TAMPA — A half-mile from the heavily guarded entrance to MacDill Air Force Base stands an equally sturdy five-man fortress. Robinson’s senior quintet of offensive linemen — last seen pushing Pasco’s defenders back across Dale Mabry — plays its 26th game as a starting unit in Friday’s state semifinals against Tallahassee Godby. The group blocks with blunt-force abandon; Robinson averages 215 rushing yards and 311 total yards a game. And while the effort has been collective, the parts that compose this whole are pretty distinct. From the Eagle Scout to the IB student, we take a closer look at Connor Rafferty, Bruce Hector, Chris Duvall, Ted Kelly and Brooks Lovely.
LT Connor Rafferty (6-3, 280, Sr.)
LG Bruce Hector (6-2, 270, Sr.)
C Chris Duvall (6-0, 250, Sr.)
RG Ted Kelly (6-1, 265, Sr.)
RT Brooks Lovely (6-2, 240, Sr.)
With a 315-pound bench press, Hector, a USF commitment before Skip Holtz’s dismissal, gets the nod in the weight room. But offensive line coach Shawn Taylor says Rafferty “plays” the strongest. “When it comes to, like, manhandling people on the field, nobody manhandles D-linemen like Connor,” Taylor said. For what it’s worth, Godby coach Ronnie Cottrell, a former Bobby Bowden assistant at FSU, said Hector is the one who jumps out at him when watching tape. “I spent a lot of years recruiting high school football players for college, and he’s a special kid,” Cottrell said. “He’s a knee bender; he’s just a tremendous player.”
Duvall, who carries a 4.5 weighted GPA in Robinson’s International Baccalaureate program, is a consensus pick among his peers. His IB course load includes environmental science, theory of knowledge and information technology in a global society.
Rafferty, whose single-handed obliteration of buffet lines has become legendary, is another consensus pick. On a playoff trip to Belle Glade his freshman year, the USF commitment recalls pillaging a Golden Corral for a huge bowl of rice, “a whole bunch” of macaroni and cheese, several pieces of fried chicken, green beans and three or four large biscuits. “It’ll make you start feeling nauseous, watching him eat,” Taylor said.
Ironically, it’s Kelly, the only Eagle Scout of the group. “He’s the one that gives our line the edge, because I wouldn’t call Connor and Bruce really nasty,” Taylor said. “They’re, like, really technicians of the game and they’re more thinkers. They block very physical, but I wouldn’t call them nasty. (Kelly) is as nasty as all get out.”
Did you know?
• Lovely, an avid outdoorsman, has been known to make weekend deer-hunting excursions immediately following a Friday game.
• When the Knights clinched the district title, Taylor treated the linemen to pizza. When they won the region title with Friday’s 49-21 romp of Pasco, he treated them to Outback (total bill: approximately $250). If they win a state title, the linemen are lobbying for the upscale Emeril’s in Orlando.
• Rafferty is the lone legacy on the unit. His dad, Robin, was a Knights center in the 1980s.
• The Knights’ goal is 200 rushing yards per game. So far, they’ve reached it seven times, including five of the past six contests.
Joey Knight can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @JoeyHomeTeam.