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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.
BROOKSVILLE - At one point this offseason, DuJuan Harris' situation became so bleak, his mother contemplated taking a second job as a construction worker to pay for college.
So when the Central running back put his signature on his letter of intent to attend Troy on Wednesday, a tear rolled down Rose Jones' face.
"It's a relief," Jones said of her youngest son, the first member of the family to attend college.
Harris' signing ended a process that probably could have merited a reality show. After rushing for more than 1,600 yards, scoring 19 touchdowns and leading Central to a near-upset of Daytona Beach Seabreeze in the Class 4A playoffs, the 5-foot-9, 185-pounder found himself largely unwanted.
The low point came when Harris was told he no longer was being recruited by Bethune-Cookman - in a text message.
But a late flurry of action netted him scholarship offers from Division I-AA Florida A&M and Troy, a I-A school that plays in the Sun Belt conference. FAMU offered first, and Harris accepted. But after visiting Troy, which recently won its first bowl game, he committed there.
On informing FAMU he was backing out of his commitment: "I manned up."
ON THE FLY: Sederrik Cunningham held a ceremony at Zephyrhills' media center, where he signed with I-AA Furman. The quarterback also considered Middle Tennessee and was briefly pursued by Iowa State.
Cunningham, who was a third-stringer as a sophomore, developed into a standout that year when coach Tom Fisher allowed him to learn on the fly. Cunningham attended a camp at Florida the next summer and truly became committed to developing into a prospect.
IF THE PITT HAT FITS ...: Two hats sat on a table in front of Middleton defensive back Sherod Murdock. One read "Pitt," the other "Alabama."
"But that was just for a little fun," said Murdock, wearing his Pittsburgh hat, "after everything that happened."
Murdock orally committed to Alabama only to change 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."
TOP CLASS: Jefferson led the bay area with eight signees, not including one who accepted an academic scholarship with the intent to play. Leading the Dragons was quarterback Stephen Garcia, who has enrolled in spring classes at South Carolina.
Four players - offensive lineman Mike Williams, defensive back Kevin Brown, defensive lineman DeMarcus Cleveland and tight end Byron McLeod - signed with Middle Tennessee.
GEOGRAPHY PRIZE: Plant wins the award for placing players in the widest geographic range.
At a news conference, coach Bob Weiner announced players would be going to Miami (quarterback Robert Marve), Air Force in Colorado Springs, Colo. (offensive lineman Alex Townsend), Furman in Greenville, S.C. (defensive back Luke Rorech) and Hawaii (linebacker Brent Thomas).
Marve, Townsend and Rorech signed letters of intent. Thomas is going to Hawaii as a preferred walk-on after visiting the school in January.
MILES AND MILES: When Brenda Williams first got her 2004 Ford Expedition, it had 23,000 miles on it. But that was before her son, St. Petersburg defensive tackle Lawon Scott, started getting recruited. On consecutive weekends, Williams and Scott drove to North Carolina, South Carolina and Mississippi.
Now the SUV has 27,000 miles on it, and he will play at Ole Miss.
"I'd never driven that far once (before the recruiting trips in January)," Williams said.
But after visits to the Citadel, Wake Forest and Ole Miss resulted in scholarship offers, she'd gladly do it again.
STAYING HOME: Boca Ciega running back Josh Bellamy resisted two months of flirtation from Florida coaches and signed with USF.
Bellamy, the Times' No. 5 Bay Area recruit, wore a green and gold polo shirt and Bulls hat as he shared the moment with grandmother Barbara Washington, mother Alicia Butler and stepfather Tim Daniels.
"I like (Bellamy) a lot," CSTV recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said. "He can run, play offense and defense. He's a great athlete."
Times staff writers Izzy Gould, Joey Knight and Scott Purks contributed to this report.