TAMPA — They worked harder than almost anybody, shined in multiple sports, and always — always — led by example.
On Monday at The Tampa Tribune’s 10th annual Parade of Athletes banquet, they were honored with the night’s biggest prize, the overall female and male athletes of the year: Robinson senior Caroline King, who starred in flag football, lacrosse and soccer; and Jefferson senior Deiondre Porter, who shined in football and track.
It was an award that left King pleasantly surprised and tremendously humbled.
“I had absolutely no idea that I would win,” said a beaming King. “I’m so honored. What a great night.”
Porter, meantime, didn’t necessarily think he would win the award, but thought he had a chance.
“I wasn’t sure because I finished second (at the state track meet in the long jump),” Porter said. “But I was hoping. To get this means so, so much to me. I’ve come so far from when I was little sophomore.”
Both Porter and King certainly had the stats to back up their status.
In football, Porter had one of the best seasons in Hillsborough County history. He completed 150 of 263 passes for 3,199 yards and 33 touchdowns, rushed for 1,499 yards and 20 touchdowns and led the Dragons to a 10-2 record with their final loss coming against Armwood, 52-48 in a region semifinal.
In track, Porter placed second in the long jump at the Class 3A state with a leap of 23 feet, 6 inches, just 1.5 inches behind the winner. Porter also came back to place seventh at state in the 200-meter dash in 22.02 seconds.
King made the Tribune’s first team in all three of her sports. As a defender in soccer, King scored seven goals and collected two assists. In lacrosse, she scored 43 goals with 19 assists, and in flag football she was first-team all state with 99 catches for 863 yards and 11 interceptions for the state champion Knights, who finished 19-0.
Academically, King was even better. She not only graduated from the prestigious International Baccalaureate, but she also finished her entire academic career — from kindergarten through high school — without making anything less than A.
“She might be the best all-around person I’ve ever met,” Robinson flag football coach Josh Saunders said. “In addition to being a great athlete and a great student, she is a wonderful person. She is very concerned about helping anybody who needs help. She is kind and considerate and giving.
“She truly is awesome.”
Jefferson football coach Jeremy Earle had similar gushing sentiments about Porter throughout his three years as the Dragons’ quarterback. After Porter won this year’s Guy Toph award, given each year to Hillsborough County’s top football player, Earle said, “It’s been one of the greatest highlights as a coach to see Deiondre grow into such a great leader. He was an absolute pleasure to coach, and he will most certainly be missed.”
The other top overall awards went to Bloomingdale softball coach Mandy Schuerman and Lennard boys basketball coach Danny Gaddis.
Schuerman guided the Bulls through three road playoff games before winning the state title game 3-2 against Hagerty, which entered the game ranked No. 1. Schuerman can now place the coaches’ honor next to her Tribune softball player of the year award, which she won in 2001 while playing for East Bay.
What Schuerman did for the Bulls, Gaddis did for the Longhorns, guiding them through the most magical season of any sport in the history of the school.
Lennard, unranked the entire season, finished 25-5, winning district and region titles before losing in the Class 6A state semifinal to No. 2 ranked Lake Minneola, 74-52.
For Lennard, it was the first time one of its teams reached a state final four.