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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Gibbs coach Al Davis, who stays invested in his players' futures beyond high school, says this is his last season.
By BOB PUTNAM
Published June 3, 2006
For the past three years, Gibbs practiced and played elsewhere because the campus was undergoing a $44.5-million dollar facelift.
The situation was hardly ideal, but Al Davis continued coaching so he could see the finished product.
Now that it is here, Davis announced the upcoming season (16th overall) will be his last.
"I always wanted to be here to open the new stadium," Davis said. "I've got a good group of kids coming back who played on the road for three years and finally get to come home. They were the ones that kept me going."
Davis, 59, will teach physical education through the 2006-07 school year before retiring. He said the school hopes to name his replacement by next spring.
"I'm hoping to guide whoever becomes the new coach and make a smooth transition," Davis said.
Davis made a name for himself by constantly working to get his players into colleges. In his 13 years as coach at Gibbs, Davis has had more than 90 players sign to play college football, including 34 the past two seasons.
The most notable player he coached was Shaun King, who led the Gladiators to their first state playoff appearances in 1993 and '94. King started at Tulane before being drafted by the Buccaneers.
Coaching a noteworthy quarterback helped Davis establish a relationship with recruiters. He goes to camps, all-star games, recruiting fairs - anything to spread the word about his players. Davis has become so adept at finding a college for players that students from other schools try to enlist his services.
A tireless promoter, Davis sacrifices time and money for his players because others did the same for him. Davis played at Gibbs and graduated in 1966. Through the help of basketball coach Fred Dyles and others, Davis went to Bethune-Cookman on a scholarship.
He came to coach wrestling and football at his alma mater in 1991. Davis gave up coaching wrestling in 1999 to concentrate on football. His record is 64-102 and his teams have made the playoffs five times (1993, 1994, 2000, 2001 and 2004).
The Gladiators open their new stadium against neighboring rival Lakewood on Aug. 25.
"Gibbs football is in my blood," Davis said. "It's going to be tough to say goodbye."
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