Their seasons of Friday night glory have flickered into darkness. Chris Kinnan, Keith DuBose, Todd Huber and Rick McIntire were among the area's best and brightest, a marriage of scholar's intellect with athletic wherewithal.
A formidable combination, for it's spawned success where starched shirts and silk ties are the norm for the four former high school stars who are quick to credit football for principles learned and adopted.
"There is a finite period of time," said Kinnan, "and you've got to have your eye on the bigger picture. You learn that the lessons of sports prepare you a lot for what you do academically and the way you relate to people.
"When the going gets tough, you've been there before, and I draw on these lessons."
The son of ex-Manatee Community College basketball coach Harry Kinnan, the nephew of former Manatee High football coach Joe Kinnan, 30-year-old Chris Kinnan works in Washington, D.C., as director of Internet communications for Citizens for a Sound Economy.
The organization's mission is to "recruit, educate, train and mobilize hundreds of thousands of volunteer activists to fight for less government, lower taxes and more freedom."
Given Kinnan's background, the job makes sense. Following graduation from Manatee High in 1990, one year after playing offensive tackle on the 'Canes' state title team, Kinnan, a National Merit finalist at Manatee, majored in politics and economics at Princeton University.
He played two years for the Tigers, getting his degree in 1994. From there, Kinnan matriculated to the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Asia's top business school. Within three years, Kinnan earned an international MBA.
"It was a terrific educational opportunity," he said. "Being from Bradenton, I wanted to get the international perspective. But it really makes you appreciate the USA."
A job on Capitol Hill beckoned, working for Congressman Dan Miller. Three years later, the Sony Corporation hired Kinnan, where he worked in its online privacy department. But when the Internet bubble burst -- "It felt like giving up a sack" -- Kinnan joined his present employer.
Rick McIntire, Sarasota High class of 1986, Sailor tight end and middle linebacker, knew the odds of becoming a pro were against him. So he took a surer route -- a Harvard education, a stint on Wall Street, a current job with Duestche Bank in London, trading metals.
"When you're a trader, at the end of the day, you either have a profit or a loss," said McIntire, "and that mentality is the same as an athlete. You either win or lose."
McIntire has been winning since graduating fourth in his Sailor senior class, the top male student. He signed a letter-of-intent to play at FSU, then scrapped it when Harvard opened its doors.
He played football and baseball for the Crimson, earning a degree in American history. McIntire graduated in 1990, but put off the real world to play a year of semi-pro football in Barcelona, Spain.
"It was a good transition year for any student coming out of four years of university life," he said. "It was a very young league and they were hungry and thirsty for anybody to speak the language."
McIntire, 35, put down his helmet and picked up the Wall Street Journal. In 1992 he moved to New York City to trade energy options on the New York Mercantile Exchange. A year later, he joined Goldman Sachs to trade metals.
After three years, he moved to Goldman's London office. He returned to New York for a year and a half, then headed back to London and landed with Duestche. As he spoke, McIntire was preparing to fly to South Africa for three days of meetings with clients.
"Most people who go to work for a company, when you play a team sport, it does give a certain grounding for working in that environment," he said.
Heading overseas wasn't necessary for Keith DuBose to find his vocational niche. Remaining in Sarasota sufficed, as an attorney for the firm of Matthews, Eastmoore, Hardy, Crauwels and Garcia, which handles commercial litigation, personal injury and medical malpractice.
The DuBose name is well-known in Florida athletic circles. His brother, Jimmy, played running back for the Florida Gators, then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1976-78. Keith starred for Booker High both on the field -- as the Tornado quarterback running the veer option and defensive back and in the classroom, graduating second out of 130 seniors in 1989.
His 4.29 grade-point average paid off in an $80,000 full-ride scholarship to Duke. DuBose, a history major, played before the visor-obscured eyes of Steve Spurrier. His first year at Duke was Spurrier's last.
DuBose played defensive back for the Blue Devils. Not quarterback.
"Coach Spurrier wasn't going to run a veer offense," he said.
After graduating from Duke, DuBose had a couple of pro workouts. He was even invited to the Eagles' camp. But Duke hit the skids after Spurrier left, "and football just wasn't as fun as it used to be.
"At that point, it was one of the most difficult decisions I had to make. I had to say, 'Maybe I'm not as good as I think.' It was an adult decision."
The decision led him to the Florida law school. DuBose got married in 1997, and the couple is expecting their first child next month.
"I learned tremendous lessons from football," he said. "On a team concept, working well with others. We work as a team in a lot of different cases, and (football) helped me adjust to the pressure. Playing football was one of the biggest pressures."
Todd Huber wants pressure. Savors it, actually. The kind of pressure from flying an F-18 Hornet at Mach 1.8-plus, nearly double the speed of sound. The kind of pressure that accompanies a dream of flying the space shuttle.
From Manta Ray quarterback to American astronaut. For Huber, a 1990 Lemon Bay High graduate, class valedictorian and president, No. 1 in his class, the sky -- or, rather, outer space -- is the limit.
"They pick somebody every other year," he said. "I would consider myself in the mix. It's not just fairly-tale land. I'm very serious about it.
"The moment for me would probably be looking back at earth. That would be it."
Being one of 10 fixed wing pilots at the prestigious Empire Test Pilot School in England would seem to confirm Huber's focus. He attends classes every morning, then flies the rest of the day.
Last month he piloted 11 different planes. "As a test pilot," he said, "you should be able to jump into any type of plane."
Huber has squeezed a lot of living into 30 years. As a young boy, he often stared up at the sky with his dad.
"I remember him pointing up at the moon, saying, 'There's some guy up there,'" he said. "We'd fly to Florida from Michigan and I remember being enthralled by the jets."
During the Manta Ray homecoming, Huber had the PA announcer inform the crowd of his intention to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. "We lived on a street in Rotonda called Annapolis Lane," he said. "I was always interested in planes and space."
With Sen. Bob Graham as his sponsor, Huber made the academy. He averaged 21 credit hours a semester, both military and academic studies, in addition to playing sprint football, which decrees that the participants weigh no more than 158 pounds 48 hours before the game.
At the academy, Huber studied aerospace engineering. He spent a month on the amphibious assault ship USS Guam. He worked for a month on a submarine in Minneapolis. "It was the best food," he said.
Huber was graduated in 1994, then went to work at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, in the space station program office. From there it was on to Stanford University and an aerospace engineering master's degree -- 45 credit hours -- earned in just nine months.
"It was painful," he said.
Then, in the summer of 1995, came the fun. Flight school in Pensacola and Meridian, Miss. Two years later, Huber had gotten his wings. He was a full-fledged naval aviator, having logged nearly 750 hours in the F-18.
"It is very demanding," he said. "It's extremely rewarding but very, very demanding. I have never gotten out of the jet after a night (flight) without having my leg shaking. It's a combination of adrenaline and fatigue from working so hard."
It all could pay off for Huber with the realization of a childhood dream.