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WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Plant High plays in its first state final Saturday, but the program has a long and storied history. Here are a few of its notable past players and coaches:

Vince Sussman

Assistant football coach

Sussman's tenure at Plant High began as an assistant football coach and physical education teacher in 1973. He became the school's principal in 1993 and continued through 2000 despite a tragic accident in 1997: He fell from his roof, causing two vertebrae to push into his spinal column.

The accident rendered Sussman a quadriplegic, but he was back at Plant eight weeks later, cheering his Panthers from a wheelchair.

Since 2000, he's been the school district's general manager of resource management. Sussman said he no longer goes to physical therapy "because I'm pretty much where I'm going to be.''

Saturday, he'll be at home, watching Plant play on television. He'll be wearing one of the dozens of Plant hats he's collected over the years, cheering with everything he has.

Jimmy Kalamaras

Graduate, Class of '78

Kalamaras has been wearing black and gold since he was a Plant linebacker. He switched to the blue and orange of the Gators only during the four years he played for the University of Florida as a linebacker.

More recently, Kalamaras has started every Friday morning for the past three months eating breakfast at Jimbo's with former teammate Billy Minahan, Plant's defensive line coach, and currently the only coach to have graduated from Plant. Between biscuits and bacon, someone inevitably brings up their gut-wrenching 7-6 playoff loss, nearly three decades past, to Miami's Carol City High.

Kalamaras, now an Ybor City furniture dealer, still sees Sussman and has organized golf tournaments and fundraisers that helped generate more than $200,000 for his former coach's rehabilitation fund. Said Kalamaras: "He was, and is, my inspiration and role model."

Vernon Korhn

Graduate, Class of '63

After years of being a closet Panther as the Hillsborough County school district's athletic director, Vernon Korhn now sports a Plant T-shirt with pride - in fact, all the pride he kept bottled up since 1963. That's when he was one of the county's top players as a quarterback and defensive back.

"The whole community packed the bleachers back then, very much like now,'' said Korhn, who said he was thrilled to see the resurgence of Panther pride. He's set to retire Dec. 31.

Plant's senior class president, Korhn went on to play for a year at Florida State, followed by three years at the University of Tampa, where he earned his degree in physical education. He returned to his alma mater in 1968 as an assistant football coach, wrestling and swimming coach.

Wade Boggs

Graduate, Class of '76

Of course, Boggs is best known as a Hall of Fame professional baseball player. But in addition to baseball, he also played football at Plant. He was an excellent punter and also was the backup quarterback.

His football career was somewhat sidelined in his junior year. He was flattened by Brandon High defensive end David Galloway, who went on to play in the National Football League. Boggs ended up with a gash in his chin and 39 stitches. It ended his quarterbacking career. As a senior, Boggs confined his football duties to punting.

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