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.
31. Tino Hunt, Lennard
Position: Running back
Height/weight: 6-0, 185
In his first year at Lennard, Hunt was the bright spot on an offense that otherwise struggled, accruing 1,607 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. Hunt, who averaged 7 yards per carry, hit the 100-yard mark in all but one of the 10 games in which he played.
Hunt spent his first two high school years at Tampa Bay Tech, playing for the Titans on varsity as a sophomore. In order to get more playing time, Hunt transferred to Lennard, his neighborhood school, before his junior season. “After I left Tech, I felt like I had something to prove. Every time I stepped on the field, that’s what I did.”
Sharing the wealth
Last season, Hunt single-handedly accounted for more than 50 percent of the total yards gained by the Longhorns. This year, coach Matt Kitchie said he plans to spread the ball around more, which Hunt thinks will only help him improve upon his rushing totals. “Every time I ran the ball (last year), the team knew I was running the ball. This year, when we can throw or run it, it’ll make it easier for me.”
Back to running back
Hunt began playing football in the second grade for the Jackson Heights Vikings. And although he played running back that first year, he spent the rest of his youth football days at linebacker. It wasn’t until he began playing JV football at Tampa Bay Tech that he moved back to the running back position.
Hunt said he thinks it would surprise his teammates to know that he thinks a lot about people he doesn’t even know. And while he plans to pursue football as long as he can, Hunt said he would like to study criminal justice in college so that he can help others.
32. Kinyatah Morgan, Nature Coast
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Position: Running back, linebacker, strong safety
Height/weight: 6-0, 176
Anywhere Morgan lines up, he is sure to leave a mark. The bruiser had an impact as a sophomore, finishing with 94 tackles, five interceptions and two sacks.
Ready for contact
In youth leagues, Morgan played running back, but he was scared of contact. That all changed in sixth grade. Morgan got mad, then started initiating the punishment by plowing over defenders. “I’m not scared of the hitting anymore.”
One of Morgan’s hobbies is fishing. He prefers doing it in fresh water to reel in bass. Morgan used to have own fishing pole. The last time he went fishing was about five months ago. “I want to get back into it again.”
Filling the void
Morgan will spend time at running back to help compensate for the loss of 2,800-yard rusher Mike Weston, who graduated. Last season, Morgan had 377 yards rushing and averaged a whopping 13.5 yards per carry. But he will not have to have to carry the load by himself. “We’ve got a lot of backs that we can use.”
Potential prime-time prospect
Morgan has offers from Navy, Southern Mississippi and Western Kentucky. He likely will pick up more throughout the season.
33. Brett Gerena, Jesuit
Height/weight: 6-0, 205
Gerena’s motor never stops running, a notion bolstered by the fact he averaged 10 tackles a game last year. It’s conceivable that Gerena, who has an offer from West Point, will have an even better campaign in 2019 because he’s bigger, stronger, faster and as aggressive as ever.
Like father, like son … sort of
Gerena’s dad, Joe, played quarterback at Armwood in the mid 1990s, then for West Point before moving on to become the offensive coordinator at Jesuit. Brett followed in dad’s footsteps ... but not at quarterback. “They tried me at quarterback (in little league) but I was too eager to run and hit somebody. Linebacker is a much better fit for me. I like the contact.”
When Gerena wasn’t playing football, you might have found him playing rugby for a couple of local clubs. “I think rugby can help you make you a better tackler in football. Rugby is also very good for fitness because you’re running all the time. No real breaks.” Gerena, however, has put the rugby playing on hold to concentrate on football. “But I might go back to rugby at some point.”
Field and stream
Gerena loves to hunt and fish, and a big part of that love comes from the peaceful moments. He enjoys sitting in a tree-stand or a blind for hours by himself. “I like to be alone and quiet.”
34. Khaishef Edwards, Largo
Position: Wide receiver
Height/weight: 5-10, 165
The electrifying receiver had more than 2,000 yards receiving and 20 touchdowns combined the past two seasons playing for two different teams (Edwards transferred from Northeast to Largo last summer). He will be counted on as the go-to guy for whoever wins the starting quarterback job for the Packers.
Finding new material
Edwards wants to do stand-up comedy some day. But he has to find new jokes. His favorite last year: “What’s the difference between a guitar and a fish? You can’t tuna fish.” Now, he says, that joke is passe. “I don’t have a top joke anymore.”
Need for speed
One of Edwards’ best attributes as a receiver is his speed. He boasts about having “run away from the cops speed.” That quickness comes from his father, Kevin, who played football and ran track at Gibbs and St. Petersburg. Khaishef has honed his speed in track. This past season, he ran the 100 meters in 10.7 seconds, though he says he was unable to reach his peak because of a tweaked hamstring.
Edwards has offers from 11 colleges. He whittled that list to a top four of Middle Tennessee, Southern Mississippi, Toledo and UCF. A decision could come soon.
35. Quinton McCoy, Bloomingdale
Position: Defensive tackle
Height/weight: 6-3, 265
A leader by example and sometimes with his deep voice, McCoy believes the Bulls can be as good as last year’s group that went 11-2 for the best season in Bloomingdale history.
Lean and mean
McCoy is 6-3, 265 pounds but with no body fat. He looks more like a bodybuilder than a stereotypical defensive tackle with a belly. “I watch what I eat because if I eat something bad it really makes me sluggish. I can’t eat bad and play well.”
McCoy is committed to Illinois, but he also had Louisville, Iowa State and Kentucky on his short list. McCoy said the fact all those schools were pretty much in the Midwest was not by design. “Strictly coincidence.”
He didn’t get into it until high school, but in the last few years McCoy said he’s become an avid fisherman, hunter, kayaker and camper. “Some friends on the team got me into it and now I love it. I can see myself as an outdoorsman forever.”
Big and strong
McCoy has a max bench press of 315 pounds and a squat of 500.
36. Luca Stanzani, Clearwater Academy
Height/weight: 5-9, 160
A starter since eighth grade, Stanzani has thrown for more than 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns each of the past two seasons. Last year, he led Clearwater Academy to an undefeated regular season.
All in the family
Stanzani’s father, Aldo, was a former star in Italy who coached the Clearwater Academy program from 2009-12. One of Aldo's Italian teammates sent his son to Clearwater to play American football. Others followed. Now, the program has an international flair with players coming from all over the world to play.
On the road again
Stanzani has done plenty of traveling. He was born in Buffalo and moved to Clearwater as a child. Vacations have been mostly in the states with trips to California, North Carolina, Tennessee, Washington D.C. and West Virginia. Last month, he went white water rafting in Tennessee.
For the past year, Stanzani has been tutoring kids at Clearwater Academy. Three times a week he works with seventh-graders on English and math.
Colleges coming around
In the spring, Stanzani picked up his first two college offers, the biggest coming from USF. “It felt amazing to get that USF offer. It was one of the best feelings I’ve felt in my life. And I was so excited to tell my family and friends.”
After putting up some impressive numbers the past two seasons, Stanzani wants even more. He is aiming for 4,000 yards passing and 500 rushing.
37. T.J. Tampa, Lakewood
Position: Wide receiver
Height/weight: 6-2, 171
Tampa led the Spartans in receiving as a junior with 769 yards and six touchdowns. His size has attracted some Division I-A schools, including USF. Expect Tampa to be the main target for quarterback Greg Spann this season.
He did not grow up in Tampa. Or even Florida. He moved from his hometown of Atlanta, where he played for a small private school, midway through his sophomore year. “My dad had family down here so it wasn’t that bad. It’s smaller than Atlanta. It took me a while to get used to it, but I’m used to it now.”
When he first arrived at Lakewood it was basketball season, so he decided to try out for the team and made it. As a junior he was part of the Spartans’ run to the state final. He played in 29 games and averaged more than six points per game. “I do like football better. That’s what I’d like to do in college.”
Away from sports, Tampa mostly likes to hang out with friends. He also likes to watch movies. “I like the Marvel movies the best.”
38. Shelton Quarles Jr., Calvary Christian
Position: Wide receiver, defensive back
Height/weight: 6-0, 185
Quarles is indeed the son of former Bucs linebacker Shelton Quarles. He transferred to Calvary Christian during the offseason from Carrollwood Day. The family still lives in Tampa. Dad is the director of football operations for the Bucs.
All in the family
His sister, Gabby, played volleyball at Carrollwood Day and helped the school win a state championship. She is now at Miami as a student. He has a younger brother, Carlos, who also transferred to Calvary. “(Gabby) was a wonderful older sister. I was always competing with her.”
His father played 10 seasons in the NFL, which meant Quarles got to hang out with his dad growing up. “Being a little kid, to be able to be in that kind of environment and go to games was great. From an early age I knew I had a passion for it.”
On the diamond
He played baseball for Carrollwood Day last season and hit .235 in 21 games. He plans to try out for the Calvary baseball team, which has won two state championships in the past three years.
Quarles has a pregame ritual where he tries to calm himself down instead of getting hyped up. “I always have to sit in a corner by myself and put a towel over my head with my headphones on. I’ve got to get in the zone. I’ll listen to some relaxing music.”
Coming to Calvary Christian was no easy decision. Quarles said it took some getting used to. “I’d been at CDS for the first 15 years of my life. I’ve never been open to change. Coming here I thought it was a little weird. But everyone accepted me just like that. It’s a great atmosphere to come into.”
39. Cesar Reyes, Chamberlain
Position: Offensive line
Height/weight: 6-5, 287
Reyes helped anchor a Chamberlain offensive line that facilitated a balanced offense in 2018. The Chiefs scored nearly 33 points per game, and quarterback Tyler Riddell, who threw for nearly 2,000 yards, was consistently protected.
Living his heritage
Reyes was born and raised in Tampa, but both his parents are from Mexico, where he likes to visit quite often. After the football season last year, Reyes saw family in Toluca — a city just west of Mexico City — for a month. “I want to go again before I go off to college.”
Growing up, Spanish was Reyes’ first language, and he learned English at a young age after his older brothers went to school and started speaking the language at home. Now he sees a lot of benefit to knowing both English and Spanish, while on his trips to Mexico and at home. “Over here, you can help people translate in the grocery store. It’s nice.”
On the trail
Reyes has 19 college offers, including from some of the best teams in the SEC. Reyes hasn’t made a college decision yet, but he’s already taken visits at LSU, Kentucky, Florida, South Carolina and Florida State.
A football break
Reyes played one season of youth football when he was 10 years old, but an injury to his neck caused his mom to take him out of the sport for fear of further injury, and he switched to baseball. When he got to Chamberlain, Reyes said, he went back to his first love.
While Reyes spends most of his time working out, watching film or practicing on the football field, he’s had a longtime interest in old cars and car races. “My brothers and I would go race cars at the track.”
40. De’Kwan Hughes, Armwood
Height/weight: 5-11, 178
Statistics do not tell the whole story with Hughes, who rarely had passes thrown his way. Last season, Hughes had 22 tackles and broke up seven passes. He is a key member of the area’s top secondary.
Hughes’ favorite artist is Chad Thomas, a former University of Miami standout and current Cleveland Browns’ defensive end who goes by the name Major Nine. Hughes got everyone on the team hooked on the producer/rapper, including Hawks coach Evan Davis. In the spring, Davis was able to get Major Nine to talk to the Armwood players about staying focused and what it took to become an NFL player. That same night, Major Nine had a concert in Tampa. Hughes attended along with most of his teammates.
This season, Hughes will play on both sides of the ball. He will get time as a receiver, a position he has not played since he was in youth leagues. “I’m pretty excited about it.”
Countdown to commitment
Since playing in the Class 6A state title in December, Hughes has had 14 offers from colleges. He has narrowed it to a short list that includes Buffalo, Central Michigan, Kent State and Toledo. Hughes was originally going to commit on July 23, his birthday, but will likely make his decision during the season.
Times correspondents Kelly Parsons and Scott Purks contributed to this report.