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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.
By DAVID MURPHY, Times Staff Writer
Published September 14, 2007
Taylor Rotunda has nice hair.
We're talking really nice hair.
Hair so nice, you expect him to emerge from the locker room yelling, "Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!"
But don't thank the shampoo.
"I just use whatever is in the shower," Rotunda says.
See, Rotunda's a linebacker, and linebackers don't care about beauty products. But they do care about wins, and right now, the Hernando senior would trade his locks for one.
Entering the game against Gulf tonight, Hernando has lost two straight to start the season, including a 35-6 loss to Hudson last week.
And with defensive spark plug Nick Pauliot sidelined with a torn meniscus, all eyes are on Rotunda: the son of a professional wrestler, the kid they call "Mad Max."
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You might remember Mike Rotunda. Shawn Bingham, Hernando defensive coordinator and self-avowed wrestling fan, sure does.
"I used to watch him all the time," Bingham says.
Back in the 1990s, Rotunda was World Wrestling Federation star Irwin R. Schyster.
Earlier in his career, Rotunda, who played college football and wrestled at Syracuse, often teamed with Barry Windham to form the U.S. Express, a tag-team duo that won the WWF World Tag Team Championships twice.
Just so happens, Windham had a sister named Stephanie. She worked for an airline. One day, she flew to Florida to visit her brother.
Six months later, she and Mike Rotunda were married.
They had three children. The oldest, Windham, starred in football and wrestling at Hernando and is now a junior at Troy. The youngest, Mika, is an eighth-grade volleyball player.
The middle one, meanwhile, is charged with helping turn Hernando's season around.
"It's not going to be like it was last week," Taylor Rotunda says.
When Mike Rotunda watches his son on the football field, he still sees the kid who lived his childhood like a rabid squirrel. Once, at a wrestling event, Taylor walked up to pro wrestler the Undertaker and kicked him in the shins.
"Every time you turned around, you had to check where Taylor was," Mike says, "because he'd be on the roof or climbing something."
The energy translates on the field.
Last year, Hernando's defense was one of the bright spots on a squad that finished 2-8. In a season-opening 21-19 loss to Central, it held the Bears under 150 yards of total offense. At 6-1, 230 pounds, Taylor Rotunda is in the center of it all.
"He's a prototypical Mike linebacker," Bingham says.
Taylor wants to play in college. He says he's received some interest but is concentrating primarily on his grades.
A wrestling career is a possibility: Mike has no objections, and Taylor says that once football and college are over, it's something he'll seriously consider.