I walked out to Robinson High’s football practice the other day and saw long-time friend/coach Tommy Montero, and asked how he was doing.
He said, “I don’t know ... It still doesn’t seem real.”
Montero wore a Robinson cap with a large “75” sticker on the bill. Around Montero a sea of players wore helmets with the number — 75 — stuck on the back.
No. 75 … In remembrance of 2010 Robinson High lineman and Montero’s nephew, Josh Rankin, who was killed last month at the age of 21 in a fight in Ybor City.
The thing that most frustrates Montero — that breaks his heart, that brings him to tears — is that this didn’t have to happen.
“If he just would have been somewhere else,” Montero said.
According to arrest reports, a fight broke out between six people — including a young man named Joseph Vincent Amore and Rankin — at E. Fifth Avenue and N 16th Street about 2:45 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 17. During the scuffle, Rankin was stabbed once in the chest and twice in the throat.
Witnesses identified Amore in a photo lineup, reports show. After he was stopped by police, Amore admitted that he was in the fight and used a knife, police said. He had the knife in his right pants leg and handed it over to police, according to the report.
Amore, 21, of Lakeland, was charged with stabbing Rankin to death.
“And for what?” said Robinson head football coach Shawn Taylor, who as an assistant in 2010 coached Rankin. “For nothing.”
The discussion among the coaches is that the fight might have started over a girl, who gave someone a phone number, which escalated into jealousy and a fight, a drawn knife and a death.
Taylor talked to his team long and hard about this — about how bad things can happen after midnight, and after drinking, and in rough parts of town around angry people — and he pleaded with his young men to, “Make better choices. Don’t go out after midnight for anything, and walk away from fights.”
Taylor is fed up. He had two former players, Kwane Doster and Desmond Allison die young senseless deaths that could have been avoided if they just hadn’t put themselves in bad situations.
Montero and Taylor wish the whole world would listen to their plea, because this tragedy could happen to anybody, anytime, from Robinson to Sickles High, to Newsome to East Bay to Durant to Brandon to Bloomingdale …
“But it doesn’t have to,” Taylor said. “It just doesn’t. No more hearts have to be broken over things like this.”
He’s still angry.
“I’m tired of going to funerals of my former players and teammates who died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time — because they made bad choices,” Taylor said. “So please, all young people out there, please make better choices. I want to hear about kids who make the right choices and hang out with the right people. I don’t ever want to do this again.