ST. PETERSBURG — If there's a spike in the attendance for Saturday's East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field, you need not look any farther than Lakewood High graduates Bernard Reedy and Xavius Boyd, reunited in their hometown.
Boyd, a linebacker at Western Kentucky, conservatively estimates he will have 200 people cheering for him between family, friends and former teammates. Reedy, a receiver at Toledo, says he will have "close to 360 … maybe 380."
"It means a lot, playing in your back yard," said Reedy, who will wear No. 6 for the West team, while Boyd will wear No. 13 for the East.
Never mind that Toledo, Ohio, is east of Bowling Green, Ky., this is a St. Petersburg game for St. Petersburg kids, especially for Lakewood, which is expected to have its entire varsity and junior varsity teams in attendance, as well as plenty of alumni.
"This right here is the cherry on top for both of them, but it's so good for our community," Lakewood coach Cory Moore said. "The kids that look up to them will see two young men, both who will be graduating with four-year degrees and able to play at the next level. It's unbelievable. I'm so proud of both of them."
Another Lakewood graduate, former Gator and now New York Giants receiver Louis Murphy, helped pay for the cost of the block of tickets to make sure today's Spartans can be inspired in person Saturday.
If you saw Reedy and Boyd play at Lakewood four years ago, their success isn't a huge surprise. Reedy was the Tampa Bay Times’ Pinellas County offensive player of the year in 2009, totaling 36 touchdowns as a senior, including 10 on returns. Boyd was a first-team all-county linebacker, and they nearly stayed together for college as well.
Boyd and his twin brother, Bar'ee, chose Western Kentucky, and Reedy nearly joined them, taking an official visit before choosing Toledo. Each summer, they trained together back home, helping each other get a step faster and a bit stronger.
Their success continued in college: Reedy totaled 23 touchdown receptions over the past three seasons, with 1,105 receiving yards his junior year. Boyd, a safety in high school, put on 30 pounds to become a versatile linebacker, leading the Hilltoppers this fall with 103 tackles and leading the Sun Belt Conference with 8½ sacks and 15½ tackles for loss. He was honored as the Sun Belt defensive player of the year.
Both players were moved by Sunday's trip to the Shriners Hospital for Children in Tampa, spending a few hours there to better appreciate the cause behind the game.
Both have played in their home states before — Toledo played in Gainesville this year, and Western Kentucky played at USF and Florida International — but nothing as close to home as this game. Both still have long odds to be drafted, but showcases such as Saturday's game give them a chance to improve their stock, with plenty of motivation in the stands.
"It's been very competitive this week, and that brings out your true talent, no matter what conference you played in," Reedy said. "Saturday will be something special."