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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.
TAMPA - Freedom junior two-way lineman Matt Patchan, projected as one of Hillsborough County's top recruits next season, said Wednesday evening he plans to transfer.
Patchan 6-foot-7, 265 pounds hasn't decided which school he'll attend next fall or if he'll remain in the bay area, but said his family's Tampa Palms home - only 2 miles from Freedom - is for sale.
His announcement comes a week after Freedom principal Richard Bartels made a similarly stunning declaration, naming former USF quarterback Marquel Blackwell as Patriots coach over interim coach Leon Brockmeier.
"That had some bearing on (the decision to leave)," Patchan said.
Brockmeier, a former all-Big Ten lineman at Northwestern, took over the team after Adam Stegeman was dismissed three games into the 2006 season and ultimately led Freedom (6-5) to a road upset of Hillsborough and the program's first playoff berth. Blackwell was an offensive assistant on the team.
"I was very surprised," Patchan said. "I thought Coach Brock did a great job as interim head coach. He helped turn around the season and went through a difficult process."
A first-team pick on the Times' all-Suncoast team, Patchan said he heard of Blackwell's hiring while at a combine in San Antonio, Texas, held in conjunction with last weekend's U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
A series of meetings with his family - his dad is former University of Miami offensive lineman and Patriots assistant Matt Patchan Sr. - ensued. The younger Patchan said his decision also stemmed from what he called a negative atmosphere surrounding the football program at Freedom.
"We've been talking and thinking since then, and just decided Freedom's not the best place for me," he said.
Brockmeier remains on the Freedom faculty, and still serves as boys track coach. Bartels wasn't immediately available for comment Wednesday night.
"I went in there and told (Bartels) I was disappointed," Brockmeier said. "He didn't really say much; he said both of us interviewed very well and he went with his gut. ...I'm a firm believer everything happens for a reason."