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Sarasota'         s own Marlon Mack was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts. Photo courtesy USF Athletics.
Sarasota Thursday, May 4, 2017 5 years ago

Booker legend's selection in NFL Draft a win for community

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Prose and Kohn: Ryan Kohn.
by: Ryan Kohn Sports Editor

The third and final day of the NFL Draft is weird.

The biggest names are gone. Casual fans have long since stopped watching. TV analysts act as if their broadcast is a lightning round of improv comedy so they can get through it. Even I usually turn the channel to something more riveting and wait for my team’s picks to appear on Twitter. This year, though, it reached a point I thought it never would: NFL teams using live animals to announce draft picks.

Stay with me, I promise there’s a reason I’m writing about this.

The Indianapolis Colts used an orangutan from the Indianapolis Zoo to announce three of their picks. The orangutan would tap a screen, and the name of the team’s selection would appear. I somehow missed the Colts’ first pick, so I made sure I paid attention to the second. For reasons not totally clear to me, I felt I had to see this ape in action.

A Colts official started the process by reciting common draft lingo: “With the 143rd pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts select … ”

The camera panned to the orangutan, who tapped the screen.

“Marlon Mack.”

That’s Marlon Mack, running back, University of South Florida, by way of Booker High School.

Mack is USF’s all-time leading rusher, finishing his Bulls career with 3,609 yards and 32 touchdown. He’s a legend at Booker and in Sarasota.

I knew there was a reason I kept watching.

Current Booker senior Eunique Arnold said he was on the freshman football team when Mack was a senior. They had gym class together. They also knew each other from their days playing in the Sarasota Ringling Redskins youth football program. They still talk, Arnold said, if they run into each other around town. When Mack was drafted, Arnold was shocked, in a good way. He’s not used to seeing players from this area make it big.

“Well, I was hoping the (Tampa Bay) Buccaneers would draft him,” Arnold said. “But really, I was just thinking, “Man, I’m from the same place.’”

There is only one other player from Sarasota in the NFL. That’s Sam Shields, another Booker alumnus. Shields went undrafted in 2010 before signing with the Green Bay Packers. There have been others from the city drafted, but for the current crop of youths in the area, Mack is it. He’s the one they’ll remember.

Mack is a role model for students at Booker. He still comes back to play pickup basketball games at the Sarasota YMCA with everyone, Arnold said. Kids study his Booker highlights on Hudl, a digital tool that provides football game footage, to see how he played, to model their game after his. At the time, he played offense and defense (as a safety), and excelled at both. Even if most students at Booker weren’t around to watch him, they’ve heard of him.

Everyone wants to be Marlon Mack.

The Colts selecting Mack did more than reward a great player for his hard work. Tony Register, a defensive tackle at Booker, has an offer from Indiana University, and interest from plenty of other “Power Five” schools. Mack’s selection helped give confidence to Register that he can fulfill his NFL dreams, he said.

No matter what happens next, the impact of Mack’s success is already being felt.

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