ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
ALL OF THE BIG-GAME HIGHLIGHTS ON THE field and all of the accolades and academic accomplishments off of it can all be undone by one ill-advised tweet or one poorly judged post on
Instagram or Facebook.
These days, social media can be a difference-maker
for high school recruits, both positive and negative. Roger
Harriott, new head football coach at powerhouse St. Thomas
Aquinas, has seen both sides of it.
Last year as assistant head coach and running backs coach
at Florida Atlantic University, Harriott saw how closely the
Owls’ coaching staff monitored potential recruits on social
media. It was how the coaches tracked and communicated
with prospects. They examined the tone of the messages
that players posted on twitter, the pictures they posted on
Instagram and who they interacted with on Facebook.
“That was the most eye-opening experience for me in
college,” Harriott told FNF Magazine this spring. “It ultimately
allowed me to become a more affective high school coach.”
Before joining Florida Atlantic, Harriott spent eight years at
the University School of Nova Southeastern, leading the Suns to
the 2012 state championship. At University, he became aware
of the pitfalls of social media. He even witnessed players,
who were poised to head to the next level, mess up on social
media and, as a result, have colleges cut ties. He is determined
to not let his players at St. Thomas Aquinas suffer that fate.
“I have a whole educational process that we try to
The Raiders will be visible, active members in the community,
implement and inspire to make sure they’re equipped to
handle the recruiting process with dignity and represent the
organization in a first-class manner,” Harriott said. “It’s my
job to help the players realize how to utilize [social media] as
a tool to help highlight their positive attributes.”
Social media is only one aspect of Harriott’s ultimate
vision for his tenure at St. Thomas Aquinas. Yes, of course,
he wants to continue the Raiders’ championship tradition on
the field, but his aspirations off the field are even greater.
working with under-privileged youth and the homeless. They’ll
emulate the program’s mantra of faith, family and excellence.
“My personal objective is to bring a family-oriented philoso-
phy to the football team,” Harriott said. “I want to help them
become productive members of society, become better young
men and eventually better fathers and members of society.”
BISHOP KENN Y
THE EASY CHOICE ISN’T ALWAYS THE BEST ONE. Just ask Bishop Kenny coach Mark Thorson. Entering the 2010 season, it would have been easy for Thorson to go with a returning upperclass-
man as his starting quarterback instead of a promising
incoming freshman. It also would have been arguably one of
the biggest mistakes of his coaching career.
Luckily for the Crusaders, Thorson wouldn’t make that
mistake. Instead, he handed the reins of his offense to a
14-year-old by the name of John Wolford.
Like most coaches, Thorson had never started a freshman
at quarterback. The savvy that comes with experience is a
comforting force for coaches. But Wolford was different, and
Thorson spotted it quickly.
“I knew it as soon as he stepped in the huddle,” Thorson
said this spring, thinking back to what was a defining season
for the Bishop Kenny program. “He had great command of
the huddle. The players just responded to him and his leader-
ship. He had a great command of the offense, was telling
players where to line up in certain plays and formations. He
just had their attention and respect instantly.”
As a freshman, Wolford would lead the Crusaders to their
first region championship in 33 seasons, despite not turning
15 until October. He would go on to a prolific four-year career
that included an epic performance in a 74-73 loss to Green
Cove Springs Clay in a 2013 regional semifinal. Wolford threw
seven touchdown passes and rushed for three more, setting a
national record with 773 yards of total offense in the game.
Before he was done, Wolford would pass Heisman Trophy
winner Tim Tebow for Northeast Florida’s career leader in
touchdown passes. Wolford is now the starting quarterback
at Wake Forest.
Thorson looks back fondly on his time with Wolford. He
says he didn’t have to do too much coaching and just tried
to keep his talented signal-caller calm during his freshman
season. When Thorson looks back at his choice to anoint a
freshman as his starting quarterback, he says it wasn’t even
that tough of a decision.
“It definitely was the right one, though,” Thorson said.
New St. Thomas Aquinas coach Roger Harriott has set big goals for his program.
Mark Thorson has developed Bishop Kenny into a region powerhouse.