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High school football players dream of following Lee county greats

Posted at 12:14 AM, Apr 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-27 00:14:28-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - The NFL Draft is on FOX 4. Lee and Collier counties have had their share of stars. Draft experts project a few more former high school players from this region will be drafted the next few days.

It's players like Edgerrin James (Immokalee High School), Deion Sanders (North Fort Myers High School), and Sammy Watkins (South Fort Myers High School) that inspires today's high school football players to shoot for the stars.

"You see Sammy Watkins and what he does in the pros, but how did he get there," James Delgado said. Delgado is the head football coach at Riverdale High School in Lee county.

Delgado's players answer that question everyday both inside and outside the classroom. The rising seniors hope to join their idols one day.

"They make us realize our future and without those goals we are nothing," Keenan Walker said. Walker is about to enter his final year of high school. He hopes to play safety at the collegiate level.

High school players hear their coaches put so much emphasis on the little things.

"If you don't do them, you won't succeed. The harder you work, the more you get out of it," Thomas Barfield said. Barfield is another rising senior at Riverdale High School.

The success of past players at higher level is what attracts college scouts to check out talent in Lee, Collier, and Charlotte counties.

"If you are a really good athlete in another state, you might stand out," Richie Rode said. "You're just another dude here," Rode added.

Rode is the coach over at Cypress Lake High School. He leans on his own group of seniors to take on a leadership role.

Chris Joseph is one of the stars at Cypress Lake High School. Joseph has seen scouts take notice of former teammates and opponents.

"There's a feeling in my heart that I have to keep pushing in order to get better," Joseph said. "That's how I feel when I see college coaches start to roll in," he added.

Players like Joseph see the proof in the pictures that surround their coach's desk. Coach Delgado has helped his players play college ball.

"You've seen the road they had to take. You can guide them down that road," Delgado said. "It's not an easy road, it's not the most common road. It's typically the harder road," he added.

The reality is that not everyone gets a shot at the pros.

"Sometimes you know that they are going to get their heart broken in the process," Delgado said.

Eventually everyone hangs up the spikes.

"At some point, their football playing days are going to come to an end," Coach Rode said. "You have to prepare for your life after," he added.

Seniors like Walker hope to use their final season in high school to earn a scholarship in college. Walker hopes he'll wind up at an Ivy League school.

"Now we have to take one step at a time. We have to go through the process and enjoy it," Walker said. "We'll see what happens," he added.