The Premier Player of Tampa Bay High School Football Trophy is our latest award recognizing top athletes from Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Hernando counties. The first poll of 20 high school candidates was launched Nov. 1, 2014, for fans to vote the first recipient of the award. They selected Sickles Gryhons’ senior runningback Ray Ray McCloud III as the 2014 Premier Player of Tampa Bay High School Football. Ray Ray went on to attend Clemson University where he helped The Tigers reach the national title game.
2014 Ray Ray McCloud III
Running Back, Sickles Gryphons
On Dec. 10, 2014, fans voted Ray Ray McCloud III as the first recipient of The Premier Player of High School Football Trophy. The star running back for the Sickles Gryphons had 1,933 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior year. McCloud also set county records with 5,765 rushing yards and 58 total touchdowns in his career.
Rivals.com ranked the 5'10" 175lbs athlete the No. 23 player and No. 2 wide receiver in the nation and No. 9 player in Florida; 247Sports.com listed McCloud as the No. 81 player and No. 11 wide receiver in the nation; and Scout.com ranked him the No. 121 player in the nation.
Coached by Brian Turner, McCloud also earned the Guy Toph Award as best player in Hillsborough County as a senior an all-state selection. He will continue his football career at Clemson University.
2015 Decalon Brooks
Inside Linebacker, Gaither Cowboys
Decalon Brooks may have the family name, but this member of the Brooks clan forged his own legacy in the state of Florida in 2015. Decalon, son of NFL Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks, had an outstanding junior season at inside linebacker for the Gaither Cowboys. Brooks made 114 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss and had five sacks while always being the target of the opposition game plan. The result is that with still a year to go until a college decision has to be made, Brooks has the scholarship offers piling up.
Brooks’ main asset is his playmaking ability. He does all the things you would expect of a middle linebacker at the prep level, but then he will flash something unexpected that shifts to momentum in favor of his team. He also has the asset of being at his best when under pressure, an aspect of the game that is not coachable and that is often overlooked when aspiring to greatness. Brooks has all the focus you would expect of a player with NFL blood running through his veins and he is picking up the right coaching and the correct mindset to transfer his game from Fridays to Saturdays with minimal added effort.
At 5-feet-10 and 190 pounds Brooks is still growing. His 4.55 40-yard dash time is outstanding for a player of his age and is something that scouts are looking to see. Linebackers in both college and the pros have to be able to run from sideline to sideline and cover slot receivers in the pass happy football world of 2015 and that is something Brooks’ athleticism and intelligence allows him to do at a very high level.
If Decalon continues to play and improve at the level he has to this point then following in the family employment line may become more than just a dream.
2016 Malik Davis
Running Back, Jesuit Tigers
To say that Malik Davis has had quite the high school career is probably something of an understatement. At Jesuit High School in Tampa, Florida, Davis has rushed for so many yards over the course of his four years career that the measurement we use to judge the distance travelled by running backs almost seems worthless. So, while it is worth noting that Davis has rushed for an astonishing 7,029 rushing yards over his four year high school career, we are going to move up a level.
As a high school running back Malik Davis rushed for just a shade under four miles.
The numbers here are just off the charts. Davis rushed for 495 yards as a freshman on 79 carries in limited action. Even in his first year of high school it was obvious that Davis was a special talent as he averaged 6.3 yards per rush. Understandably a decision was made before the start of his sophomore season to feed Davis the ball and the running back responded by getting better year after year.
As a sophomore Davis went for 1,728 yards at an average of 6.9 yards per carry and scored 18 rushing touchdowns. As a junior those numbers improved to 2,337 yards rushing at 8.1 yards per carry and 28 rushing touchdowns. Most would set those numbers as a junior and plateau, it is after all almost impossible to rush for more than 8.1 yards as an average for an entire season. Davis though dedicated himself to getting bigger, faster, and stronger and the work in the weight room, along with getting smarter about the game on the field, paid off.
In his senior season Davis rushed for an astonishing 2,469 yards at a mind blowing 11.5 yard per carry average. He scored 33 rushing touchdowns, and half way through the year he set a new record for rushing yards in a career for a Hillsborough County player as he broken the mark of 5,765 yards set by Ray Ray McCloud at the end of the 2014 season. That Davis was able to put almost 1,300 yards between him and McColud shows what an incredible second half of the year he had.
Davis now moves on to the University of Florida, looking to be as effective a weapon for the Gators as he was for Jesuit for the last four seasons.