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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.
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All-around good kid, player, friend
The South Pasco Predators dedicate the season to a boy who exemplified everything the football league believes in.
By KELLIE DIXON, Times Staff Writer
Published September 28, 2007
Jim Kranendonk speaks to the South Pasco Predators with his sons John and Robert and wife, Mary Jane, nearby. The team dedicated its season to Thomas Kranendonk, who at 16, died in an accident at his father's marine service company.
[Kellie Dixon | Times]
Thomas Kranendonk played Pop Warner football for two seasons.
Thomas Kranendonk was a good kid.
On that point, everyone agreed.
He never grumbled about working at his dad's business to help pay for his car insurance.
He offered to help his grandmother fix lunch, while his siblings bolted for the pool.
He refused to let his teammates fail academically.
Those were the kind of stories shared during a ceremony on Monday by the South Pasco Predators. The Pop Warner football league dedicated its season to Kranendonk on its brand-new field at Land O'Lakes Recreation Center.
The stories, shared among friends before and after the ceremony, all pointed to the same thing - he was first rate.
Kranendonk, 16, was killed in July while working at his father's marine service company. Officials ruled the event an accident.
Chuck Vetzel, an assistant coach on Kranendonk's former Predators team, wiped his eyes while Kranendonk's father addressed the crowd.
Around 300 people, including several of Kranendonk's football teammates, gathered for the dedication.
"I can't think of a better symbol for Pop Warner football and the type of young man it is designed to produce than Thomas," Vetzel said afterward.
Kranendonk played for the Predators' Junior Midgets team for two years after his childhood friend Brad Morrison encouraged him to join. Brad's father, Steve, coached the Junior Midgets at the time. Kranendonk was a guard, and he would block for Morrison time and time again.
Kranendonk and Morrison began their close friendship at age 3.
They played football, golf and water-skied. As 16-year-olds, they were getting more into their cars - Thomas had a Jeep, Brad had a truck. They loved to play pranks.
Steve Morrison said that the Thursday before the accident, the boys were in his backyard, hitting golf balls at him on his boat.
Morrison joked he was safe because of the boys' limited golfing skills.
But the boys took football seriously. In his final Pop Warner season, Kranendonk had to shed 20 pounds to play for the Junior Midgets.
Brad Morrison had to lose 15. Together, the two made it.
Kranendonk's commitment didn't waver when it came to academics, either. Cameron Smith, a junior lineman for Land O'Lakes, remembers how his former teammate, who held a 3.4 weighted grade point average, asked him every day after school about his grades.
"He was always the good kid," said Land O'Lakes junior Shane Davey. "He never did anything wrong."