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Tarpon stars front and center

By Compiled by Times staff

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 23, 2001

It has been quite a run of athletic feats for alumni of Tarpon Springs High the past 13 months.

It started at the college football national championship game Jan.4, 2000, when 1995 Tarpon Springs graduate Pete Henderson, a senior defensive back, played for FSU in its 46-29 win over Virginia Tech.

At last year's Super Bowl, 1990 Tarpon graduate Mike Gruttadauria played center for the Rams in their 23-16 win over the Titans.

In April, 1997 Tarpon graduate Dave Kliewer played in Florida's 89-76 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA basketball championship game.

And this week, Tarpon will have a presence in a second straight Super Bowl when offensive lineman Kipp Vickers, a 1988 graduate, plays for the Ravens.

"We're real proud of what these guys are doing," said Tarpon Springs football coach Don Davis, who guided the Spongers to a 9-2 mark and a state playoff berth this season. "It is a heck of a feat and great for the school."


Rick Tuten, a former Seahawks and Florida State punter, boomed a 322-yarder off the No.1 tee to win the longest drive competition Monday at the United Way Celebrity Pro-Am at Black Diamond Ranch in Lecanto.

"That's what I'm known for, long drives," said Tuten, who resides in his native Ocala with his wife and two sons. "The secret is to throw technique out the window and empty the golf bag."

Former 49ers and University of Miami quarterback George Mira's team of amateurs (Sam Nixon, Mark Payne, Ray Yarborough and Black Diamond member John Pierpont) won the scramble with 10-under 62.

Other NFL celebrities included Steve DeBerg, Ricky Nattiel, Mark Carrier, Ernie Mills, Scot Brantley, Monty Grow, Chris Doering and Ricky Proehl. The second-year event, organized by Citrus High School product and former UF and Packers tight end Charlie Dean, raised an estimated $70,000 for the Citrus County chapter of United Way.

Proehl, whose touchdown beat the Bucs in last year's NFC Championship game, was the high bidder ($585) in a silent auction for an autographed Joe Montana jersey. Proehl bid the same for John Elway's jersey but left early and was outbid by $5.

Cycling safety

As if there isn't enough happening around Raymond James Stadium, try having kids from Mort Elementary and Seminole Heights Elementary riding in a bike rodeo in the parking lot of the Tampa Bay Center, directly behind the stadium.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the NFL and the Florida Department of Transportation are sponsoring the injury-prevention program from 9:30 a.m. to noon Wednesday.

It's an old-fashioned bike rodeo, but with sports celebrities. Called "Ride Like A Pro," it encourages kids to wear helmets.

A better spin

Bills linebacker Keith Newman, a graduate of Tampa's Jefferson High, was in eighth grade the last time the Super Bowl was in his hometown.

Because Newman plays for the team that lost that 1991 game in agonizing fashion (the Giants beat Buffalo 20-19 when Scott Norwood's 47-yard field goal attempt was wide right with four seconds remaining), his memories of the event tend to be Buffalo-centric.

"Mostly what I remember about it, at least now, being a Buffalo Bill, is that it was the first of four consecutive Super Bowls for the Bills, and had they won it, they probably would have won two out of the four instead of losing all four," said Newman, who attended North Carolina and just completed his second season with Buffalo.

Higher priorities

The last time the Super Bowl came to town, football fan Ben Nelson watched only part of the game even though multiple TVs were on around him. With good reason.

In 1991, Nelson, a brigadier general in the Air Force and the wing commander at MacDill Air Force Base, had a "different preoccupation": the Gulf War.

"I remember watching part of it," he said of Super Bowl XXV, adding that he remembers Norwood's missed field goal but isn't sure if he saw it live or on replay.

"I know CNN was obviously on 24 hours a day most places I was," said Nelson, retired but still living in the area. "You need to take a break from that kind of stuff if you can, so I think most people welcomed the opportunity to watch the Super Bowl or at least portions of it."


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