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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.
Plant salutatorian Kevin McCarthy quickly turned from a bit of a football novice to a sack master in his senior season.
By SCOTT PURKS
Published June 3, 2006
TAMPA - There's something intriguing, even mystifying about Kevin McCarthy and what he accomplished last year as an athlete.
He was, by his own admission, smaller, slower, weaker, more awkward and less experienced than just about anyone he faced. And though he never came out and said it, he often was better than any of his opponents.
He was, in fact, a 200-pound defensive end at Plant who before last season had never really played football.
"I sat the bench as a freshman on the junior varsity but I quit after that to concentrate on school," McCarthy said. "(Plant coach Bob Weiner) asked me to come and try football before my senior year and because I liked Coach Weiner so much, I decided to give it another try."
He barely remembered how to get in a proper stance. But from the first moment of practice he was voracious. In his learning. In his workouts. In his passion.
"I loved playing football," he said.
His learning curve was darn near straight up. By the time his senior season started, McCarthy was a sack machine. In the first game he got a couple, second game the same and so on and so on.
How? By the second half of games, Weiner said, McCarthy would have figured out the opposing offensive lineman's weaknesses and he would, in some fashion, exploit them.
"The sacks kept piling up but then I thought let's see how he does against a good team," Weiner said. "That team would be Hillsborough."
Not only did the Terriers have beefy, well-coached offensive linemen, but they had one of the nation's fastest players at quarterback, Jarred Fayson.
But somehow, some way, it didn't matter.
McCarthy finished that game with no fewer than four sacks and 17 tackles. And on it went through the season. Sack. Sack. Sack.
In the end he had 24, which would be a remarkable number for any major Division I recruit, of which McCarthy was not.
"No, sir," he said. "My playing days are over."
What lies ahead is the pursuit of a chemical engineering and pre-med degree at the University of Florida where - after never getting anything less than an A since the sixth grade and finishing Plant with a 7.36 weighted GPA as salutatorian - he has received a full scholarship ride for academics.
"I wouldn't really say so," McCarthy said. "I do wish that my father (former Robinson principal Kevin McCarthy, who died of a heart attack at 39 on Nov. 16, 2003) would have seen me play. I think he would have loved it and I think he would have been proud."