Unbeknownst to most football fans, but very familiar to Bobby Bowden, Steve Spurrier, Urban Myer, and the like – in a small area of the Florida Everglades nestled in Palm Beach county lie Belle Glade and Pahokee, Florida. These towns located less than ten miles apart, also referred to as Muck City for its abundance of dark rich soil, produce about half of the nation’s sugar cane and some of this country’s top football talent.
Although small in size and population, Muck City has sent over 60 players to the NFL, a number that far surpasses cities double, triple, and quadruple its size. Current and former NFL players Anquan Boldin, Santonio Holmes, Fred Taylor, James Lee, Janoris Jenkins, Damien Berry, Ray McDonald, Deonte Thompson, and Pernell McPhee just to name a few all hail from “The Muck.”
One may ask, how has this tiny area in the Florida Heartlands produced some of the fastest and most talented football talent in the nation? Natives say you have to look no further than its nickname to find the answer…it’s in the Muck. Just for fun or to sell in order to help provide financial assistance to their families, young boys often grow up chasing and catching rabbits in the marsh soil that the area is known for. This ritual allows the young boys to develop the speed and reflexes that would lead to them excel on the football field, and in a place stricken by poverty, unemployment, and crime (which are problems that are usually interconnected) success on the field is often viewed as the only way out by most young men who call Belle Glade and Pahokee home.
“Football is all we know,” says NFL offensive tackle James Lee. “Our families often don’t have the money to send us to college, so we use football as a way to get out…to better ourselves.”
For over 30 years Muck City has used its natural resource in its soil, and its greatest resource in its people to produce colleges and the NFL with great football talent. And the players who have benefited from opportunities that success on the field has afforded them continue to rep the Muck to the fullest, and often return to its marshlands to encourage a new group of youngsters to strive for excellence not only on the football field, but in the classroom and life.
NFL football player James Lee, like many of his comrades, has started a foundation (The James Lee Foundation for Children) to help children that grow up in Muck City, and he continues to stay connected and active in the community that he is proud to call home. His 4th annual Muck City Fest will be held June 8, 2013 in Belle Glade, Florida. You can click here for more information.