St. Petersburg Times Online: Sports
TampaBay.com
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather
tampabay.com

printer version

Big men on campus ... literally

East Lake's philosophy has helped it produce top-caliber offensive linemen.

By BOB PUTNAM

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 20, 2000


EAST LAKE -- They roam through the hallways, and people make room. It's easy to see why. Not many men consume so much space.

Such is the life for the offensive linemen at East Lake. They are the big men on campus and they are, well, big.

But it is not just their size that makes them overshadow their teammates. It is their status. They are celebrities.

More than any other line in Pinellas County, this one is the object of coaches' and recruiters' affection.

Here's the proof.

When Matt Meinrod, 6 feet 5, 265 pounds, orally committed to Florida State in August, he became the third offensive lineman for the Eagles to commit to a Division I school in as many years. Nick Romeo, 6-2, 290, and Brad Leyanaar, 6-6, 260, signed with Syracuse in 1999 and 2000, respectively.

"I don't know what makes us produce good offensive linemen," East Lake coach Tom Keeler said. "Maybe it's in the water here."

Actually, there's more to it than that. It starts with the Eagles' philosophy. Keeler has built his team from the inside out, and he has a great appreciation for those in the trenches.

"First of all, we run the ball here," Keeler said. "But we also take care and value our offensive linemen. We treat them with the same regard as our quarterbacks and running backs."

Usually, offensive linemen are lucky if the quarterback or running backs buy them lunch or mention their great blocking to the press. Not at East Lake.

"We award our kids," Keeler said. "If a running back runs for more than 100 yards or the team runs for more than 200, 300 or 400 yards, we give our praise and support. It's a value system to where the linemen are treated the same. Oh, and here's something else, you'll never see a running back complain to a lineman."

Added Meinrod: "We love to pick up the newspaper the next day and see how our team did rushing. That makes me and the rest of the linemen feel proud."

While Keeler has done his part to build up the mentally of his linemen, the players do their part to build themselves physically. The weight room is where they spend most of their spare time. Romeo was a two-time state champion in weightlifting, and the Eagles have three players who can bench press more than 400 pounds. This year's unit averages 243 pounds, and that doesn't include tight end Bobby Williamson, who is 6-3, 240.

"We might have five guys who can get 400 pounds by the end of the season," Keeler said. "We give the guys until they graduate to try and get it. I think we're spoiled with the dedication to getting stronger. It's crazy. Before, the goal always was to bench press 300 pounds. Now 400 is the benchmark."

But it's not all brawn. These guys have brains, too. Romeo was the Times Scholar-Athlete in 1999, and most graduate with at least a 3.0 grade-point average. "They're all intelligent, and that makes our job so much easier," Keeler said. "They pick up things quickly, and they're physically and mentally ready to go."

Tonight, the line faces its biggest challenge of the season as East Lake plays host to Hillsborough in a game that most likely will decide the district champion.

"I'm looking forward to it," Meinrod said. "Those are the best I play. We're ready to get after them again."

Back to Sports
Back to Top

© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
Contact the Times | Privacy Policy
Standard of Accuracy | Terms, Conditions & Copyright
 

From the Times sports desk

Hubert Mizell

  • In their hour of need, Buccaneers fall flat
  • Gary Shelton

  • Bucs have forgotten they are running team
  • Bucs

  • Knocked silly
  • Bucs offense starving for more touchdowns
  • Defense can't salvage an inept offense
  • Almost really special
  • Turn out the lights
  • Fire and ice
  • Quick hits
  • Game balls
  • Bucs-Lions quotebook
  • Their own worst enemy
  • Baseball

  • Outside hype, you'll find Mets' best
  • Experts predict Subway Series will keep entire nation intrigued
  • Subway Series inspires the Web to offer coverage as big as N.Y.
  • Mets opt for Leiter in opener
  • Baseball briefs
  • Golf

  • U.S. blasts to 5-0 lead in Presidents Cup
  • Hulbert captures the first round
  • How to be on the road when you're at home
  • Locals Kraft and Heintz play to varied extremes
  • Lightning

  • With Devils on the horizon, Ludzik shuffles top 3 lines
  • College football

  • Iowa State trip smooth for Griffin
  • 'He is critical to this program'
  • College football around the state
  • College football around the nation
  • Preps

  • Players of the week
  • Tampa Bay top 10
  • The Pinellas top 10
  • Tampa Bay football
  • Short-handed Hudson pulverizes Ridgewood
  • Pinellas football
  • Big men on campus ... literally
  • The playoff chase
  • Familiar foes meet for title
  • Lions not taking Titans lightly
  • Crusaders' silence only fuels speculation
  • Et cetera

  • Ring renegades Tyson, Golota battle tonight
  • Tempest ready to stir in Tampa
  • Sports briefs
  • NFL briefs
  • NBA briefs


  • From the wire

    From the state sports wire
  • Jacksonville's Spicer placed on IR after leg surgery
  • FIU-Western Kentucky game postponed because of Jeanne
  • Brown anxious to face old team for first time
  • Dolphins' desperate defense readies for Roethlisberger
  • Former Sarasota lineman sheds tough-guy image with Michigan
  • Rothstein rejoins Heat as assistant
  • No. 16 Florida has history on its side against Kentucky
  • FSU and Clemson QBs both off to slow starts