also named Troy, is a lanky junior receiver with plenty of potential for the Leopards.

Their cousin, Pasco senior athlete Janarion Grant, was the Times’ North Suncoast Co-Player of the Year last fall and should earn all-area honors for the fourth time this season. The two-time defending state long jump champion boasts a dozen scholarship offers.

The Picketts
Ryan earned All-America honors as a defensive lineman at Zephyrhills and Ohio State. The former first-round pick is entering his 12th season in the NFL.  His brother, Booker, had two 1,000-yard seasons at Zephyrhills and played linebacker at Miami in the 1990s. The third brother, Rubin, was a two-way standout who helped the Bulldogs win their first district championship in 1989. Their father, Rubin, was a catcher on the school’s state semifinalist baseball teams in 1969 and 1970, and cousin Damien was the North Suncoast Player of the Year in 1995 at receiver/defensive back.

The Weatherfords
The North Suncoast’s first family of quarterbacks. Drew rewrote record books at Land O’Lakes as the North Suncoast’s then-most prolific passer before becoming the all-time leader in passing attempts at FSU. His brother, Joe, was the county’s top passer for the Gators in 2006 and signed with UCF. Stevie threw 30 touchdown passes in 2010 and signed with Cincinnati. Will (Jacksonville) and John (West Georgia) played defense in college, and their father and grandfather were quarterbacks at SMU. Their sister, Grace, was an all-county midfielder who took Land O’Lakes to state twice and helped the program win its only state championship.

The Dudley-Giles family
For simplicity’s sake, we’re naming this after Trey Dudley-Giles, a UMass cornerback who was the North Suncoast Co-Player of the Year last season at Pasco. His nephew, Josh Johnson, starred in baseball and football for the Pirates and signed with Purdue in 2009. Josh’s father,  Issac, quarterbacked Pasco’s 1992 state championship team, and Josh’s brother, Nate Craig-Myers, could become a breakout receiver for Pasco as a freshman. Dudley-Giles’ father, Ricky Giles, shined at linebacker and tight end for Zephyrhills and is the father of current Bulldogs coach Reggie Roberts, an all-state linebacker in 1989.

The Browns
Jerome Brown dominated the defensive line at Hernando in the early ’80s and was named to the Florida High School Athletic Association’s all-century team. He became an All-American at Miami and a Pro Bowler with the Eagles. His son, Dee Brown, was an all-state outfielder for the Leopards and an all-Suncoast linebacker in 2000. He started at fullback for UCF but shifted his focus to baseball, where he left as the Knights’ all-time RBI leader and spent six years in the minors. And Jerome’s niece, Bernice Mosby, left Hernando as the county’s all-time leading scorer in basketball before earning all-conference honors at Baylor and becoming the sixth pick of the 2007 WNBA draft.

Then and now

Current North Suncoast stars with ties to notable names from the past.

Then
Byronell Arline, Ridgewood:
The former Rams star holds the Pasco County rushing record with 5,279 yards, including 2,188 as a senior in 2007.

Now
Rohan Blackwood, Nature Coast:
Arline’s cousin earned an offer from UMass after his sophomore season. The 6-foot-5 defensive end/receiver led the Sharks with five sacks last fall and caught a winning touchdown against River Ridge.

Then
Andrew Timmons, Hernando:
The sturdy linebacker/lineman was an all-state player in 1991. He and star running back Dwayne Mobley helped the Leopards to a top-10 ranking in Class 3A. He signed with Kansas State.

Now
Andrew Timmons, Hernando:
Timmons was a key offensive lineman on last fall’s district championship team. He’ll be an important center/nose guard during his senior season under his new coach, Mobley — his dad’s former teammate.

Then
James Mahla, Springstead:
He carried Springstead to a 7-3 record in 2008 during his final year as a starter. His talent earned him a shot to play college ball at Sterling (Kan.) College.

Now
Tyler Mahla, Springstead
: The Eagles’ starter completed 56 percent of his passes and threw for three touchdowns as a sophomore. He should fare better this fall as another Mahla tries to lead Springstead to a winning record.

Then
Ricky Trinidad, Mitchell:
The hard-running halfback rushed for almost 1,400 yards as a junior in 2009 before tearing his ACL early in his senior year. In his first college game at Nebraska-Kearney last fall, he rushed for 173 yards and two TDs.

Now
Christian Trinidad, Mitchell
: Ricky’s younger brother had a solid sophomore season last fall with 483 rushing yards, four touchdowns and two fumble recoveries. Expect bigger numbers this season.

Then
Jamal Roberts, Zephyrhills:
The 5-foot-10 speedster, right, was last season’s breakout player, leading the Bulldogs to a winning season with 20 TD rushes, five TD passes and more than 1,500 total yards. He signed with Kent State in February.

Now
Jordan Roberts, Zephyrhills:
Jamal’s younger brother is 4 inches taller with enough athleticism to win district titles in the high jump and 100-meter dash as a sophomore. Michigan and Navy are already recruiting him.

Then
Thomas Bronson, Hernando:
After finally shaking off injuries, he dominated in 2010, making 47 tackles for a loss and leading Hernando with 14 sacks. That breakout season helped him land a scholarship to Appalachian State.

Now
Robert Hill Bronson, Hernando:
On a loaded defense with three D-I prospects, it’s easy to overlook Bronson. But you can’t ignore the production of Thomas’ younger brother. He had a team-best 12.5 sacks last fall while recording 76 tackles.

Then
Mark Christmas, Pasco:
The Times’ North Suncoast Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 helped his team advance to the state semifinals. He racked up almost 20 sacks and about 90 tackles as one of the Pirates’ most important players.

Now
David Christmas, Pasco:
Mark’s younger brother will make his presence felt on the varsity team this year. The 6-foot, 150-pound junior could line up at receiver or defensive back.

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