TAMPA — When Robert Weiner took over as Plant football coach in 2004, he wanted to create an identity for the Panthers — on and off the field.
He quickly molded Plant into a championship-caliber team every year, and the Panthers will have an opportunity to win their third straight title — fourth in the last five years — Friday at 7 in Orlando against Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. But Weiner has proven to be equally successful breathing new life into the program and creating plenty of memorable traditions.
“When I came here, of course the school had a tremendous identity, but the football program at the school didn’t have its own identity,” Weiner said. “I really thought I wanted to create some of those things, whether it was a chant or whether it was a logo.”
Those two things — the “Plant, Plant, Plant” chant and program’s signature logo — are arguably the most recognizable parts of the football machine. But where did they come from? How have they become such an integral part of the culture at Plant High, which has been around since 1926?
Weiner was largely responsible for the idea behind the specialized logo, a rarity in high school sports. But it was Robert Marve, the first in a line of three straight Division I-A quarterback prospects at Plant, who created the ubiquitous cheer in 2006.
“Robert Marve’s a flavor guy; he’s got some flavor to him,” senior quarterback Phillip Ely said. “He’s going to do whatever it is that gets his team pumped up. He had to get some swagger on his team, and that’s what they had in ’06.”
After a regular-season victory, Marve walked up to his coach and said, “We keep winning these games, and all these people hate on us. All they want to talk about is Plant, Plant, Plant.” A few games later, Marve led his team in the chant, additionally shaping his hand to form a ‘P.’
But it truly caught on, Weiner said, at a school pep rally in the Plant gym later that season.
“At the end of the pep rally, I said, ‘Let me hear it from you one time: Plant, Plant, Plant,’ ” Weiner said. “It was the loudest I had ever heard our gym at a pep rally, and it went on for minutes upon minutes upon minutes. From that time on, it was ‘Plant, Plant, Plant’ all the time.”
The logo, on the other hand, was a more deliberate decision. Weiner asked Adam Wolf, one of his former players at Jesuit and a gifted artist, to draw up 24 potential ‘P’ logos.
“We started creating our product and stuff that didn’t have the name Plant Panthers on it,” Weiner said. “We just wanted the Plant ‘P’ over football so people could associate it with that.”
The Panthers were already rich in tradition — the grandstand, singing the alma mater before every home game, the tightly knit community — before Weiner and his staff took over. While the recent success and brand recognition have altered the program’s image publicly, he said the reason people feel connected to Plant football long precedes him.
“Everything about the excellence that people love about Plant, and love to hate about Plant, is a school and community thing,” Weiner said. “The truth of the matter is that when you get a logo or a chant or anything like that, nobody listens or watches unless you’re any good at football.”