'I always had the ability,” Andrew Plummer said. “I just needed that exposure.'
Andrew Plummer always felt like he was destined to play football for Mainland High School.
He grew up on LPGA Boulevard, several miles from the school, well aware of the Buccaneers’ history as one of the most dominant high school football teams in the state. And when Plummer was in the seventh grade, his older brother, Brent Williams, transferred to Mainland from Father Lopez. Williams starred as a wide receiver for the Buccaneers before graduating in 2016.
Plummer’s vision was clear: He wanted desperately to be a Buccaneer. He wanted to join the winning tradition, to join the droves of athletes who played for Mainland and went on to play in college and in the NFL. He wanted to follow in his brother’s footsteps.
He got his chance when he entered the ninth grade.
Plummer tried out for the football team and was placed on the junior varsity squad.
In the JV team’s kickoff classic against DeLand — the opening game of the season — he slipped on the blue-and-gold jersey for the first time and ran onto the field.
Then Plummer got a call from his mother: Their house burned down.
All his athletic awards and his clothes were gone, consumed by the fire. To this day, Plummer’s still not exactly sure how the fire started. He suspects it had something to do with a faulty dryer that was left running.
The house had to be torn down and rebuilt.
“We had to completely restart,” Plummer said. “It was devastating. It was more than just losing my clothes and stuff like that. It was my family’s home.”
Plummer lived in a cramped hotel room with his mother, his stepdad, his brother and his brother’s then-pregnant girlfriend for several weeks. He also stayed with teammate DeAndre McMillan for another week. Eventually, his family decided it was best for him to move in with his father — in Tallahassee, more than 250 miles from his home, his friends and the school he always dreamed of playing for.
A NEW CHALLENGE
Andrew Plummer didn’t know what to expect when he showed up for his first day of ninth grade at Rickards High School. He’d never set foot in Tallahassee before. But still, there was an escape: football.
Plummer tried out for the team and was placed on the JV squad as the team’s quarterback. He grew to love his new teammates, coaches and school.
They even gave him a nickname: “Daytona.”
The football program was also similar to Mainland’s. It was all about hard work and winning — two of Plummer’s favorite things.
“I was sad to leave home, but it turned out a lot better than I expected,” he said. “I was able to jump right in.”
He was eventually moved to receiver — his first taste ever at the position — and two games later, he tore his rotator cuff. By the time he was healed, Plummer was back home in Daytona. He started school again at Mainland during the second semester and was eager for an opportunity to shine during spring practice, something he didn’t get to do in the fall.
He was once again placed on the JV team. But after the Buccaneers’ spring game, he was moved up to varsity as a defensive back.
In his sophomore year, Plummer played behind current Florida State defensive back Cyrus Fagan, watching, waiting for his opportunity, and by spring practice that year, Plummer cemented himself as a feature player in Mainland’s defensive unit.
He took off in his junior year, helping the Buccaneers’ reach the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs before losing to Carol City.
Plummer was ecstatic at finally getting the chance to shine at the school he always dreamed of playing for. But something gnawed at him: a new challenge.
He wanted to do something few had done before. He wanted to be a two-way player for the Buccaneers.
SEIZING THE MOMENT
Growing up, it was a rare sight to see Andrew Plummer playing with kids his age. He was always at the heels of his older brother Williams and Jachai Polite, who went on to to play defensive end for the University of Florida. And even though Polite wasn’t related by blood, he still considers him his brother. They grew up in the same house.
His brothers used to play games with him. They’d throw a football back and forth, forcing the receiver to catch it with one hand. If you dropped the ball, you’d have to do 10 pushups.
“They were my mentors,” Plummer said. “They were always there to pick me up.”
His brothers are his inspiration. They are why he has the confidence to tackle the next chapter of his football journey.
This fall, Plummer will start for Mainland as a defensive back and as a wide receiver. In addition, Plummer, who re-committed to South Florida in June, will get the opportunity to play both ways for the Bulls.
A wide grin spreads across his face at the mere thought of it — a grin no fire, new school or injury could get rid of.
“I always had the ability,” Plummer said. “I just needed that exposure, and once I got it, the sky’s the limit.”