Local athletes continue excellence at next level
By Kyle LoJacono
Each year, the best prep athletes sign letters of intent to show off their skills in college and Florida’s largest schools are benefiting from the talent of Pasco and north Hillsborough County high schools.
The Laker and Lutz News checked with the sports information departments from the four most populated public colleges in Florida. Currently, 18 students from Land O’ Lakes, Lutz, Odessa, Wesley Chapel, Zephyrhills and Dade City are on athletic teams at Florida State University (FSU), the University of Central Florida (UCF), the University of Florida (UF) or University of South Florida (USF).
Gaither High leads the way with five athletes on teams from the four biggest Florida institutions, followed by Land O’ Lakes with four and Zephyrhills and Freedom with two apiece.
Basketball player Kayli Keough, a forward and guard, knows what it is like to be on not one, but two teams of major Florida universities. She graduated from Land O’ Lakes High and started her college career playing at FSU.
“I was really excited,” Keough said of signing with FSU. “It was a great opportunity. It opens doors to things a lot of people don’t get a chance to do and you get to meet a lot of new people.”
Keough, a junior, moved to UCF this season and has to sit out the year because of NCAA transfer rules, but still has two years of eligibility left with the Knights. She has yet to take the floor with her new team in a game, but Keough has already seen the big differences between high school and college athletics.
“The speed is the biggest thing,” Keough said. “There isn’t time to think in college. You just have to go and react. High school has a much more relaxed nature. A lot of the girls in high school just play basketball for fun, but in college you have a group of girls who were all the best players in high school and are very into the game. Everyone is constantly working to get better.”
Keough helped the Gators go 25-4 and reach the second round of the playoffs in her senior year, the 2007-08 season. She averaged 18.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.9 blocks, 3.3 steals and 1.9 assists per game her last campaign in high school.
“I loved it,” Keough said of playing at Land O’ Lakes. “I have a lot of close friends from playing there. … You want to go out and represent your town well in college. I’m still really close with a lot of my teammates from Land O’ Lakes and you want to show that we know how to play ball.”
Moving to the gridiron of the football field, Tyler Guy also has experience at two schools, but on the high school level. He played football at Zephyrhills High for three years before transferring to Freedom High for his senior year.
Guy, a high school quarterback, helped lead the Patriots to a program record seven wins in 2009 and reach its second playoff appearance ever. He had 1,640 passing yards and 11 touchdowns and added another 317 rushing yards and five more scores his senior campaign.
“I loved playing high school football,” Guy said. “Moving to Freedom was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I loved playing there.”
Guy, who is the older brother of current Pasco High quarterback Jacob Guy, took a redshirt year this season after walking on at USF. He has switched to tight end and worked on the Bulls practice squad a lot this season.
The Patriots ran a version of the spread offense during Guy’s senior season. The Bulls also use a spread system, which was one of the reasons Guy picked USF.
Making the pros
While many area kids have managed to sign on with Florida’s biggest schools, a few have made it even a step farther. The most tenured professional athlete is Kevin Cash, who graduated from Gaither High. The catcher went on to FSU and then signed with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1999 as a rookie free agent.
Cash, who is currently a member of the Texas Rangers, has played eight MLB seasons as a member of six organizations. He has a .183 career batting average, 38 RBI and eight home runs in 246 MLB games.
Also from Gaither, Carlton Mitchell was a wide receiver with the Cowboys and then played at the University of South Florida (USF) from 2007-2009 after redshirting in 2006. He had 105 catches for 1,648 yards in three seasons as a Bull, including nine touchdowns. He also set the USF record for receiving yards in a season with 706 in 2009.
Mitchell was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the sixth round in 2010 and made the club’s final roster this season. He has no catches and only one rush attempt for nine yards through the Browns first 14 games, but is still in the NFL.
A new professional is former Pasco High student Dominic Brown, an outfielder. He was called up by the Philadelphia Phillies halfway through last season and batted .210 in 62 at bats with 13 RBI, eight runs scored and a pair of steals and homers.
Staying on the baseball field, Zephyrhills graduate Geoff Parker played at Florida State University the last three seasons, helping the Seminoles reach two College World Series (CWS) tournaments. He went 4-1 with three saves while posting a 4.69 earned run average in 32 appearances, 10 of them starts, his junior season in Tallahassee.
Parker signed with the Colorado Rockies last August after being drafted. He will likely spend the 2011 season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery he had last September after tearing an elbow ligament pitching in the CWS.
Also representing east Pasco in the pros is 10-year NFL veteran defensive lineman Ryan Pickett. He graduated from Zephyrhills and was a first-round draft pick by the St. Louis Rams in 2001, playing in the Super Bowl as a rookie. He has spent the last five years with the Green Bay Packers. During his NFL playing career, he has compiled 447 tackles and 9.5 sacks.
NASCAR racer David Reutimann also graduated from Zephyrhills and is amazed at the number of east Pasco County people in professional athletics.
“I didn’t know about all those guys. I guess that shows the whole country where the best athletes are from,” Reutimann with a laugh. “We can really churn out those stud players out in east Pasco.”
Reutimann has a pair of NASCAR wins in four seasons, his latest coming last year in the LifeLock.com 400.