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Athletic article on the 07 MNW Bulls

Brock Berlin

Freshman
Joined
Jan 5, 2017
Messages
628
When Quavon Taylor watches Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David play in the Super Bowl on Sunday, he’ll think of all those suffocating afternoons sweating alongside David and fellow linebacker Sean Spence on Miami Northwestern High’s practice field. He’ll think about the Bulls winning the 2007 Class 6A state title and being crowned mythical national champs by USA Today. He’ll recall what some have said is the best high school football team ever assembled. Taylor will remember how David never pouted when everyone else got named first-team All-Dade County or when David had to go to junior college while his teammates headed off to FBS schools.

Taylor also will remember the times he didn’t want to see David, and he’ll love his former teammate even more.

There were days in 2009 and 2010 when David or Spence would try to visit Taylor, but every time they came, Taylor told the guards to send them away. He didn’t want David or Spence to see him in jail, to remember him that way.

Taylor was the middle linebacker, the bulldozer who appeared suddenly and crushed ballcarriers when they reached the line of scrimmage. Spence was the weakside linebacker, the do-it-all star who took the signals from the coaching staff and translated them to the entire defense. David was the strongside linebacker, the dirty work guy who played from sideline to sideline and didn’t care whether he had to make the tackle or haul ass to cover a receiver down the field. Together, they were the beating heart of that Northwestern defense. After high school, Spence went on to immediate success at Miami. David had to start his college career at Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College. He transferred to Nebraska in 2010 while Taylor sat in jail, held without bond while awaiting trial on charges that included armed robbery and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon stemming from a March 2009 incident while Taylor was home on spring break from South Florida, where he had gone to play football.

“I didn’t want them to see me down like that,” Taylor said. “I didn’t want it to bring them down. I just wanted them to keep doing what they were doing and being successful.”

Taylor was fighting the most serious of the charges, which could have put him away for life. He knew he didn’t match the description witnesses had given, but he still feared the worst. He’d watched hardened men return to their cells and bawl after being sentenced to decades. Taylor knew he should get out, but a jury would decide his fate. On Oct. 7, 2010, that jury delivered the words Taylor prayed he’d hear: Not guilty.

I’ve got to be a better person, Taylor remembered thinking as the foreman read the verdict. I’ve got to make better choices. I’ve got to make better decisions.

“I really saw my life flash before my eyes,” he said. “Next to having my son, next to marrying my wife, that was one of the best days of my life.”

Taylor knew he had plenty of examples to follow, starting with his two fellow Northwestern linebackers. By then, it was clear David and Spence were bound for the NFL. When all three got together for breakfast during one of David’s visits home shortly after Taylor’s release, David and Spence offered to help Taylor try and resume his football career. “Those guys are like my brothers,” David said. “We built a relationship that’s going to last forever.”

Taylor could have sulked over all the time he’d lost and just languished in Miami, but he didn’t want the teammates who felt more like brothers to see that, either. So he enrolled at Tuskegee University in Alabama. He played two seasons, racking up 209 tackles before heading home to Miami to take care of his ill grandmother.

While David starred with the Bucs and Spence played six seasons in the NFL, Taylor kept trying to make good on the promise he made in that courtroom. He finished his political science degree at the University of Houston while his high school sweetheart-turned-wife Crystal worked as an OB/GYN resident at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. Taylor has created an organization called Men Against Dying Early (MADE) and launched a podcast called The Process that features the stories of people who have overcome adversity to succeed. He is the father to 3-year-old Quavon Jr. — whose godfather is none other than Lavonte David — that he always wished he’d had. When Crystal’s residency ends and she chooses the best of numerous job offers, Taylor plans to apply to a law school nearby.

David didn’t get much of the spotlight on that star-studded Northwestern team but wound up being the most successful player of the group. He has made at least 100 tackles in seven of his nine NFL seasons. He holds Tampa Bay franchise records for most career tackles for loss (118) and most fumble recoveries in a career (16). And he’s still pretty much the same guy Taylor knew at Northwestern. “Lavonte David is one of the most selfless people I know,” Taylor said. “He deserves this.”

The collection of talent on the 2007 team — when David was a senior — was staggering. In an era before the days of IMG Academy pulling in top prospects from across the nation, the Bulls’ 2007 squad was loaded with locally grown players. Most came from the Liberty City neighborhood near the school, but a few came from Carol City or Overtown or Miami Gardens. Twenty-six players from that team ended up playing in Division I, and seven made it onto NFL rosters. Eight seniors from the 2007 team (Spence, quarterback Jacory Harris, defensive tackle Marcus Forston, offensive linemen Brandon Washington and Ben Jones and receivers Tommy Streeter, Aldarius Johnson and Kendall Thompkins) signed with Miami the following February. That team also included a freshman receiver/third-team quarterback who took over for Harris as the Bulls’ starting QB the following season. His name? Teddy Bridgewater.

“Our practices were bigger than the games,” said Wayne Times, a junior on that team who went on to play receiver for Mario Cristobal at Florida International and who two years ago started Marlo’s Roasted Corn, a now-beloved South Florida food truck. (Brandon Drayton, a former Northwestern receiver who played collegiately at Howard, works with Times now.)

The Miami Herald’s All-Dade first team in 2007 included five linebackers. Spence and Taylor made the list. So did Ohio State-bound Etienne Sabino from Krop. Who didn’t make it? David. You can find him with the second-teamers, where he’s misidentified as a defensive back and his first name is misspelled “Levonte.” This drove Spence and Taylor wild. While they surmised the paper’s editors probably felt they couldn’t populate the entire first team with Bulls, it vexed them because they understood how much David meant to Northwestern. It didn’t bother David, though. When Taylor would complain about that or similar slights, David would provide a version of the same answer: As long as we’re winning, I’m good.

And the Bulls were winning.

[IMG]

The Bulls went 30-0 from 2006 to 2007, beating some of the most talented teams in Florida, but their dominance wasn’t confined to the Sunshine State. Early in the 2007 season, the Bulls went to Texas to play Southlake Carroll, an opponent thought to be their equal. Terell Killings, a Miami real estate agent who played offensive guard for the Bulls and went on to play at Howard, remembers arriving in his hotel room and seeing a copy of a magazine featuring Dragons quarterback Riley Dodge and the headline “Bigger, Faster, Smarter.” The other Bulls got the same magazine in their rooms, and they took that personally.

The next night, Northwestern snapped Southlake Carroll’s 49-game winning streak before a national TV audience on ESPNU. The only team that threatened Northwestern that season was Deerfield Beach. Led by future Michigan QB Denard Robinson, the Bucks led by two and were about to put the state semifinal away when the Bulls stoned Robinson at the goal line and then embarked on a 99-yard drive for the winning touchdown. Northwestern capped its championship season by blowing out Orlando’s Boone High 41-0 at the Citrus Bowl. Asked if the Bulls were the best high school team in history, Killings just laughed. “We were,” he said. “No doubt.”

As loaded as Northwestern’s roster was, it was a rocky path to a repeat in 2007.

Two days prior to the Florida 6A state title game in 2006, Antwain Easterling, who had run for almost 3,000 yards that season, was arrested and later charged with lewd and lascivious battery on a minor. Coverup allegations followed. The school principal and the entire coaching staff were fired. A year later, the staff was exonerated. Easterling’s charges were later dropped after he completed a pretrial program.

For about a month stretch leading up to the 2007 season, quarterback Harris and fellow seniors Forston and Spence coached the team as it prepared for fall camp while wondering who their new coaches would be.

“It really was crazy,” Forston said. “We were heading into our senior years. We’d just won state and lost all of our coaches. We were like, ‘Man, we got leaders on this team with Jacory, me and Sean – nothing says that we can’t practice by ourselves.’ So that’s what we did. We had 7-on-7s and did individual drills. Sean talked to the guys about scheme. We had them understand the fronts, where guys were supposed to line up. We’d been on the varsity since ninth grade. We knew that defense from top to bottom. We knew what we were looking for. I felt like we became closer from all of that. We’d realized that all this was bigger than football. Guys understood that leadership was important.”

Harris, the son of a former Bulls coach, called all his plays as a senior at Northwestern. “We didn’t have to worry about holding guys accountable,” Harris said. In late July, the Bulls got a new head coach when Billy Rolle was hired.

Harris served as a de facto offensive coordinator, incorporating some new plays he got from picking the brains of college recruiters. One wrinkle he added to the Bulls’ offense that year was something he got from the Oregon coach who had been trying to land him and wideout Streeter. “Chip Kelly told me on the zone read, we should read the one-technique instead of the defensive end,” Harris said. “We ran it and it worked exactly like he told me it would. Our receivers would be like, ‘Come on, man, we need the ball and you’re running these trick plays.’”

“I loved talking to Jacory,” said Kelly, now the head coach at UCLA. “He was a really mature kid. He always wanted to talk football. It was like talking to a coach on the phone. I went out to one of their practices and there were probably 15 or 20 other colleges out there watching. That team was so frickin’ loaded.”

“He was a student of the game from such a young age,” said FAU assistant coach Chris Perkins, a member of the 2006 Bulls staff who had coached Harris for years. “Same with Sean and Marcus, those guys were so intelligent and they came from good families. Jacory never lost a game as a starter. That program was on auto-pilot. The standard had already been set.

“I later coached under Billy Rolle, and we laughed about it. He said that he didn’t touch anything with that team. He said he was just there to manage it. ”

The eight seniors who signed with Miami were part of the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class in 2008. That group was expected to bring the Canes back to the top of the college football world. In 2009, the Canes finished No. 19 in the AP Top 25, but the program backslid from there. Many of those old Bulls won starting jobs at UM and had some success, but they didn’t have the impact they figured they would in Coral Gables. Spence was named ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year and later made first-team All-ACC. Harris was one of the most prolific passers in Canes history. Brandon Washington, a 6-4, 330-pound offensive guard, also made first-team All-ACC before he turned pro and spent seven seasons between the NFL and CFL. Forston earned freshman all-America honors in 2008 before seeing his career sidetracked by an array of injuries.

“We definitely thought we were gonna bring a title back to Miami,” Spence said. “That was our mindset going in. We had the talent. We worked hard. We battled, but for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. I wish I could tell you why.”

Taylor has a theory. He thinks eight wasn’t enough; Miami should have signed more Bulls that year. “UM would have been in a better position if they’d gotten the other guys,” Taylor said. “It was something special. It shouldn’t have been broken up, but things happen.”

Harris, who played QB at Miami, felt the same way. At Northwestern, David excelled in coverage. Taylor was the run-stopper, the hardest hitter. Spence had the best of both worlds. “All three of those guys were so good,” Harris said. “We tried so hard to get all three of them at UM. I told one of our coaches. He goes, ‘We already got eight of you guys. You want us to take all of ‘em?’ ‘Yes, I do. You need to.’”

The star of that Bulls team has turned out to be the guy Miami didn’t want, a player who was rated as only a two-star prospect. One reason for the lack of interest in David? His grades. He wasn’t going to be eligible to play as a freshman. David initially signed with Middle Tennessee State but chose instead to attend junior college so he could play right away. The coach who recruited David to Fort Scott — and the coach who convinced David to stay when he was ready to quit and go home — was former Arena Football League star Eddie Brown. As fate would have it, David will play in the Super Bowl on Sunday alongside Brown’s son, Antonio.

David starred immediately at Fort Scott — his teammate and occasional barber was current Bucs teammate Jason Pierre-Paul — and after two seasons the two-star high school prospect had become a four-star JUCO transfer. He chose to continue his career at Nebraska.

“We were begging on the coaches at UM. ‘Please, please get this guy. This guy needs to be at UM. He’s gonna really help us win!’” Forston said of David, who also grew up in the same Pork ‘n’ Beans neighborhood and went to Holmes Elementary School with Forston.

As a youngster, David played for the Liberty City Warriors, the youth football organization founded by 2 Live Crew rapper and Liberty City native Luther Campbell. Campbell was an early fan of David, whom he ranks alongside Chad Johnson and Devonta Freeman as some of the best players to come out of the program. Campbell also loved David’s parents, who were always willing to volunteer their time to help all the players.

“He’s one of the baddest linebackers to come out of Florida since Derrick Thomas,” Campbell said.

Campbell, a Miami superfan, uses his own experience as a recruiter of sorts in the music business to explain how his Canes missed on David. After 2 Live Crew blew up, Campbell founded Luke Records. One of the company’s biggest finds was a Miami rapper named Armando Perez, better known today as Pitbull. But years earlier, Campbell got a package from a Seattle rapper named Anthony Ray. He wasn’t interested. “I didn’t sign Sir Mix-a-Lot,” Campbell said, laughing. “He sent me his mixtape. A guy from Seattle doing Miami bass. It happens.”

So when he watched a guy from Miami wrecking ball carriers at Nebraska, Campbell understood. He also wasn’t surprised. He thought the grades issue that hindered David in high school would be an anomaly for a person who in all other circumstances did exactly what he was supposed to do. “I always knew his work ethic was going to get him to wherever he needed to go,” Campbell said.

David, with all of his old teammates now passionate Tampa Bay Bucs fans, will try to become the second member of the 2007 Northwestern Bulls team to win a Super Bowl ring, following Streeter, who won one with the Baltimore Ravens in 2013.

[IMG]
(Kim Klement / USA Today)
Forston, the highest-rated recruit on the Northwestern team after piling up 20 sacks and seven forced fumbles his senior season, had a strong debut season at Miami before injuries derailed his career. There was a torn labrum, ankle surgery and then three major knee operations. “I just wasn’t the same,” he said. “I’d lost that quick-twitch that I used to have.” He went undrafted in 2012 but stuck for a couple of seasons with the Patriots and then had a brief stint with the Rams. He earned a degree in criminology from UM. He got married. He and his wife were expecting their first child.

“I had two choices: I could chase this football career, not knowing if I was gonna make another team or not – and I’d watched guys before me struggle with that, going for two or three years hoping they get another shot,” he said. “I was going to continue to work out and eat right and stay prepared, but I put in job applications for careers in law enforcement.”

The first department to reply was the Atlanta police. A little over a year later, after attending the police academy and doing field training, Forston was in uniform on the Atlanta streets as a police officer.

“Football was always important to me, but it doesn’t define me,” Forston said. “I grew up wanting to play football and I wanted to be around some type of team environment, and I knew, ‘Hey, these things are real.’ I grew up in the inner city and in the projects. I wanted to be a voice and for people there to know that just because you see someone in (a police) uniform that they’re not against you.”

Harris, who threw for almost 9,000 yards in his career at Miami, spent five seasons playing in the CFL before becoming a Miami-Dade firefighter last year.

“Growing up the way we did, they were looked up to as heroes to the kids for what they did on the field and in the classroom. Now, they are real-life heroes for trying to keep us safe,” said Spence, who used some of the money he made in the NFL to invest in real estate and also in a Flashfire Pizza in Boca Raton.

The story of that 2007 team also took one heartbreaking turn: the 2014 death of former Bulls cornerback Bradley Holt. Holt, the step-brother of USF star quarterback Quinton Flowers, was shot and killed at age 24 by a driver angry that Holt had yelled a warning at him after the driver had been reckless while near some young children in Holt’s neighborhood.

In all, the greatest high school team in Florida — and possibly U.S. — history has produced several police officers, firefighters, teachers, coaches, lawyers, personal trainers and business owners, as well as a former backup QB (Times) who entered the mobile restaurant industry. “Whenever he brings his food truck,” Harris said, “everybody comes out.” Coming from where they grew up, they weren’t supposed to succeed in such a high percentage. But they have, and to a man, they say the experience of playing together inspired their post-high school lives. “It definitely helped us out in life in the long run,” David said.

“All of these guys ended up doing really well,” said Perkins. “They’re being productive, model citizens. I’m so proud of all of these dudes.”
 

Jassid82

Senior
Joined
Jan 29, 2012
Messages
7,353
If you had told anyone back in 2008 that the only ones that made the NFL out of that MNW/BTW crew was BHarris, SSpence and LDavid..alot of people would have lost money and damn sure would have lost money if you had said LDavid would have been BY FAR the best of the bunch. Amazing how life sometimes just doesnt work out the way you thought it would have when you are on top of the world as an 18 year old HS superstar with everyone telling you that your next stop is being a college AA and then the NFL and its pretty much written in stone. Smh. And then it doesnt happen.

Good to hear they all found their way in life and made good people out of themselves.
 

gogeta4

All-ACC
Joined
Nov 8, 2011
Messages
16,853
The crazy part is...if you were to meet any of those kids..GREAT GUYS.

From Jacory to Spence....i mean legitimately would chill and have a convo with you. Jacory's dad just ran for mayor of Miami Gardens. Fortson is from The Beans (projects) and him and like all of his siblings are college graduates. His older bro played at FAU.Spence is a good dude, David obvilously, Thompkins bro made it to the nfl for some years.

If Jacory wasnt a firefighter i think he would have a good career as a coach. Probably my fav team in Dade History
 

TheU 4ever

Sophomore
Joined
Jan 25, 2019
Messages
651
When Quavon Taylor watches Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David play in the Super Bowl on Sunday, he’ll think of all those suffocating afternoons sweating alongside David and fellow linebacker Sean Spence on Miami Northwestern High’s practice field. He’ll think about the Bulls winning the 2007 Class 6A state title and being crowned mythical national champs by USA Today. He’ll recall what some have said is the best high school football team ever assembled. Taylor will remember how David never pouted when everyone else got named first-team All-Dade County or when David had to go to junior college while his teammates headed off to FBS schools.

Taylor also will remember the times he didn’t want to see David, and he’ll love his former teammate even more.

There were days in 2009 and 2010 when David or Spence would try to visit Taylor, but every time they came, Taylor told the guards to send them away. He didn’t want David or Spence to see him in jail, to remember him that way.

Taylor was the middle linebacker, the bulldozer who appeared suddenly and crushed ballcarriers when they reached the line of scrimmage. Spence was the weakside linebacker, the do-it-all star who took the signals from the coaching staff and translated them to the entire defense. David was the strongside linebacker, the dirty work guy who played from sideline to sideline and didn’t care whether he had to make the tackle or haul ass to cover a receiver down the field. Together, they were the beating heart of that Northwestern defense. After high school, Spence went on to immediate success at Miami. David had to start his college career at Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College. He transferred to Nebraska in 2010 while Taylor sat in jail, held without bond while awaiting trial on charges that included armed robbery and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon stemming from a March 2009 incident while Taylor was home on spring break from South Florida, where he had gone to play football.

“I didn’t want them to see me down like that,” Taylor said. “I didn’t want it to bring them down. I just wanted them to keep doing what they were doing and being successful.”

Taylor was fighting the most serious of the charges, which could have put him away for life. He knew he didn’t match the description witnesses had given, but he still feared the worst. He’d watched hardened men return to their cells and bawl after being sentenced to decades. Taylor knew he should get out, but a jury would decide his fate. On Oct. 7, 2010, that jury delivered the words Taylor prayed he’d hear: Not guilty.

I’ve got to be a better person, Taylor remembered thinking as the foreman read the verdict. I’ve got to make better choices. I’ve got to make better decisions.

“I really saw my life flash before my eyes,” he said. “Next to having my son, next to marrying my wife, that was one of the best days of my life.”

Taylor knew he had plenty of examples to follow, starting with his two fellow Northwestern linebackers. By then, it was clear David and Spence were bound for the NFL. When all three got together for breakfast during one of David’s visits home shortly after Taylor’s release, David and Spence offered to help Taylor try and resume his football career. “Those guys are like my brothers,” David said. “We built a relationship that’s going to last forever.”

Taylor could have sulked over all the time he’d lost and just languished in Miami, but he didn’t want the teammates who felt more like brothers to see that, either. So he enrolled at Tuskegee University in Alabama. He played two seasons, racking up 209 tackles before heading home to Miami to take care of his ill grandmother.

While David starred with the Bucs and Spence played six seasons in the NFL, Taylor kept trying to make good on the promise he made in that courtroom. He finished his political science degree at the University of Houston while his high school sweetheart-turned-wife Crystal worked as an OB/GYN resident at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. Taylor has created an organization called Men Against Dying Early (MADE) and launched a podcast called The Process that features the stories of people who have overcome adversity to succeed. He is the father to 3-year-old Quavon Jr. — whose godfather is none other than Lavonte David — that he always wished he’d had. When Crystal’s residency ends and she chooses the best of numerous job offers, Taylor plans to apply to a law school nearby.

David didn’t get much of the spotlight on that star-studded Northwestern team but wound up being the most successful player of the group. He has made at least 100 tackles in seven of his nine NFL seasons. He holds Tampa Bay franchise records for most career tackles for loss (118) and most fumble recoveries in a career (16). And he’s still pretty much the same guy Taylor knew at Northwestern. “Lavonte David is one of the most selfless people I know,” Taylor said. “He deserves this.”

The collection of talent on the 2007 team — when David was a senior — was staggering. In an era before the days of IMG Academy pulling in top prospects from across the nation, the Bulls’ 2007 squad was loaded with locally grown players. Most came from the Liberty City neighborhood near the school, but a few came from Carol City or Overtown or Miami Gardens. Twenty-six players from that team ended up playing in Division I, and seven made it onto NFL rosters. Eight seniors from the 2007 team (Spence, quarterback Jacory Harris, defensive tackle Marcus Forston, offensive linemen Brandon Washington and Ben Jones and receivers Tommy Streeter, Aldarius Johnson and Kendall Thompkins) signed with Miami the following February. That team also included a freshman receiver/third-team quarterback who took over for Harris as the Bulls’ starting QB the following season. His name? Teddy Bridgewater.

“Our practices were bigger than the games,” said Wayne Times, a junior on that team who went on to play receiver for Mario Cristobal at Florida International and who two years ago started Marlo’s Roasted Corn, a now-beloved South Florida food truck. (Brandon Drayton, a former Northwestern receiver who played collegiately at Howard, works with Times now.)

The Miami Herald’s All-Dade first team in 2007 included five linebackers. Spence and Taylor made the list. So did Ohio State-bound Etienne Sabino from Krop. Who didn’t make it? David. You can find him with the second-teamers, where he’s misidentified as a defensive back and his first name is misspelled “Levonte.” This drove Spence and Taylor wild. While they surmised the paper’s editors probably felt they couldn’t populate the entire first team with Bulls, it vexed them because they understood how much David meant to Northwestern. It didn’t bother David, though. When Taylor would complain about that or similar slights, David would provide a version of the same answer: As long as we’re winning, I’m good.

And the Bulls were winning.

[IMG]

The Bulls went 30-0 from 2006 to 2007, beating some of the most talented teams in Florida, but their dominance wasn’t confined to the Sunshine State. Early in the 2007 season, the Bulls went to Texas to play Southlake Carroll, an opponent thought to be their equal. Terell Killings, a Miami real estate agent who played offensive guard for the Bulls and went on to play at Howard, remembers arriving in his hotel room and seeing a copy of a magazine featuring Dragons quarterback Riley Dodge and the headline “Bigger, Faster, Smarter.” The other Bulls got the same magazine in their rooms, and they took that personally.

The next night, Northwestern snapped Southlake Carroll’s 49-game winning streak before a national TV audience on ESPNU. The only team that threatened Northwestern that season was Deerfield Beach. Led by future Michigan QB Denard Robinson, the Bucks led by two and were about to put the state semifinal away when the Bulls stoned Robinson at the goal line and then embarked on a 99-yard drive for the winning touchdown. Northwestern capped its championship season by blowing out Orlando’s Boone High 41-0 at the Citrus Bowl. Asked if the Bulls were the best high school team in history, Killings just laughed. “We were,” he said. “No doubt.”

As loaded as Northwestern’s roster was, it was a rocky path to a repeat in 2007.

Two days prior to the Florida 6A state title game in 2006, Antwain Easterling, who had run for almost 3,000 yards that season, was arrested and later charged with lewd and lascivious battery on a minor. Coverup allegations followed. The school principal and the entire coaching staff were fired. A year later, the staff was exonerated. Easterling’s charges were later dropped after he completed a pretrial program.

For about a month stretch leading up to the 2007 season, quarterback Harris and fellow seniors Forston and Spence coached the team as it prepared for fall camp while wondering who their new coaches would be.

“It really was crazy,” Forston said. “We were heading into our senior years. We’d just won state and lost all of our coaches. We were like, ‘Man, we got leaders on this team with Jacory, me and Sean – nothing says that we can’t practice by ourselves.’ So that’s what we did. We had 7-on-7s and did individual drills. Sean talked to the guys about scheme. We had them understand the fronts, where guys were supposed to line up. We’d been on the varsity since ninth grade. We knew that defense from top to bottom. We knew what we were looking for. I felt like we became closer from all of that. We’d realized that all this was bigger than football. Guys understood that leadership was important.”

Harris, the son of a former Bulls coach, called all his plays as a senior at Northwestern. “We didn’t have to worry about holding guys accountable,” Harris said. In late July, the Bulls got a new head coach when Billy Rolle was hired.

Harris served as a de facto offensive coordinator, incorporating some new plays he got from picking the brains of college recruiters. One wrinkle he added to the Bulls’ offense that year was something he got from the Oregon coach who had been trying to land him and wideout Streeter. “Chip Kelly told me on the zone read, we should read the one-technique instead of the defensive end,” Harris said. “We ran it and it worked exactly like he told me it would. Our receivers would be like, ‘Come on, man, we need the ball and you’re running these trick plays.’”

“I loved talking to Jacory,” said Kelly, now the head coach at UCLA. “He was a really mature kid. He always wanted to talk football. It was like talking to a coach on the phone. I went out to one of their practices and there were probably 15 or 20 other colleges out there watching. That team was so frickin’ loaded.”

“He was a student of the game from such a young age,” said FAU assistant coach Chris Perkins, a member of the 2006 Bulls staff who had coached Harris for years. “Same with Sean and Marcus, those guys were so intelligent and they came from good families. Jacory never lost a game as a starter. That program was on auto-pilot. The standard had already been set.

“I later coached under Billy Rolle, and we laughed about it. He said that he didn’t touch anything with that team. He said he was just there to manage it. ”

The eight seniors who signed with Miami were part of the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class in 2008. That group was expected to bring the Canes back to the top of the college football world. In 2009, the Canes finished No. 19 in the AP Top 25, but the program backslid from there. Many of those old Bulls won starting jobs at UM and had some success, but they didn’t have the impact they figured they would in Coral Gables. Spence was named ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year and later made first-team All-ACC. Harris was one of the most prolific passers in Canes history. Brandon Washington, a 6-4, 330-pound offensive guard, also made first-team All-ACC before he turned pro and spent seven seasons between the NFL and CFL. Forston earned freshman all-America honors in 2008 before seeing his career sidetracked by an array of injuries.

“We definitely thought we were gonna bring a title back to Miami,” Spence said. “That was our mindset going in. We had the talent. We worked hard. We battled, but for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. I wish I could tell you why.”

Taylor has a theory. He thinks eight wasn’t enough; Miami should have signed more Bulls that year. “UM would have been in a better position if they’d gotten the other guys,” Taylor said. “It was something special. It shouldn’t have been broken up, but things happen.”

Harris, who played QB at Miami, felt the same way. At Northwestern, David excelled in coverage. Taylor was the run-stopper, the hardest hitter. Spence had the best of both worlds. “All three of those guys were so good,” Harris said. “We tried so hard to get all three of them at UM. I told one of our coaches. He goes, ‘We already got eight of you guys. You want us to take all of ‘em?’ ‘Yes, I do. You need to.’”

The star of that Bulls team has turned out to be the guy Miami didn’t want, a player who was rated as only a two-star prospect. One reason for the lack of interest in David? His grades. He wasn’t going to be eligible to play as a freshman. David initially signed with Middle Tennessee State but chose instead to attend junior college so he could play right away. The coach who recruited David to Fort Scott — and the coach who convinced David to stay when he was ready to quit and go home — was former Arena Football League star Eddie Brown. As fate would have it, David will play in the Super Bowl on Sunday alongside Brown’s son, Antonio.

David starred immediately at Fort Scott — his teammate and occasional barber was current Bucs teammate Jason Pierre-Paul — and after two seasons the two-star high school prospect had become a four-star JUCO transfer. He chose to continue his career at Nebraska.

“We were begging on the coaches at UM. ‘Please, please get this guy. This guy needs to be at UM. He’s gonna really help us win!’” Forston said of David, who also grew up in the same Pork ‘n’ Beans neighborhood and went to Holmes Elementary School with Forston.

As a youngster, David played for the Liberty City Warriors, the youth football organization founded by 2 Live Crew rapper and Liberty City native Luther Campbell. Campbell was an early fan of David, whom he ranks alongside Chad Johnson and Devonta Freeman as some of the best players to come out of the program. Campbell also loved David’s parents, who were always willing to volunteer their time to help all the players.

“He’s one of the baddest linebackers to come out of Florida since Derrick Thomas,” Campbell said.

Campbell, a Miami superfan, uses his own experience as a recruiter of sorts in the music business to explain how his Canes missed on David. After 2 Live Crew blew up, Campbell founded Luke Records. One of the company’s biggest finds was a Miami rapper named Armando Perez, better known today as Pitbull. But years earlier, Campbell got a package from a Seattle rapper named Anthony Ray. He wasn’t interested. “I didn’t sign Sir Mix-a-Lot,” Campbell said, laughing. “He sent me his mixtape. A guy from Seattle doing Miami bass. It happens.”

So when he watched a guy from Miami wrecking ball carriers at Nebraska, Campbell understood. He also wasn’t surprised. He thought the grades issue that hindered David in high school would be an anomaly for a person who in all other circumstances did exactly what he was supposed to do. “I always knew his work ethic was going to get him to wherever he needed to go,” Campbell said.

David, with all of his old teammates now passionate Tampa Bay Bucs fans, will try to become the second member of the 2007 Northwestern Bulls team to win a Super Bowl ring, following Streeter, who won one with the Baltimore Ravens in 2013.

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(Kim Klement / USA Today)
Forston, the highest-rated recruit on the Northwestern team after piling up 20 sacks and seven forced fumbles his senior season, had a strong debut season at Miami before injuries derailed his career. There was a torn labrum, ankle surgery and then three major knee operations. “I just wasn’t the same,” he said. “I’d lost that quick-twitch that I used to have.” He went undrafted in 2012 but stuck for a couple of seasons with the Patriots and then had a brief stint with the Rams. He earned a degree in criminology from UM. He got married. He and his wife were expecting their first child.

“I had two choices: I could chase this football career, not knowing if I was gonna make another team or not – and I’d watched guys before me struggle with that, going for two or three years hoping they get another shot,” he said. “I was going to continue to work out and eat right and stay prepared, but I put in job applications for careers in law enforcement.”

The first department to reply was the Atlanta police. A little over a year later, after attending the police academy and doing field training, Forston was in uniform on the Atlanta streets as a police officer.

“Football was always important to me, but it doesn’t define me,” Forston said. “I grew up wanting to play football and I wanted to be around some type of team environment, and I knew, ‘Hey, these things are real.’ I grew up in the inner city and in the projects. I wanted to be a voice and for people there to know that just because you see someone in (a police) uniform that they’re not against you.”

Harris, who threw for almost 9,000 yards in his career at Miami, spent five seasons playing in the CFL before becoming a Miami-Dade firefighter last year.

“Growing up the way we did, they were looked up to as heroes to the kids for what they did on the field and in the classroom. Now, they are real-life heroes for trying to keep us safe,” said Spence, who used some of the money he made in the NFL to invest in real estate and also in a Flashfire Pizza in Boca Raton.

The story of that 2007 team also took one heartbreaking turn: the 2014 death of former Bulls cornerback Bradley Holt. Holt, the step-brother of USF star quarterback Quinton Flowers, was shot and killed at age 24 by a driver angry that Holt had yelled a warning at him after the driver had been reckless while near some young children in Holt’s neighborhood.

In all, the greatest high school team in Florida — and possibly U.S. — history has produced several police officers, firefighters, teachers, coaches, lawyers, personal trainers and business owners, as well as a former backup QB (Times) who entered the mobile restaurant industry. “Whenever he brings his food truck,” Harris said, “everybody comes out.” Coming from where they grew up, they weren’t supposed to succeed in such a high percentage. But they have, and to a man, they say the experience of playing together inspired their post-high school lives. “It definitely helped us out in life in the long run,” David said.

“All of these guys ended up doing really well,” said Perkins. “They’re being productive, model citizens. I’m so proud of all of these dudes.”
OUTSTANDING work Sir! Thank you! I greatly appreciate it.
 

CANEMC

All-Big East
Joined
Jan 25, 2017
Messages
4,841
We need some more Spences at LB. Him and Perryman could've played with the OG Canes.

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Trav

Redshirt Freshman
Joined
Nov 3, 2011
Messages
1,768
Grown men on that team. Doesn't have much on Aldarius Johnson but I would have bet my life he would have been our next Andre Johnson
Nah he never had that type of speed. But he could have been a very productive college WR if he loved the game and took care of his body.
 
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