Article and Photography by Alice Mary Herden
Nature Coast Technical High School Seniors Michyl Shaw and Michael Marotta played in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl (Class of 2020) at Raymond James Stadium.
Tampa, Fla. -- Thousands of high school athletes who play football have at least dreamed of playing for the NFL, and on January 4, 2020,117 seniors experienced how the turf feels under their cleats in a pro-sport environment.
Veteran players from over ten NFL teams took these high school students who love the game under their wing to coach, direct, and give them an experience they all know very well. Two of Hernando County’s student-athletes from Nature Coast Technical High School got that opportunity, Seniors Michyl Shaw and Michael Marotta.
Michyl Shaw | "It was Magical"
Offensive Linebacker | Strong Safety | Tight End
“It was amazing, just to come out of the tunnel and look around that stadium,” Shaw said. “It opened my eyes to see how much talent there is really out there.”
Shaw was coached by Ken Stills, a retired NFL player who played with the Green Bay Packers as Safety from 1985 to 1990 and retired after one season with the Minnesota Vikings.
“It felt good to be taught (by Stills) at practice and on the game field. He taught us what we should know at the next level.”
Shaw explained some of the key components Stills provided that included how much distance they should be from the ball and other important skills.
“It was a good experience, most kids don’t get to do stuff like that,” Shaw said. “When my friends asked about it, I tell them that I hope they get to do something like this next year.”
Michael Marotta | "It’s been a Great Journey"
Guard | Defensive Tackle | Offensive Linebacker
Michael Marotta also played in the North-South Allstar Game held at The Villages on December 21, 2019.
“Just looking up into the stadium and thinking about all the fans that could be there and all the fans that were there. It’s just an incredible feeling.”
Marotta’s coach was Jerry Wunsch, a retired NFL player who played with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a tackle from 1997 to 2001. He retired after three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks.
“You can definitely tell he was absolutely sure in what he was doing. Those little minute details that he paid attention to when he would watch us play. It’s refreshing to know that there are coaches that really can pay attention to the individual things.”
Marotta and Shaw are now examples for their teammates.
“I think that me, Michael, and a few others definitely showed them (underclassmen) that they could do something,” Shaw said.
These two seniors from Nature Coast Tech were able to walk through the same tunnel where millions of people watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers enter the field before every home game. The hype, the energy, and hard-core determination were brewing in all these players: 57 guys on the South and 61 guys on the North. They were prepped, directed and ready to make things happen.
Final score: South 16, North 10
About Blue-Grey Football
The Blue-Grey Football, established in the late 1980s by father and son Gus and Erik Bell, helps young prospects by providing a more extensive visual exposure through a variety of well-known media outlets, such as televised live games through ESPN. Events like the Blue-Grey All American Bowl have been gaining attention for over twenty years by inviting talented young men an opportunity playing in an NFL environment.
Learn more on their website at https://bluegreyfootball.com/