What happens to a tiny town when ESPN comes to town? Well you throw a party of course.
As the high school and college sporting world descends upon the quiet little community of Yulee, Florida, tonight, I am reminded that this little spot on the map in Northeast Florida has produced a number of college and professional athletes over time. As a sports fan, our memories are short when the next great thing comes along. Before they played on the manicured grass of faraway stadiums, ball fields and golf courses, they played catch in the sand spurs and fine, gray sand in this little wedge of a county between Florida and Georgia.
Derrick Henry will join a small fraternity of notable Nassau County athletes as he goes head to head tonight with Kelvin Taylor, son of probable NFL Hall of Fame running back Fred Taylor. Members of that fraternity include All American Terrence Flagler, running back for Clemson and later the San Francisco 49ers, Daniel Thomas of Kansas State and current Miami Dolphins running back, Ronald Veal, quarterback of the Arizona Wildcats and Rick Stockstill, honorable mention All-American for Bobby Bowden’s Florida State Seminoles. But Nassau County doesn’t just produce a top tier football player every few years. We’ve offered up a few other notable athletes as well.
Jon Shave of Fernandina Beach High School spent 15 years in the Major Leagues after his time at Mississippi State. Other notable baseball players include Reggie Stewart, father of former Bolles standout D.J. Stewart (speaking of recent memory), Anton Mobley, Del Mathews, Michael Johns, manager of the Princeton Rays in New York and Howie Kendrick of West Nassau High School who currently plays for the Anaheim Angels. Not to mention PGA Tour Pro Bubba Dickerson who won the 2001 U.S. Amateur. These are just a few notable athletes I recall from Nassau County-feel free to remind me of others.
There are some surprising names on the list, probably some that you come in contact with every day. Our athletes are not showy, flashing attention seekers. Our athletes are quiet and humble and have moved through their professional careers with grace and dignity. When their professional careers were done, some came back to their communities to become our neighbors, friends, coaches and lead unassuming lives.
Once again, tonight the lights will shine on another great Nassau County athlete. At some point today, Derrick Henry will announce his college selection and his next great adventure will begin. We wish you well Derrick and hope that you will one day find your way back to the sand spurs and fine, gray sand of Nassau County.