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FLORIDA LAUGHS ITS WAY TO THE TOP
By Laine Ewen
Florida is the No. 1 football state in the country. Here's why:
1. It's all in the numbers. Florida has three NFL teams (the Bucs, Dolphins, and Jaguars), a number matched only by California and New York. But California is way bigger than Florida and two of New York's teams play their games in New Jersey.
2. Winter Blahs? Winter Ha ha has! You know how you have to bring tons of blankets and your really good water-proof gloves to a football game in December? Or how you have to take off all of your layers once you get inside the dome and your cupholder is so full of scarves and mittens you don't have room to put down your beer? I don't. Florida stadiums are all outdoors, and December weather is glorious.
3. Fun in the Sunshine State. When visiting teams come to play, they have more than opposing game plans to fear. Being in Florida gives players the false sense that they are on vacation. And there's plenty of temptation, what with the beaches and the aforementioned weather, Miami's hot nightlife, Tampa's famous stripclubs, and Jacksonville's ... well, did I mention the sun? There's plenty of sun in Jacksonville.
4. Real men wear pastels. Florida football players are so fierce, so testosterone-fueled that they aren't ashamed to wear aqua. The Jaguars wear aqua jerseys (though finicky fans know it's really teal), and they wear them tough.
The Dolphins? They wear aqua AND coral. And their mascot is a marine mammal with a cute li'l angry face. Does that stop them from playing hard and kicking butt? No, it doesn't! Although earlier this year that was in doubt.
And while the Bucs have adopted a new red-and-black color scheme, we all remember their years of orange creamsicle-colored jerseys and the swishy swashbuckling mascot who long pre-dated Johnny Depp's coolifying of the vaguely effeminate pirate. Did the Bucs win a lot in those days? No, not really. But were they manly while they lost? Sort of!
5. We win and lose to the X-treme. Miami's '72 Dolphins are the league's only undefeated team in the Super Bowl era. The '76 Bucs are the league's only winless team. Florida owns both sides of the record books.
Writer Laine Ewen has an excuse for loving creamsicle jerseys: She grew up in Tampa.
Florida laughs its way to the top
By Brian Guthrie
You have to respect Texas and California high school ball, but the stats in your own article say it all: How many major college prospects come out of Texas, California and Florida annually?
All three produced about 260 last year, and consistently produce between 250 to 300 per year. Nobody else comes close. Ohio? Only 129 this year.
How does Florida produce as many prospects as Texas or California, but with half the number of high schools and a smaller population than either of those states? The most obvious explanation would be the quality of the high school football (talent, coaching, and level of competition) in Florida!
Not that a few games mean much, but in the 1990s, Miami Southridge beat both Dallas Carter and Massillon from Ohio in consecutive years in high school mega-road trips. Florida teams have probably lost such matchups now and then, but they usually seem to win.
Other athletes can't easily adjust to the speed of Florida high school ball. Look at the California-Florida All-Star game, which Florida usually wins. Last year was a blowout led by Tim Tebow, who now backs up Chris Leak for the Gators and will be playing for the BCS championship this year as a true freshman.
ESPN.com wants your opinion about where Florida ranks as a pro, college or high school football state. Submit your thoughts