A total of eight players on both the North and South rosters grew up and played their high school ball in the tri-county area of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. They can boast four national championships among them in a continuing trend of our area producing top level talent.
Auburn kicker Cody Parkey from Jupiter is joined by Alabama defensive end Ed Stinson and Florida State center Bryan Stork on the South Team and each of them has had the honor of lifting the crystal ball trophy that went to the BCS national champion. They can look back at that experience as a valuable one, but all of them point to their high school roots as the best preparation for the higher levels.
“I feel like it prepared me a lot being from down there,” said Stinson, who won two national titles with the Crimson Tide but has a sore groin that is keeping him out of this game. “You work hard, you’ve got to run hard and I’m well conditioned and I already was used to the environment at Alabama besides the cold weather. We have some tremendous athletes down there and it prepared me a lot.”
Over on the North squad they have two Miami Hurricanes that were true homegrown products in quarterback Stephen Morris and guard Brandon Linder. They have some familiar faces from their high school days in the locker room with Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Wisconsin cornerback Dez Southward and Wisconsin running back James White.
The well-spoken Southward came from the football factory of St. Thomas Aquinas and his first year of playing organized football was as a senior. He had two interceptions for the best team in the nation and earned a scholarship to Wisconsin, where he became a starter his last two seasons and credits the level of play he experienced with getting him ready for the next level.
“When you go to college it gets a little faster, then you come to this all-star game it gets a little faster and you go to the pros it’s going to be faster,” Southward said. “Just playing against the best at every single level helps and you have to keep getting your game better and get more crisp and faster in any way possible.”
Southward’s teammate with the Badgers, White, also played with him at Aquinas and he is related to former Miami Hurricanes receivers Santana and Sinorice Moss. He points to the great athletes he played with and against in high school as the reason he was able to make an impact as a freshman in college and rush for 1,052 yards, which is the fourth-highest total by a freshman in school history.
“I think it’s the caliber of players that come out of that area that prepares us the most,” said White, who finished his career with 5,450 all-purpose yards. “When you face great competition each and every week you have nothing else to do but show your best.”
For Jean-Baptiste, he has taken the most circuitous route since starring as a wide receiver at Miami Central. First the 6-foot-3, 220-pound athlete went to North Carolina Tech Prep where he caught 36 passes for 580 yards and then he moved onto Fort Scott Community College where he redshirted. He transferred to Nebraska in 2010 and redshirted again as a freshman before working his way into the starting lineup.
By the time he finished up his career with the Cornhuskers, Jean-Baptiste was a bona fide NFL prospect with four career interceptions and earned second-team All-American honors as a senior. He credited the South Florida heat with his excellent conditioning and his ability to stay fresh through four quarters, but the road he has taken to get this close to reaching his NFL dream.
“It’s feeding me a lot right now. The route that I took is making me even hungrier,” Jean-Baptiste said. “I don’t have any time to waste. It’s telling me a lot about my character knowing what I had to go through and I’m still fighting to make it to the next level.”
He could be speaking for all of the South Florida prospects when it comes to their drive to impress the NFL scouts, coaches and GMs.