By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)
The first story I ever wrote for the Times-Union was about a high school football jamboree. At Englewood High School, a short lanky kid caught two touchdown passes form a quarterback all of us media types were hailing as the next Tony Banks.
The kid who played quarterback never amounted to anything out of high school (I do not think he played quarterback after that season). The receiver played pretty well at Englewood, went on to play football at Bethune Cookman and become a Pro Bowl defensive back in the NFL with our Jacksonville Jaguars.
Welcome to the world of Rashean Mathis.
Mathis is the hometown hero who lived up to the hype of being a second-round pick and helped transform the secondary into one of the better units in the Jack Del Rio era of this franchise. He was a devastating hitter and good coverage player and a person this franchise used as part of its marketing campaign to promote the local team.
I bring up Mathis today because yesterday was National Signing Day for college football players. The day where the rich – FSU, Alabama, Ohio State and others get richer. Our local talents signed national letters of intent to earn a scholarship, play ball, get a good education and possibly move on to the NFL.
Hopefully here in Jacksonville. We hope for players like Mathis to come back to us, to come back to our community, to embrace the hometown hero role. And in the process – be one of the best at their positions.
We hoped for that with former high school greats like Willie McClendon, Frankie Franklin, Alan Hall and Jeff McCrone. That never materialized.
And for those of you who are wondering, I once told Dan and Jeff a number of years ago that I thought some kid named Tebow would be as good in college as Alan Hall was, a player who was in college for a cup of coffee.
No, I do not know everything. But what I do know is that with all the emphasis on recruiting and college football and preparing 17 and 18 year old kids for four years away from home, a free education and the possibility of making millions, one can only hope some of them – maybe just one more – can come home and collect a paycheck right here in town where his career started in the first place.