FootballPower Regional Team Spotlights
Every Wednesday, FootballPower will highlight one team from each region in the country and provide insight into the school’s background, history, current season and other interesting stories regarding the
program. Stay tuned each week and follow along with us. Who knows – your team may be selected at any given time!
Spotlight On: St. Thomas Aquinas
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Group: Florida Class 5A
By Ryan Rohde and Matt Forman
He owns 31 years of experience at the same school, more than 300 wins as head coach, four championships and one perfect season.
If one guessed the previous resume as belonging to Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden, they would be wrong.
Rather, St. Thomas Aquinas head coach George Smith has compiled a 321-65 record while leading the Raiders to 23 district titles, 18 region championships and posting nine
undefeated regular seasons. Not to mention being named to the Florida High School Athletic Association All-Century coaching staff.
What may be even more impressive than his bio is Smith’s ability to produce top-flight talent. Throughout his tenure at St. Thomas Aquinas, the 60-year old has produced 36 NFL players, including Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin, and over 20 current Div. I players.
This years’ team is no different. There are least 15 Div. I prospects on the current roster. The ‘08 Raiders (ranked #3 in our Mega Top Ten Poll) are led by Ohio State-bound wideout Duron Carter, son of NFL Hall of Fame wideout Cris Carter, who coincidently signed on to be a wide receivers coach at Aquinas.
"He makes defenders miss in the open field and gets the important yards after the catch,” Smith said to Jim Halley of USA Today on his senior receiver. “He has a knack for making the big play and moving the chains."
Carter has developed a solid report with his quarterback Ryan Decker, a dual-threat playmaker. The 6-foot 175-pound signal-caller is considering offers from Wake Forest, NC State, Vanderbilt and South Florida. The other two pass catchers for Aquinas are Dwayne Difton and tight end Gabe Holmes.
Although the Aquinas passing attack scorched defenses for nearly 2,000 yards last season, it also features a stout, dual-headed rushing attack. The Raiders backfield is spearheaded by two junior running backs, Giovanni Bernard and James White.
Surprisingly, Aquinas grew increasingly familiar with being number two. The Raiders lost five straight championship games since 2000 before winning the elusive crown last season. With a stockpile of talent,
Aquinas becomes the hunted instead of the hunter. And so come the pre-season rankings and accolades, even if Aquinas returns only six starters from last year’s squad.
"This is our most inexperienced team we've had in four years,” Smith said to Halley earlier this month. “I can't understand how we can be rated as high as we are. It's ridiculous. You return two starters on offense and four or five on defense. I don't know. That's the way it is."
Despite the new influx of talent, a program like Aquinas doesn’t rebuild, it reloads. The Raiders, 2-0, have started the 2008 campaign with wins over Cincinnati Elder (OH), 35-24, and Cardinal Gibbons (NC),
And while Bowden, 78, has named his predecessor in Jimbo Fisher, Smith has no intentions of stepping aside. Smith is just 19 wins away from topping Florida's all-time wins record at 340.
Next up: Thursday, September 18 vs. Everglades (State PR: 75.00, Rank: 24).