junior Mark-Anthony Richards felt right at home at the annual ‘ Media Day for South Florida high school football teams Saturday.
Richards was one of roughly 800 athletes from more than 100 schools across Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties who attended the day-long event at Hard Rock Stadium. It was the most athletes and teams in the event’s fifth-year history.
"Being out at the Miami Dolphins facility is an honor," said Richards, whose brother Ahmmon Richards is a talented sophomore wide receiver who plays at the Hard Rock for the University of Miami, one of six schools recruiting the younger Richards. "This is actually my favorite team so to be able to watch Jarvis Landry and some of the other players participate in this event.
Wellington coach Thomas Abel called the event great exposure for his players.
"This is unbelievable," Abel said. "I wish I had something like this when I was growing up. They get an opportunity to talk and get the feel for what it is like to play college football and in the NFL someday."
Team by team, players and coaches were ushered through photo shoots, interviews on camera and press conference sit-downs with reporters from local media to talk about their expectations for the upcoming season.
Miami Dolphins Youth Football Ambassador Twan Russell said the organization chose to hold the media day as part of the Dolphins intrasquad scrimmage because of the increased media presence.
"This is a great opportunity for our athletes to tell their stories," Russell said. "With everybody being 0-0 we find out their strategies. It helps with recruiting and helps with them telling their stories.
"It teaches kids how to speak in public," added Russell, a St. Thomas Aquinas alum who played linebacker for the Dolphins from 2000-02. He hopes local schools will eventually make media day mandatory. "It is also about character. We have brought out about 35 teams to the Miami Dolphins training facility to date and talked about character and talked about being great football players."
St. Thomas Aquinas is gunning for a fourth straight state championship and coach Roger Harriott said events like the one Saturday help shape the athletes for the future.
"The majority of these kids aspire to be intercollegiate athletes and the Miami Dolphins have done a great job in providing that platform to demonstrate what professionalism looks like," Harriott said.
University of Miami commit Al Blades Jr., a Raiders senior cornerback, said the event puts high school athletes on a platform and it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"This is a great chance to put all of the individual teams and their significant players here on a great platform," Blades said.
Athletic Director Rocky Gillis said it is a tremendous event that the Miami Dolphins put on.
"It keeps the high schools and the community engaged," Gillis said. "The Dolphins are tremendous for the things they do in the local community and we are very excited and happy to be a part of it."
Olympic Heights senior linebacker Troy Jaffy called Saturday an "eye-opener."
"It’s great to see what the media is like," Jaffy said. "It lets you focus on the little things that can make you better to prepare yourself for the next level."