St. Petersburg Times Online: Sports
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather

printer version

Big dreams without big heads

The hype is real, and so are the college offers. But three of the county's top players won't lose focus on the task at hand.

By JOHN C. COTEY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 6, 2002

When it comes to their senior season, Lakewood's Pat Carter and Julian Riley and Clearwater Central Catholic's LeRue Rumph are being told many things.

They have shoe boxes stuffed with letters from coaches at the best college football programs in the country, telling them they can be stars.

Classmates, looking for a bandwagon, can't wait to tell them they're the man.

Then there is the hype. By way of newspaper articles, eager recruiting gurus and internet sites, as well as praise from opposing coaches, they are told that their many talents -- the strong arms, the speed, the strength -- make them the best.

That is the yin of high school football.

Here's the yang: the high school coach, who can't offer the fame and future riches colleges can, who won't fawn over his own players, who prefers his stars don't devour too big a helping of the hype.

* * *

Riley admits it: He watches college games and "sweats" getting so excited about playing on television. The fans screaming, the shots of the sidelines, the sounds of the band instantly vault him past his senior year of high school and into college.

"I dream about it," he said, "all the time."

Julian Riley
[Times photo: Laura Cerri]
Pat Carter
[Times photo: Laura Cerri]
LeRue Rumph
[Times photo: Jim Damaske]
Lakewood quarterback Pat Carter, bottom left, Lakewood defensive end Julian Riley, top, and Clearwater Central Catholic receiver and defensive back LeRue Rumph, bottom right, remain grounded with the help of their high school coaches and families, who are always ready to put them in their place if an ego gets too big. Colleges such as Louisiana State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Tulane, Southern Cal, Wisconsin and Miami bombard the trio with letters each week.
This is what scares coaches. Before a game has even been played, if even for just one Saturday afternoon, a player can easily forget something like his senior season.

And if, say, Lakewood coach Brian Bruch finds that a frightening thought?

"I wouldn't really blame him," Riley said. "But with me, it's just two different days. Today I was watching a (high school) scoreboard show on TV, and if I'm tripping over college that's something that will ground me real quick. There was a segment on (Tampa) Jefferson, and all I could think about then was how bad I want to play them."

Yin. Yang.

But Bruch said he considers himself a fortunate man, for he has had no problems getting his players back from a youthful moment of college dreaming. Carter, a 6-foot-2, 175-pound quarterback, already has written offers from Louisiana State, Georgia Tech, Minnesota and Tulane. Riley, a 6-4, 240-pound defensive end, has offers from Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Miami and Tulane. And neither walks around at practice as if they know it.

"Patrick, he handles the attention with a little more reserve, almost as if he expects it," Bruch said. "Julian, he's just happy as a clam, ecstatic that someone even offered him a scholarship."

Bruch draws only a paltry stipend compared to his hours of work as a coach, with no state championships or endorsement contracts, but in Carter and Riley's world he commands the same attention as the six-figured, smartly attired, trophy-bearing coaches begging for his signature on signing day.

"Bruch tries to keep you grounded and make sure your head doesn't get too big," Riley said.

As for Bruch having to remind his stars they are still his for one more year before possible fame in college, Riley added, "It never really comes to that. I'm a pretty hard worker. I know I'm not in college yet. I have goals in high school to accomplish, and to do that if I need to run those extra gassers, I run them."

* * *

At CCC, Rumph is finding out that despite 50 letters a week and offers from Clemson, Georgia and Southern Cal, he's just one of the Marauders.

So when he begs out of running sprints, he finds a brick wall. And he's glad.

"LeRue, he's a special kid," new Marauder coach Mike Jalazo said. "He doesn't want to be bigger than the team. He's everything you'd want in a kid. I don't know, it's part the school, part how we the coaches are consistent in how we treat our players. I don't treat LeRue any more special than the next kid.

"Yesterday we're running, and he said, 'Coach my knee's getting sore.' I said, 'LeRue, you're a Division I player, you're going to be playing with some pain, run your sprints.' And he ran his sprints."

Rumph, a 6-2, 210-pound safety and wide receiver, is grateful for the extra push he gets at practice. He broke his leg in the fourth week last year, a spiral fracture of the tibia, and missed the rest of the season. The letters never stopped coming, though.

Rumph doesn't think being a hot recruit has affected the way he goes about practice or responds to Jalazo's instructions. If anything, he said, the attention makes him work harder.

When Jalazo demands that last sprint, he obliges. You never know who might be watching.

"If I'm playing and glance over and see (Florida assistant) coach (Joe) Wickline, I'll step my game up just another notch to impress him," Rumph said. "I'm always trying to give 100 percent, but if I see a coach I'm going 101 percent. You have to (notice). You can't have a half-game with a coach watching, you have to notice they're watching you playing."

Jalazo said he demands 100 percent, regardless how many letters a player has stashed under his bed. And if that player decides a recruiter's praise holds more weight than what his high school coach is telling him to do on the practice field, then good-bye.

"Any kids will try to test you, and our response is if you're not going to play, get off the field," Jalazo said. "If I ever had a formula, it's being consistent in your coaching staff, treating your players the same, working harder than them and having them work hard.

"Sometimes coaches at this level don't keep that perspective of what we're really here for."

* * *

Bruch and Jalazo have another thing in their favor when it comes to keeping their future college players focused on the task at hand: strong households. These players have families looking out for the same things that concern the coaches, such as lapses in the classroom, half-hearted practice efforts or arrogance.

"It's something you have to look out for as a parent," said John Carter, Pat's father and veteran of the recruiting game. "You don't know who's giving him input and what effect that might take on him."

Chuckling, John Carter added, "but we have a way of knocking that big head down."

Pat Carter said life at home includes a steady stream of interaction. His parents keep a close eye on him ("If he goes out, it has to be for a definite purpose," John said.), and brother Tim is in touch from New York where he plays for the NFL Giants.

In 1998, Tim experienced many of the same pressures. Though not as heavily recruited, he received a host of letters, made his visits and fielded dozens of calls before signing with Auburn. Pat said he watched all this intently, and witnessing his brother navigate all the attention with nary a hint of braggadocio, said he was duly impressed.

"Really, this is all like deja vu for me," Carter said. "I've seen my brother go through it and everywhere he went, he made sure to include me and told me what to look out for."

Lesson No. 1: Listen to the coach.

Lesson No. 2: Keep things from going to your head.

"Man, if my brother heard I was walking around (like I was the bomb), he'd get me on the phone as soon as he found out," Carter said, laughing. "He'd kill me."

As for Riley, he hears it all the time from his older siblings and parents, making it tough for his admittedly cocky demeanor to spiral out of control.

"My brother (Adhrien) and sister (Khendra) keep me grounded," he said. "My sister is always telling me how sorry I am and how I can do this better, and my dad (Michael) is always like, 'Julian, you can do this better,' and my mom (Pauline) even said we're going to lose a couple of games. Yeah, they have ways of keeping me grounded. But it's good."

Back to Sports
Back to Top

© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
Contact the Times | Privacy Policy
Standard of Accuracy | Terms, Conditions & Copyright

From the Times sports desk

U.S. Open Tennis
  • Sampras whips the kid
  • First Hewitt-Agassi match was a stunner
  • Davenport and Mauresmo up against Williams wall

  • On the Net
  • Tennis sites top NFL in searches

  • Colleges
  • 'Canes' DBs face big test
  • State practice reports
  • Silence isn't golden for DTs
  • Loss leads to better days
  • Beavers cruise to victory
  • Around the Nation

  • Baseball
  • AL: A-Rod reaches 50 HRs in rout
  • NL: Four-run first helps Schilling get 22nd win
  • Baseball notebook
  • Streak is nice, but A's want division

  • Motorsports
  • Stewart nips Harvick for rare Truck victory

  • NFL
  • 49ers win season opener
  • Around the NFC
  • Around the AFC

  • Sports on TV, Radio
  • Fox trio of announcers paving way to top spot

  • Preps
  • Mitchell promotes JV coach
  • Bears open with victory
  • New Chiefs, same dreams
  • Why run when they can fly?

  • Etc.
  • In brief
  • UT ready to honor its best

  • Outdoors
  • Daily fishing report

  • NFL Football preview 2002
  • Light up the cannons and hold your ears
  • Gimme Five
  • Gruden's path littered with historic hurdles
  • League site gives fans what they want
  • Bucs by the numbers
  • Kiffin's in charge of the defense, as always
  • Bucs Q&A
  • What to bring and what to leave home
  • Dilger site knocked off-line by Sept. 11
  • NFL Q&A
  • New rules
  • NFC South capsules
  • Confidence still strong despite loss of talent
  • Saints notebook
  • Bucs coaches
  • Falcons Notebook
  • So fast, they're scary
  • Buccaneers defensive capsules
  • Buccaneers offensive capsules
  • The Florida Keys
  • 'I am making a guarantee'
  • Staff predictions
  • Buccaneers at a glance
  • Bucs: High Hopes
  • Coaching changes
  • On the road with the Bucs
  • Team by team breakdown
  • Dolphins: For the fans
  • No more excuses for Miami
  • New NFL stadiums
  • Jacksonville looking dim without its stars
  • Jaguars: For the fans
  • NFL: By the numbers
  • What they're saying about the Bucs
  • What they're saying about the Dolphins
  • What they're saying about the Dolphins
  • What's past is past for Panthers, unless you hang on for motivation
  • Panthers: Special teams must keep scoring points

  • Prep football preview 2002
  • 4A-6 DISTRICT PREVIEW: Defending champ faces tough road
  • Losing season doesn't sit well with Hawks
  • Team's continued rise depends on cohesion
  • Graduation forces Spongers to ''reload''
  • Barons look forward to tough schedule
  • New-look Warhawks boast lofty goals
  • New Pats coach plans plenty of changes
  • Devils welcome fresh cast of characters
  • 'Canes in playoffs? Not that far-fetched
  • Explosive Felton to carry Warriors' load
  • Small Mustangs must rely on experience
  • Harris looks to measure up in win column
  • Packers boast new weapon at quarterback
  • Loaded Spartans have talent to dominate
  • Crusaders hope to make success a habit
  • Numbers to give Eagles breathing room
  • Gladiators trying to stay more grounded
  • Eagles likely to finally get off the ground
  • Seniors have Falcons thinking playoffs
  • Rebels pinning hopes on healthy veterans
  • Cougars must surmount rugged district
  • Healthy Marauders pose playoff threat
  • Nucleus has Tornadoes primed to rebound
  • Pirates hope confidence is the difference
  • New coach looking to stretch the field
  • Big dreams without big heads
  • You've come a long way baby!
  • The small things come first for county's newest teams
  • Hillsborough distric outlook
  • From the editor:
  • Team's character, offense are focus
  • West Preview: Could this be the season the west finally fights back?
  • Veteran leadership strength of Cougars
  • This Cowboys coach promises to stay put
  • Don't be surprised by Indians this time
  • It's now or never for the Dragons
  • Potential for title run has Lions' attention
  • One loss motivates Tigers to improve
  • Leto's new offense, season hold promise
  • Reaves ready to put Panthers in spotlight
  • Rebuilding Raiders must grow up fast
  • It's Hicks' turn to carry load for Knights
  • New-look Titans plan to pass first
  • Too many veterans not to be optimistic
  • Crusaders continue rebuilding project
  • Wildcats begin to whisper about playoffs
  • Last season's woes strengthen Eagles
  • Ravens' growth will determine success
  • Last season's stars are tough to replace
  • Bucs want early wins then trip to playoffs
  • Nine-game skid shakes team's foundation
  • Bulls out to end trend of one-win seasons
  • Depth in trenches crucial for Eagles
  • Pasco County: For the fans
  • Playoff losses big motivation for Gators
  • The word little's a big deal for Mustangs
  • If Pirates can remain healthy, watch out
  • This season's schedule bound to have more surprises
  • New coach, offense give Rams new hope
  • Juniors out to resurrect Knights' success
  • Wildcats prepare for tougher challenges
  • Bulldogs are lacking in numbers, as usual
  • 10 Games to Watch: A week-by-week county primer
  • 10 Questions: Setting the record straight for 2002 ... sort of
  • Gators begin making big waves
  • National Signing Day will be a big deal this time around
  • Bucs sport a new look called the Spread-I
  • Conference race has new meaning
  • Offense has promise, defense a concern
  • Weightman to test reloading Hudson
  • New Bears coach is all about approach
  • Hernando: For the Fans
  • On the Net
  • Castillo, Leopards ready to break into open
  • Eagles to take field with winning feeling
  • Hernando County's college players to watch
  • Eagles in for rocky start, strong finish
  • Springstead ready to push Central
  • Scheme stays same but faces change
  • Panthers standout isn't very hard to find on field
  • Pirates bent on dismissing doubters, foes
  • Panthers have tasted success, want more
  • Buoyed by experience, athleticism
  • Tigers have playoff potential if they unite
  • A whole new offensive ballgame
  • Citrus County football from A to Z

  • Rays
  • Rays, Kennedy get swept away
  • Naimoli says deal should help sport
  • Nash to get out of jail
  • Up next: Rangers

  • Bucs
  • Productive Saints QB still looking for respect
  • Lightning forces players into garage

  • From the wire

    From the state sports wire
  • Jacksonville's Spicer placed on IR after leg surgery
  • FIU-Western Kentucky game postponed because of Jeanne
  • Brown anxious to face old team for first time
  • Dolphins' desperate defense readies for Roethlisberger
  • Former Sarasota lineman sheds tough-guy image with Michigan
  • Rothstein rejoins Heat as assistant
  • No. 16 Florida has history on its side against Kentucky
  • FSU and Clemson QBs both off to slow starts