Game provides athletes second chance to shine
By MEGAN SCOTT
OLDSMAR -- Roshawn Marshall seemed on his way to his dream of a pro football career.
At Tarpon Springs High School, he was a St. Petersburg Times first-team all-county pick each year he played. In his junior year, he scored eight touchdowns for the district champion Spongers.
Marshall, who played cornerback and wide receiver, graduated last year and planned to attend the University of South Florida on a football scholarship.
But his mother died of breast cancer. And instead of playing football, Marshall found himself working to take care of his 8-year-old brother and 6-year-old sister.
Now Marshall, 19, has a second chance. He is one of 70 football players from around the country who will play in the first Winners Grill All-Star Football Classic at Canal Park at 6 p.m. Dec. 30. More than 160 recruiters from small colleges to major universities are expected in the stands.
"It's good for people like me who missed their chance to get a second chance," said Marshall. "There are a ton of people in my situation."
The game, sponsored by Winners Grill, Knock Out Sports and the Florida Athlete Recruiting Service, is designed to give high school seniors and recent graduates a chance to play college football. The program is open to anyone under age 20. Players must pay $300 to participate.
"This game is not just a gimmick but an outside exposure for these athletes," said Jim Terry, founder of the Florida Athlete Recruiting Service in Crystal Beach. "A lot happens in a young man's life between 17 and 19."
Travis Bourguignon knows that's true.
Bourguignon, 18, graduated from Gaither High School in Northdale last year. He wanted to play Division I football but his SAT scores were too low. The kicker hopes to catch a recruiter's eye on Dec. 30.
"I think it's going to be great," said Bourguignon, who has spent the past year training and working. "It's just an opportunity maker. It kind of opens doors for people. I hope to get some looks."
The staff for the two teams, named the Vision and Exhume, is made up of veteran NFL coaches and players, including former All-Pro receiver Ernest Givins and former Florida Gator coach and player Jimmy Dunn. Givins has agreed to coach one of the teams. The other team will be coached by former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Jeff Carlson, who is now a sports anchor on Bay News 9.
The game's rules will have a little twist to them. Terry calls it PG-13 football.
Field goals 45 yards and longer will be worth 4 points. There are no penalties for excessive celebration, and players will use a white football, so it shows up in the dark.
Organizers expect several of the nation's top high school prospects to play, including Aaron Cothran of Tennessee, and Charles Ridgeway and Davanzo Tate, both from Ohio.
"We want to take away that high school monopoly and give any athlete an opportunity to play in our game," said Terry. "There's too many politics in high school football, college football and pro football."
Marshall said he wants to play for Florida State but he's willing to play for Bethune-Cookman College or Florida A&M University in the hopes of transferring after a year.
If Bourguignon doesn't get noticed, he plans to attend junior college in the fall and transfer after two years. Just as long as he's playing football.
"I'm pretty much here to help my team win and hope for the best," he said.
Tickets are $5 and parking is free.
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