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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 - Jefferson led the bay area with eight players signing national letters of intent and a ninth accepting an academic scholarship with the intent to play.
Leading the Dragons was quarterback Stephen Garcia, who is enrolled in spring classes at the University of South Carolina.
Offensive lineman Mike Williams, defensive back Kevin Brown, defensive lineman DeMarcus Cleveland and tight end Byron McLeod signed with Middle Tennessee State.
Wide receiver Evan Cromer signed with Eastern Kentucky, defensive lineman Tyler Hardin signed with Air Force and utility man Trey Hill signed with Division II Wayne State.
Defensive back Marcus McGee accepted an academic scholarship with Middle Tennessee State "with the intent that he will play football there," Jefferson coach Mike Fenton said.
"I think the fact that we had so many sign is a credit to our program, our administration and our entire faculty," Fenton said.
"One of the things I'm most proud of is that all of these guys qualified academically. We have tried to do everything to get our players to the next level, and I think (Wednesday) is testament to that."
Fenton said as many as four more players could sign within the next month.
IF THE PITT HAT FITS ... : Two hats sat on a table in front of Middleton defensive back Sherod Murdock - one with "Pitt" printed on it, the other "Alabama."
"But that was just for a little fun," said Murdock, wearing his Pitt hat. "You know, after everything that happened."
Murdock orally committed to Alabama then changed his mind after Mike Shula was fired in December and later replaced by Nick Saban.
"I didn't get that much attention (from Saban)," Murdock said. "After I visited Pitt, I knew that was my new home. I have no ill feelings at all toward Alabama, and I think everything worked out for the best."
FAT CASH: The six Armwood players who signed were three shy of the school signing day record established in 2000 and only a few bucks shy of netting a million dollars in total scholarship value.
According to a release issued by the school, if the players - Derrall Anderson (Arizona State), Torrey Davis (Florida), Justin Hickman (VMI), Deondre Kyles (Middle Tennessee), Marquise Branton (Middle Tennessee and Darren de Rochemont (Tulane) - remain on scholarship for five years, their total scholarship value will be $948,575.
Since 1990, 131 Hawks players have earned scholarships, including 59 at the Division I level, according to the release.
Hickman Gets Marching Orders: The white button-down shirt and tie that Armwood quarterback Justin Hickman wore to the Hawks' six-player signing ceremony is something to which he'll have to get acclimated.
Hickman signed with Division I-AA Virginia Military Institute, where he'll be required to rise at 6:30 each morning, wear a military-style uniform to classes, march to breakfast and dinner and be prohibited from having a television set in his room.
"It's going to be tougher than going to a regular college," he said. "But it will make me a better person."
An option quarterback also recruited by Morehead State, Hickman broke down at the podium while thanking his family, especially his dad, Jimmy Hickman, for helping him secure a scholarship.
Jimmy said his son's scholarship comes with no military obligation, but Justin would be commissioned as an officer should he choose a military career upon graduating
WHO'S THE BOSS? Versatile Berkeley Prep 300-pounder Colin Boss, who signed with Middle Tennessee State, became the second Buccaneers offensive lineman in as many seasons to sign a Division I scholarship. Former teammate Jim Barrie signed with Florida in 2006.
Times staff writer Joey Knight contributed to this report.