NORTH FORT MYERS: A Real Surprise!

While Deion Sanders and Jevon Kearse have made the school famous, there are some quality football players at North Fort Myers High who continue to build the tradition. In a program where rising junior Noel Devine is the attraction, you'll be impressed with the rest of the team – as well!

NORTH FORT MYERS – As you walk onto the field, you can see images of Deion Sanders skirting down the sideline with one of his famous punt returns. You look up to the empty stands and think about what it was like when Jevon Kearse played safety and earned a scholarship to the University of Florida.

Welcome to North Fort Myers High, where the Red Knights prepare for another season, and this time of year, there are high hopes. Welcome to North Fort Myers High, a place that has once again become famous for one of its youthful superstars.

Noel Devine
On a day where rising junior running back Noel Devine was taking a well-deserved rest after putting Orange Grove Blvd. back on the map the past two seasons with his legendary runs from scrimmage, and his recent state championship in Gainesville as a 177-pound weightlifter, his temmates stole the thunder on this day.

With the sun shining and the late afternoon heat pouring onto the field, Charles Fishbein and myself had the opportunity to talk with players and coaches about the upcoming season, and all were truly optimistic about the future!

As much as head coach James Iandoli and his outstanding athletes continue to preach the TEAM concept of the sport, the "outsiders" to this program want to talk about Devine and what he means to North Fort Myers.

Recruiting services have flocked from every corner of country since his sophomore video hit the Internet in the fall. A 14-year-old with a bright future captured the imagination of every football fan from Los Angeles to Lubbock. But the reality that 22 players win football games and not just one, has slowly started to sink in.

While Devine is tremendous, and will be among the best juniors in the nation, the talented running back would never be where he is without the rest of this program, which has gotten better and better.

"We are all excited about this team," said Iandoli. "There is a lot of talent on that field. We have worked hard to improve as a team, and that's the most important thing for all of us."

Robert Dillard
This year's team is about a rising senior class that starts with players like Robert Dillard, a 6-2, 347-pound defensive tackle. Dillard runs well (5.4), is strong (335 bench) and is a top prospect.

Robert Perera
Speaking of quality players, defensive end Roberto Perera (6-0, 210) is also a tremendous athlete. Perera has run a 4.8 (40) and put up a 320 pound bench. He holds down an impressive 4.1 grade point average as well.

Edward Jackson
One of the big secrets across the state of Florida is 6-2, 175-pound receiver/defensive back Edward Jackson, who runs a 4.5 (40) and is starting to make an impact on both sides of the ball.

Jose Santiago
Fullback/defensive end Jose Santiago (5-10, 200) could be another surprise because of his strength and quickness (4.8), and his ability to get it done in the classroom where he has a 3.2 grade point average.

John Land
Quarterback John Land is another rising senior who could emerge as a prospect. He has the size (6-2, 180) and the arm strength to make plays. He also has the grades (3.8 gpa) to keep colleges coming by for several looks.

"Grades are so very important," Iandoli pointed out. "For the past nine years that I've been here, I have made sure to tell my players that if you don't have grades, you have no options. I did the same when I coached at Kissimmee Osceola.

Two other seniors also figure to make this program stronger for the 2005 season. Fullback/strong safety Chase Klingensmith (5-9, 180) and defensive back Corey Jones (6-1, 170) have made major strides in the off season.

The Offensive Line
As we approached the offensive linemen, all agreed that they should receive some recognition for what Devine and the Red Knights have been able to do the past two years. They are right.

We had the pleasure of talking with Mitch Simmons (6-0, 220), Matt Graham (6-0, 250) and Devin Richards (6-3, 235) about the future of this team, and all were pumped up.

Mitch Simmons
Simmons is quick (5.2) and strong (250 bench). Like Land, he also has grades that will help him get to that next level.

When speaking about the junior class, you have to mention Devine and his 4.27 speed, 1,800 yards and ability change a game around in an instant. But there are a few other rising juniors on this team who also figure in leaving a lasting impression.

Quenton Washington
Quarterback Quinton Washington (5-11, 160) has the quickness (4.6) and the athletic ability to give this team some needed balance.

Defensive ends Zack Jones (6-3, 180) and Chris Campbell (6-3, 180), defensive back Bobby Desmornes (5-9, 170), defensive lineman Josh Diogo (6-4, 240) and linebacker Nick Mayant (5-11, 200) are all ready to step up as well.

What about the Class of 2008? Well, quarterback Bo Billman, fullback Dontavis Edwards, defensive back Glenroy Huggins and lineman Shane Makar are getting ready to help this team out this coming year.

While names like Sanders and Kearse have moved on and have become legends, it's now turn for a few more North Fort Myers football players to carve out their own niche on the gridiron!

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Immokalee, Blountstown, Miami Central, Naples Lely, Fort Myers, Tallahassee Godby and North Fort Myers knows what it's like to have their program exposed for all to see!

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