I am quite sure that if you aren’t from Southern Florida you are more than likely to have never heard of Immokalee. I have been there more than a few times, and it is a town, unlike anything I have ever experienced before.
Immokalee is a relatively young town, being established in 1872 though it has a long history of people living there before. It is a town that is built and run by hard work. Immokalee is an agricultural town that grows primarily tomatoes. You will pass miles of tomato fields before you get to the actual town.
It’s a poor city filled with migrants and struggling people. About 75% of the population is Hispanic, and in my experience, a large portion of them are Guatemalan and Mexican. The rest of the population is black/African-American with a significant population from Haiti. There are also still Seminoles who live there and operate a Casino nearby and there are white people there, just not a lot. A large number of the homes are trailers and it is strange to see so many chickens, dogs, and cats wander around freely.
Despite a population of less than 25,000 and poverty that touches many of the lives there, Immokalee is a gem when it comes to hope. Immokalee has produced 8 National Football League (NFL) players, one of which is in the Hall of Fame. That number is staggering when you think about it.
So here is a tribute to Immokalee. Here are 9 celebrities from Immokalee, including the 8 who went to the NFL.
9. Ovince Saint Preux
The only non-NFL player on this list, Preux was a star athlete as a high schooler. He was a linebacker for Immokalee High School and set a school record of 18 sacks in one season and was named to the All-state team, an impressive thing to do in Florida. As a wrestler, he compiled a 26-1 record and he also ran track and field in 4 different events.
Preux would go on to become a professional mixed martial artist who is known for his unique fighting style. He holds a 26-16 record as a professional.
8. Albert Bentley
Bentley is the oldest NFL player on this list and the first to play for the University of Miami and the Indianapolis Colts. Bentley graduated from Immokalee High School in 1980.
After playing in the United States Football League for two years, Bentley was drafted in the second round of the supplemental 1984 NFL draft. He would be the backup behind the Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson for almost the entirety of his career but played that role extremely well looking at the numbers.
|Games Started||Carries||Rushing Yards||TD||Receptions||Receiving Yards||TD|
7. Deadrin Senat
Senat played with D’Ernest Johnson, a later submission on this list, in high school and both would go on to play in the NFL. At the Defensive Tackle position, Senat was selected relatively high in the 2018 NFL draft. He was selected in the 3rd round by the Atlanta Falcons where he played as a backup.
Due to injury, he didn’t play in the 2021 season, but in 2022 he signed a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
|Games Started||Solo Tackles||Assisted Tackles||Tackles For Loss|
6. Brian Rolle
As a Philadelphia Eagles fan, Rolle is of special interest to me because of his employment with that wonderful team. Rolle attended Immokalee High School just like every other NFL player on this list and was drafted by the Eagles in the 6th round of the 2011 NFL draft.
Despite starting a majority of the season as a linebacker and rookie, Rolle eventually was released from that team only two seasons later. He briefly signed with the Steelers and played in the Canadian Football League for a short time before retiring from football altogether.
|Games Started||Sacks||Solo Tackles||Ast. Tackles||Tackles For Loss|
5. Javarris James
James was a complete star for Immokalee High School, helping them win a state title in his Junior year. His running back career was looking to mirror that of his Hall of Fame cousin, Edgerrin James.
Unfortunately, he didn’t quite live up to the same marks. After playing for Miami for 4 years, James signed a contract with the Indianapolis Colts after being undrafted in 2010. Injuries plagued his career and his career never amassed too very much. However, he is still an inspiring figure for all running backs coming out of Immokalee High.
|Games Started||Carries||Yards||TD||Receptions||Receiving Yards||TD|
4. Mackensie Alexander
This cornerback that currently plays for the Minnesota Vikings was born in Naples Florida but graduated from Immokalee High School in 2013. Considered one of the best recruits coming out of high school, Alexander went to college at Clemson and played for only two years. Even as a sophomore, he made Third Team All-American in 2015, when afterward he declared for the NFL draft.
After being drafted in the 2nd round, 54th overall, Alexander had a limited role in his rookie year. However, as he progressed through his career, Alexander began to play more in more. He eventually signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Cincinnati Bengals. He played for them for two years until 2021 when he went back to his original team, the Vikings.
|Games Started||Interceptions||Passes Defended||Sacks||Total Tackles||Tackles For Loss|
3. D’Ernest Johnson
D’Ernest, just like the rest of the players on this list graduated from Immokalee High School. Actually, it would appear that both D’Ernest Johnson and the next player on this list, J. C. Jackson, were teammates there, but initial searches couldn’t confirm that. But it would have to be some crazy scenario for them not to be considering they left Immokalee High only 1 year apart.
D’Ernest Johnson was born in 1996 and is entering his fourth season in the NFL. Though he isn’t a starter at this point for the Cleveland Browns, he has gained more and more opportunities each year he has played.
Johnson went to South Florida where he played all four seasons and set a number of school records including the all-time leader in all-purpose yards. Johnson went undrafted, and after a year with the Orlando Apollos of the AAF. In 2019 he signed a deal with the Browns.
Here are some of the relevant stats of his young career:
|Games Started||Carries||Yards||TD||Receptions||Receiving Yards||TD|
2. J. C. Jackson
Jerald Christopher is a cornerback for the Los Angeles Chargers as of March 16, 2022, though he spent his first four seasons with the New England Patriots. He is seen as a top 5 cornerback in the NFL right now and has tremendous potential entering only his 5th season as a professional.
J. C. was recruited out of Immokalee High School in 2014 as a wide receiver but eventually switched to cornerback while playing at Maryland. He actually went to two colleges before Maryland and didn’t actually impress NFL recruiters very well as he went undrafted in the 2018 draft, being signed as an undrafted free agent by the New England Patriots. This paid off big time for the Patriots considering his prestige now and won a Super Bowl with them in LIII.
In 2022 Jackson signed a staggering five-year, $82.5 million contract.
In his short career, he has compiled an impressive state sheet and a pro bowl nod in 2021.
1. Edgerrin James
This football legend was raised in Immokalee and was recruited out of Immokalee High School to play at the University of Miami. James played there for three years from 1996-1998. James is the third all-time rusher at Miami and is the only running back in the school’s history to post two 1,000-yard seasons in back-to-back seasons.
James would be drafted 4th overall in the 1999 NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts. He became one of the most feared running backs of his time along with LaDainian Tomlinson, Corey Dillon, Shaun Alexander, and Priest Holmes. James played for a total of 11 seasons and his stats are impressive:
|Games||Rushing Yards||Rushing TD||Receptions||Receiving Yards||Receiving TD|
James won NFL Rookie of the Year in 1999 and was selected to 4 pro bowls and was a 1-time first-team All-pro. He was inducted into the NFL hall of fame in 2020. He is also the Colt’s all-time leader in rushing yards.
Edgerrin James is the prime example of the hope and dreams that lie within Immokalee.