Earnest Suttle is familiar with the problems people can face living in the upper Manhattan section of New York City, but he also knows what it means to have the support of coaches and teammates as a member of the Gaither High football team.
"I grew up in Harlem and moved to Tampa when I was 15," said Suttle, who is a senior defensive end at Gaither. "My dad was living here. I was heading for trouble and it was my decision to move here. I honestly would have been in trouble if I stayed in New York. I wouldn't be playing football."
Suttle spent his freshman year at Hillsborough High where he was a starter on the varsity basketball team before transferring to Gaither.
"Basketball was the big thing before I came here and I was really big into it," said Suttle, who didn't play football until last season. "I never thought about playing football coming from New York."
Gaither coach Jason Stokes discovered Suttle on the basketball court and convinced him to try out for football.
"Earnest was a basketball player when I saw him and dragged him out to the football field last spring," Stokes said. "He's just now tapping into his talents and has a bright future. He's overcome things that would have made a lot of kids fold. I'm extremely proud of him."
The 6-foot-5, 240 pound Suttle, who gave up basketball after his junior year in order to concentrate on football, had 80 tackles and one fumble recovery last season.
"Earnest demands the double team," Stokes said. "He's a good pass rusher with very good body control. His motion is unmatched and he's not to be denied. I expect his numbers to be through the roof. Some big schools, including Iowa State and Indiana, have shown interest."
Suttle credits coaches and teammates with giving him a sense of belonging that helps motivate him on and off the gridiron.
"Coach Stokes made me feel comfortable and my defensive line coach Greg Hamlin and I really hit it off," he said. "I'm in a totally different environment at Gaither from New York. It's like a family atmosphere here."
Suttle originally wanted to play tight end, but Hamlin talked him into playing defensive end and Suttle doesn't regret the move.
"Defensive end is such an important position," Suttle said. "The excitement I can create by making big stops gets the offense fired up and has a big impact on the game. I like to create havoc any way I can. Coach Stokes gave me the opportunity to play and I owe him a lot."