A sign hanging above the Immokalee High School football team's field house captured the theme of this year's Indians.
"The strength of the Indian is the tribe, and the strength of the tribe is the Indian," the sign said.
In Immokalee, a town of a little more than 24,000 residents that has a median household income of less than $25,000 a year, the high school football team appears rich in talent.
As high school football practices began across Florida on Monday, the Immokalee Indians took the field at Gary Bates Stadium with at least 10 Division I college recruits among the junior and senior classes. The double-digit figure might not be uncommon at some football powerhouses, but double-digit figures have never happened in Southwest Florida.
That makes the goal of winning a district championship an obvious one. It makes the goal of becoming the second team in school history and just the fourth team in Southwest Florida history to win a state championship a realistic one.
* Senior quarterback Tshumbi Johnson, a cousin of former NFL running backs Edgerrin James and Fred McCrary, verbally committed to the University of South Florida.
* Senior cornerback Mackensie Alexander, ranked the No. 6 player in the nation by ESPN, had three interceptions last regular season, when quarterbacks threw his direction just 11 times.
* Senior athlete Mackenro Alexander, Mackensie's twin brother, verbally committed to Florida State University. In high school, he can play wide receiver, linebacker, safety and cornerback.
Those are just some of the players projected to play Saturday afternoons on national television. In Immokalee, aspirations don't end on Saturdays.
This farm community has produced more NFL players than any in Southwest Florida. The newest generation looks up to those who have played professionally and see it as a ticket out of an impoverished community.
"We've been out here playing with each other since Pop Warner," Mackenro Alexander said.
No Lee team ever had this many Division I players either, although the 1992 Fort Myers Green Wave came close.
That season's USA TODAY Defensive Player of the Year, Fort Myers cornerback/wide receiver Jammi German, became one of six eventual Division I signees.
That 1992 Green Wave team ranked No. 6 in the nation. It finished 12-1, its season ended by Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas during the playoffs.
"I know Immokalee is great," said Fort Myers guidance counselor and Green Wave team historian Bobby Sizemore. "I know Immokalee is fantastic. But the '92 team was something special."
In week eight of the 1992 season, Barron Collier entered the matchup against Fort Myers averaging 49.7 points per game. Fort Myers won, 15-0.
"With all due respect to this year's Immokalee team, they would have to bring their A-game to play our 1992 team," Sizemore said.
Win or lose, having 10 Division I recruits at Immokalee should do wonders for getting attention, said Brandon Huffman, a national recruiting analyst for Scout.com.
"It's just so rare, especially in this day and age of transferring, of guys leaving one school for another, to have that many on one team," Huffman said. "But remember, there's a difference between Division I prospects and Division I signees."
Players can make nonbinding verbal commitments during the fall but do not sign until the first Wednesday in February. Injuries, poor grades and other intangibles can detonate a student-athlete's projected goal of earning a Division I scholarship.
"Half the time, the team doesn't always win," Huffman said of teams stacked with athletes who appear to be college-bound. "There are a lot of teams I've seen that had numerous Division I guys, but maybe they didn't have the coaching or the discipline. They'll start worrying about recruiting and stop worrying about their actual season. That's the biggest pitfall for a coaching staff."
Entering his third season as Immokalee's coach, Jarrod Ackley said he's aware of the pitfalls of possibly of his players being too good for their own good.
"Who knows in February how things are going to end up," Ackley said. "We want to end all the recruiting talk. We have a goal in December of winning a state championship. That said, we want to win a district championship and win one game at a time.
"We talked to our players about how this is a tremendous opportunity for them to get noticed. It's a real good chance to show who you are as a player."
Ackley, 39, served as a Marine out of high school. He moved from Idaho to Florida in 2006 with the goal of becoming a big-time high school football coach. After serving as an assistant at Lely High for three seasons and spending 2008 as a defensive intern and video coordinator at Idaho State University, Ackley took the job at Immokalee. He moved to Immokalee in a house near Lake Trafford.
Ackley picked the right place.
Keith Niebuhr, a national analyst for 247sports.com, has covered recruiting in Florida for more than 10 years. He cannot remember a team in Southwest Florida with more talent than this year's Immokalee group.
"The more colleges that visit that school, it's just going to mean extra exposure for everybody else," Niebuhr said. "And other kids step up. There's a great residual effect. It'll make average players better. It'll make a good player even better. Nobody wants to get left behind."