Prep football program to give Big Bend players second chance
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
If Andrew Brown has anything near the success seen around the country by other coaches who run a Gattaca Football prep program, a lot of players in the Big Bend could get a shot at playing for a four-year program.
“When you look at the number (of players) we have in Tallahassee, all of those kids are going to Division I programs, but some of them will fall through the gap,” said Brown. “They are still good talent and we could help them.”
Brown’s plan for doing so isn’t a reinvention of the prep school system. Essentially, the program will give current or former high school players with NCAA playing eligibility an opportunity to work on their grades while playing football.
His concept calls for players to join his North Florida Tigers team, then enroll at Tallahassee Community College where they’ll work on getting their grades up to the point that they’ll be eligible for a four-year program.
It will be the second Gattaca Football program, a private independent junior college club program that established its first Florida team in Tampa in 2014. Gattaca was started in New Jersey by Manuel Galarza in 2010 and today there are four similar programs on the east coast.
Prior to the start up of Gattaca, players who wanted to use junior college as a stepping stone to a Division I program, had to travel as far west as California in some cases. The private prep concept has been getting rave reviews from players and coaches since its inception.
Brown, who also founded the Tallahassee Wolves semi-pro football team, said the program will be on sabbatical until next year, while he develops the Gattaca prep team.
Gattaca Football isn’t affiliated with the NCAA or the National Junior College Athletic Association. However, Brown said it will operate under the sanction of the Nation Prep School Athletic Association, which runs its program according to NCAA requirements.
The program is a win-win for colleges and players, said former FAMU coach Joe Taylor.
“Whenever you’re providing an opportunity for young people to get on the right track, to me that’s huge,” said Taylor, the third winningest Black college coach who is currently athletic director at Virginia Union. “In our society it’s a necessity because sometimes you have kids for whom the lights don’t always go on at the same time.
“They probably finish high school and go out there and see the world is real. They are loo
king for opportunity to prepare themselves so they could move farther in terms of education and exhibiting their skills.”
The Tallahassee team already has a website (www.tallahasseetigers.com) where prospects can sign up. Brown estimates that one year of the program will cost $11,537, including housing, tuitions and books. It also includes an initial sign-up fee of $2,500 tuition, which Brown said will be used for the football program.
He’s expecting to field a first-year team to start the season this fall. Sixteen prospects showed up last weekend for the team’s first tryout and another will be held in the spring, Brown said.
Daniel McLeod, who runs the Tampa program with a team called the Hurricanes, said Tallahassee is an ideal location for the program.
“I see a lot of success for Tallahassee,” he said. “It’s in the panhandle so it’s close to the gulf coast. Not only can you cater to the Tallahassee kids; you can cater to a plethora of student-athletes from around that Gulf Coast area.”