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Miami Norland Vikings achieve beyond the gridiron

Akilah Laster | 11/21/2013, 9 a.m.
Sophomore Miami Norland Viking Damion Barry completing work in class. Miami Times photos/Akilah Laster

At the onset of the football season usafootball.com posted a list of high schools that had the most NFL players currently on a roster; Miami’s Norland Senior High School was at the top with six.

While this statistic brings the school athletic recognition, administrators and former players say they are most proud of the off-field impact of their student-athletes.

“We want people to have something to rally around,” said Norland principal, Reginald Lee. “The beacon of a community should either be a church or a school and we want to be the light for this community.”

Lee, a former administrator at the school now in his second year as principal, says he has been amazed by the character development of the players and their no-nonsense approach to getting it done in the classroom.

Norland has been an ‘A’ school for the last six years. “Hopefully what everyone sees is that not only do we produce quality athletes, but quality people,” he said.

Since 2009, under coach Daryle Heidelburg, approximately 60 players have gone on to play college football, but Heidelburg said he was always most impressed by the players who earned academic scholarships, like Brian Malcolm, a 2011 graduate who attends the University of Miami.

“It was nice to see players that appreciate academic success as much as they do playing football,” said Heidelburg, a Norland alum who also holds a Master’s Degree in Reading.

“But what we try to stress to our players and what most people don’t realize is that it’s easier to earn an academic scholarship than one through athletics.”

Viking pride

What motivated the players’ off-field achievements? According to Leatis Jones and Feddy Davey, both who played Division I football, they wanted to restore a sense of pride in their community.

“We take pride in being a Viking and knowing what it means to be a Viking,” said Davey, 20, who plays for Washington State University. “People say that football players aren’t smart so it was also about proving those outsiders wrong by getting good grades and going off to college.”

“It was about knowing that there is life outside of football,” said Jones, who is also on an academic scholarship at UM. “That approach changed the atmosphere of the school and surrounding community.”

Even after winning the 5A state title in 2011, the players’ off-field efforts have not diminished. There are currently around 20 players that are taking Advanced Placement courses or are in a dual-enrollment program, where they can achieve college credits while in high school.

“Those moments that we achieved something greater than expected gave our alumni and community something to be proud of,” Jones said. “It restored the meaning of Viking Pride.”