Our eighth annual countdown of the top 100 football players in Tampa Bay — consisting of athletes who attend a public or private school in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco or Hernando counties. Past performances — spanning the fall, spring and summer — and promise of big things to come are all taken into consideration.
41. Greg Spann, Lakewood
Height/weight: 6-4, 194
Spann is the man again for the Spartans. This will be his third year as Lakewood’s starting quarterback. He has offers from several Division I-A schools, including Florida State. Last year he threw for 1,860 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Call him “Deuce.” His dad is also Greg Spann, so he’s Deuce to eliminate any confusion. His father played five seasons in the NFL with the Vikings, Jaguars and Bucs. “I used to always watch my dad train other people and work out when I was a kid.”
Spann never thought he would be a quarterback. “I always played receiver or (defensive back) or played on special teams. I didn’t play quarterback until I got to high school. I already knew how to throw, but I didn’t know how to drop back or read defenses. Now I’m better at quarterback than I was at receiver.”
He likes to shop. “I’ll go shopping with my mom all the time. I like to go grocery shopping with her, too. Clothes shopping, grocery shopping, it doesn’t matter. Really, I just like being with my mom.”
He likes movies, especially if they are animated.“I like the Flintstones, Alvin and the Chipmunks, movies like that.” Upcoming movie he was hyped to see? Toy Story 4.
42. David Hoyt, Tampa Catholic
Position: Offensive line
Height/weight: 6-6, 272
Hoyt is an aggressive, towering, often intimidating presence on the Crusader offensive line, which should be improved overall this year. Hoyt, in particular, is solid at both run and pass blocking.
Violins and guns
Hoyt said he enjoyed playing the violin for many years, but he also enjoys shooting guns. He is pretty proficient at both.
Hoyt is currently a left tackle, but in college he might play tackle, guard, center or maybe even on the defensive line. “I’ll play wherever they want me to play. It doesn’t matter at all to me.”
Here to serve
He had a lot of interest from a lot of major football universities, but Hoyt was set on going to West Point, which he has “wanted to attend since I was 8.” Hoyt’s uncle, Tim Leone, is a high-ranking major in the Army and has always inspired Hoyt.
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If not football, lacrosse
He played lacrosse for many years before taking last year off. This year, however, Hoyt plans to suit up again. “It’s a great game and it’s a great way to stay in shape.”
Social media shutdown
Hoyt decided last year to spend less time on social media. “I don’t miss it all. I think (social media) can be addictive. It can be very unhealthy.”
43. Malik Jones, Zephyrhills Christian
Position: Defensive line
Height/weight: 6-2, 296
As a standout wrestler and defensive lineman, Jones knows how to take opponents down. He also is adept at lifting others up, especially those in need.
On a mission
For the past seven years, Jones has gone on mission trips to Daytona Beach, Pensacola and South Carolina. This year he went to Guatemala for the first time. The toughest thing he saw on his latest trip was children walking the streets in the most dangerous parts of town. He remembers one in particular. Johann, 9, walks 1.5 miles to attend church, no matter the time or the weather.
Three years ago, Jones started volunteering with special needs students at school. “I wanted to show them that they are not less than any other person and we are all the same in the eyes of God.” Jones’ favorite student is Brody Jennings, an 11-year-old with Down syndrome. “He works so hard and has such a kind heart. Brody is the light of the school.”
Jones is the Class A defending state wrestling champion in the 285-pound class. He was dominant at state, pinning each of his four opponents to remain undefeated. Wrestling has helped Jones become a better football player. “The training (with wrestling) keeps you in shape all year long and gets you more flexible and versatile for football.” Jones has played football since he was 5 years old. He started wrestling about five years ago. Which sport will he choose in college? “That’s a tough one but football for sure.” Jones has offers in football from Bethune Cookman, Florida Atlantic, Southern Mississippi and Troy. He said he is waiting to hear from a few more schools before a commitment.
44. Akheem Mesidor, Clearwater Academy
Position: Defensive line
Height/weight: 6-3, 255
The Canadian newcomer joins a group of pass rushers that all have Division I-A offers and will be the strength of Clearwater Academy’s defense.
Game, set, match
Mesidor played volleyball for three years in Canada, earning MVP honors for his school as a sophomore. He stopped playing last year because it was interfering with his offseason training in football. But there were some aspects of volleyball that made him a better football player. For example, Mesidor said volleyball helped with his explosiveness off the line of scrimmage as a pass rusher.
Crazy for cheesecake
Mesidor likes to indulge in cheesecake, though he limits helpings to whenever his mother makes the dessert. “It’s just so sweet and thick and melts in your mouth.” Mesidor does not need any type of fancy cheesecake either. “Just regular.”
Coming to America
This will be Mesidor’s first season playing football stateside. He heard about Clearwater Academy from a friend in Ottawa. The bigger adjustment so far? “The game is so much faster here.”
Reeling them in
The three-star recruit has 26 offers from colleges, including Mississippi, Syracuse, UCF and West Virginia. Mesidor does not have a timetable yet on making a decision.
45. Tre’von Riggins, Lakewood
Position: Defensive line
Height/weight: 6-1, 273
Riggins spent the past two seasons at IMG Academy after playing his freshman year at Lakewood. The Miami commit missed last season due to a knee injury and returned to Lakewood in the spring.
Riggins would like to be an agent when he is done playing football. He said he will take classes at Miami that will help him understand the business. “I want to stay in sports. And when I get to the NFL I want to be able to read my contract. I want to negotiate my own deals so nobody can cheat me out of my money."
When he started playing football at the age of 8, he was told he had to play with 12 years olds because he was too big to play against kids his own age. “I always grew up as the biggest kid. Definitely made me a better player."
He has a tattoo on his left forearm that reads “Chaney” in honor of his grandmother. His father, Thomas W. Riggins III, died in March and Tre’von plans to get a tattoo in honor of him as well.
46. James Ash, Chamberlain
Position: Defensive line
Height/weight: 6-3, 281
The 2018 Chamberlain defense was known for pressuring the quarterback, totaling nearly four sacks per game. A good chunk of them came from Ash, a defensive tackle who was second on the team in tackles for loss (19).
Chief to Demon Deacon
Ash has more than 20 college offers, but on a recent recruiting visit, he committed to play at Wake Forest. Despite having visited more traditional football powerhouses like Florida and Alabama, Ash said nothing compared to the feeling he got when he stepped on the campus in Winston-Salem, N.C. “It was just the coaches, they just brought me in and took me as one of their own, even on just a visit. It just felt like home.”
On the field forever
Even when his playing days are over one day, Ash doesn’t plan to be far from the football field. Ash said he loves the idea of small class sizes at Wake Forest and he plans to study sports medicine or athletic training there. “Either way it goes, I’m still going to surround myself with the game.”
When he’s not playing football, Ash can usually be found hanging out with his mother, Janice George … even if he’s not super interested in what she wants to do. “She likes to shop,” Ash said, laughing. “I’m just there to tag along and chill with her.”
Following in his footsteps
Ash said his older brother, Chris Oliver, is his biggest inspiration and the one who motivated him to make it to college. Oliver played middle linebacker at Waldorf University in Forest City, Iowa, before moving back to Tampa. “He really set the bar for me. He set it to where I got to beat him. Now I’ve got to go and make a name for myself.”
As for talents outside of football, Ash said that on a good day, he can do a backflip. But he’s got to have a running start.
47. Isaiah Knowles, Seffner Christian
Height/weight: 6-1, 195
Not too many high school football teams can boast a fourth-year starting quarterback, but that’s exactly what Knowles will be when he suits up for the Crusaders in August. Knowles has nearly 5,000 career passing yards and 67 touchdowns through the air, totals he should only add to this fall.
Knowles had a handful of offers to play at the next level, but it was on a visit to Navy in Annapolis, Md., that he really saw his future begin to take shape. “I was looking for a four-year plan. I was looking down the road, later in life when I’m 40, 45. How is it going to benefit me?” said Knowles, who committed to Navy on May 21. “A military academy … they could just give me everything I was looking for and more.”
For the long haul
Knowles may only be starting his fourth year on the Seffner Christian football team, but he’s been a Crusader for much longer than that. Knowles began attending Seffner Christian in the first grade, long before the school even had a football team.
Coach ’em up
Having dreamed about playing college football at a young age, Knowles began training with former NFL cornerback Marshall McDuffie in the sixth grade. Since then, McDuffie has become far more than just a coach to him, Knowles said. “He’s been there since the sixth grade, on and off the field, as I’m becoming a man. I know I wouldn’t be what I am today without him.”
Though he played basketball for Seffner Christian in middle school, he’s never played another sport for the Crusaders at the high school level. He plans to change that next spring, when he’ll finish his high school athletic career by joining the track team. He plans to stick to the sprint distances. “My mom, she doesn’t want me to get injured or anything. I’ll do the 200 and maybe the 400.”
48. Derek Bryant, Pinellas Park
Position: Running back, defensive back
Height/weight: 5-8, 160
Bryant is one of those players who doesn’t look like a football player, but definitely is one. A speedy back, he has the ability to run past tacklers and find the end zone. Unfortunately, he may miss a few games early due to a broken ankle sustained in the spring game against Gibbs.
His injury came while trying to break up a pass. He went up to tip the ball away and landed awkwardly. At first, he had no idea what happened. “I saw (teammate) Brenyen (Scott) down. I thought he was hurt. So I went to help him up and stepped down and it bent even more. That’s when I realized I was the one hurt.” Bryant may be able to start putting weight on the ankle by August.
His father owns the Upper Echelon Barber Shop in Largo. Bryant has spent a lot of time there and picked up a few tips. “I was thinking maybe I could cut hair like him one day. I’ve cut a few of my teammates’ hair. My dad told me if I went to college I could be cutting up some teammates’ hair for extra cash.”
His nickname is “Bossman,” which he picked up his sophomore year. “I’ve got a shirt that says ‘Bossman’ on it. It just happened one day when a friend started calling me that. Now my parents will wear ‘Bossman’ shirts with my number on it to games.”
49. Harold Cook, Calvary Christian
Height/weight: 6-2, 205
A transfer from Alonso after his sophomore year, Cook made an immediate impact last season as the Warriors’ starter, throwing for 2,430 yards and 27 touchdowns. He’s likely in for bigger things this season with more weapons at his disposal.
Cook still lives in Tampa and drives to Clearwater, sometimes making for a long day. “I wake up at about 4:30 every morning. If I leave five minutes early I can get here in 20 minutes. If I leave five minutes late, it takes 40 minutes.”
He decided to try something other than sports in middle school, so he started playing the trombone. “I was pretty good. I don’t still play it. I just rented it. But it was fun.”
Cook can cook
Cook comes from a large extended family that usually comes to see him play on Friday nights. He especially likes being around his family on holidays, mainly so he can enjoy his Nina’s cooking. “Her bolognese is so good. I like to cook a lot. I can make pork chops, and spaghetti and meatballs. But nothing beats my Nina.”
50. Geri Theodore, Clearwater Academy
Position: Defensive line
Height/weight: 6-4, 235
Lining up on the edge, Theodore has continued to plow through opposing backfields the same way he did as a standout in Canada. The three-star recruit, who transferred to Clearwater Academy last year, is now a veteran in the trenches.
Theodore’s parents, Marichantal and Rene, are both Haitian immigrants who moved to Canada in 2000. Theodore was born in Ottawa and lived there his entire life until coming to Clearwater in 2018 to play football.
Theodore said he cooks meals for himself every day. “I make great food.” His favorite dishes: chicken, chili, hamburgers, pasta and rice.
In his first season of American football, Theodore finished with 27 tackles and four sacks. He had a meteoric rise as a recruit and closed out the spring with more than 20 offers from colleges, including Georgia Tech, Indiana, Mississippi and Minnesota. He said he wants to finish taking all of his official visits before making a commitment.
Times correspondents Kelly Parsons and Scott Purks contributed to this report.