If your a college coach and your looking for a top-flight linebacker, then the first place you'll likely head is South Florida, which seems to have an endless supply of them. The most recent to emerge is Miami (Fla.) Columbus outside linebacker Antonio Lowrey.
"He is just a very athletic kid," Columbus head coach Chris Merritt said. "He also plays basketball and right now he leads Dade County in rebounding with 11 per game. On the football field he is just a true defensive guy who knocks people out. His sophomore year he played defensive end for us, but he had that linebacker mentality and with his physical attributes we felt that it was a natural fit."
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Lowrey runs the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds and has a 265-pound bench press. Though he has not taken the ACT or SAT yet, Lowrey does hold down a solid 2.7 GPA.
"The best thing about Antonio is that he is a ballhawk," Merritt said. "When he is out there he causes fumbles left and right like Ray Lewis. This year Killian went 13-1 and won the state championship and we were the only team to beat them. Antonio sealed the deal for us in that game in overtime when he ran the quarterback down from behind and popped the ball out."
As a junior Lowrey collected 52 tackles, five tackles for loss, he also forced six fumbles recovering one of them. He also intercepted two passes as a junior, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
"He is a vibrant tackler," Merritt said. "We can line him up at defensive end, linebacker, safety or wherever and he is going to make plays. No matter where that kid lines up, he is always making plays. He's got very explosive legs and he has a very good vertical jump which can cause problems for a quarterback when he is trying to throw the ball.
Lowrey will attend Junior Day at the University of Florida in the next couple of weeks. He will also attend the NIKE camp in Miami in early April.
While Lowrey is certainly a talent, he is not the only college prospect on his team. He is not even the only linebacker that is a prospect on his team, because 6-foot-0, 215-pound Mike Fernandez is also going to get looks this spring from college recruiters.
"Mike led our team in tackles as a junior," Merritt said. "The thing about Mike is that he really wants to get better. He is the kind of kid that goes the extra mile and works overtime. I think that shows a lot in the weightroom because he definitely stands out in there. He is a really strong kid He has been starting the last two years for us and is one of the cornerstones of our defense."
Fernandez racked up 74 tackles, seven tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and recovered one fumble. He also carries a solid 2.9 GPA, but has yet to take the test to become fully qualified. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.75 seconds, has a 275-pound bench press and did 375 pounds on the squat seven times.