The ultimate goal for a high school football player is to earn a scholarship to play at the next level.
What if there was one athlete that not only earned a college scholarship to play football, but also got his number retired and all within the first 2 years of a brand new football program at a brand new school?
Two years ago when the program was founded, Coach Ryan Nani made a promise to his team that whomever the first player was to play for Everglades Prep and be fortunate enough to play at the college level, would get their number retired. While that sounded like a cool idea to his players, they found it extremely unlikely that anybody on the team would attract that kind of attention, especially with the cards stacked against them in terms of tradition, size, and virtually every benchmark that most well-established teams use to build their programs.
One player took that challenge to heart and not only proved himself on the field but made sure he would not be ignored.
Jose Estrada hasn’t always played football. In fact, aside from a short stint at Pop Warner and flag football, he’s only played one year of high school football, this past year. But that didn’t matter because Jose didn’t need a lot of time, or games, to be able to show the scouts what he was made of. Jose created an online profile that inclduded his video, academics, and 40yd time in the mid 4's. Those stats captured the attention of Sterling College (Kansas). The college recruiter liked what he saw and reached out to Jose. A few phone calls and official visit later, Jose became the first member of the Everglades Prep Panthers to make it to the collegiate level. No doubt a proud moment for Jose and his family and an even prouder moment for Coach Nani.
Lead by Example
One would think that a new school, new team, new players and a small, near non-existent team budget, would cause a coach to stress out. Not Coach Ryan Nani. Nani has a tight relationship with all his players. Where the strikes against him would cause other coaches to run for the exits, Nani thrives in the underdog role and relishes in the fact that they are the new guys on the block. He shows his athletes that even though they're a small team, they will be a force to be reckoned with.
"We're very young, but we're very good."
Nani, a Rhode Island transplant, has a solid football background and hopes to instill his love and knowledge of the game in his players. In Miami since 1998, he landed the coaching spot at Everglades Prep just 2 years ago and has done an outstanding job with a small roster of less than 30. Finishing 3-3 last year, Coach Nani is expecting big things from his hungry group of gridiron warriors.
Nestled in 3A-8 with the likes of Chaminade-Madonna, Somerset Silver Palms and Westminster Christian, the Panthers have their work cut out for them. "We're gonna surprise some people this year".