LAKE CITY, Fla. - One of the best traditions down South would be local communities rallying around the local high school football program. While many towns and cities do a good job of supporting the local team, few Southern cities have the overall chemistry that Lake City provides between various factions of the local community and its football team.
There is community pride from the youth football program that continues to be strongly supported by the Richardson Community Center. It’s a place where young people congregate to learn about many different things, football and other sports included.
It’s one excellent example of how the Lake City community looks out for one another’s children. It’s also a place where the people helping to run Richardson Community Center are a part of the gateway to helping young people eventually play for the local high school football team, the Columbia Tigers.
To keep the football program and the community strong, community involvement often runs through the local businesses and community organizations like the Richardson Community center.
It’s obvious what Columbia means to many people in Lake City. Just walk into a local restaurant. A person that visits Shirley’s Restaurant, a local hotspot known for fantastic breakfast food, will certainly walk out of there happy. Here's a nine-photograph gallery one can tap on to see what it's like inside Shirley's.
A person could also head over to the Kountry Korner, where Laquasha Dixon runs one of the best buffets in Florida. If you find better cooked cabbage or baked chicken, it would be shocking.
Beyond the food, just head downtown to check out The Blanche Hotel and all the local businesses and shops for some true Dixie scenery and good shopping. Lake City is a unique place to visit. To be a special small Southern community like this, everything starts with the residents that make up Lake City.
These different businesses are also where you will see a plethora of employees wearing Columbia High School Tigers t-shirts and hats. It’s a great thing to see.
All of that community support helped many Tigers reach the collegiate level, and some even made it one step further.
The long list of great players that came through Lake City is incredible. It’s only a town of 12,910 people according to the 2021 census, but that did not stop several future NFL players from growing up in this small city and playing for Columbia before moving on to college and the NFL. Here are two of many great Columbia players that reached the highest level of football.
Reinard Wilson, Defensive End
Playing for some of the best Florida State teams that now departed Bobby Bowden ever assembled at Florida State, Wilson was a terror off the edge for the Seminoles. He recorded 13 sacks during his senior season and was named an All-American for his efforts.
He later went on to become the No. 14 pick in the 1997 NFL Draft. Wilson played for Cincinnati (1997-2002) and then one year on the Tampa Bay practice squad (2003).
Timmy Jernigan, Defensive Tackle
Another Columbia player that went on to play for Florida State, Jernigan was a dominant high school player before going to Tallahassee and helping the Seminoles win the 2013 national championship. During that season, Jernigan earned Second Team All-American honors. The next spring, Jernigan went to be drafted by the Baltimore Ravens with the No. 48 pick.
His NFL career was quite successful: Baltimore (2014-2016), Philadelphia (2017-2019), Jacksonville (2020) and Denver (2020). Jernigan was a part of the Eagles Super Bowl winning team. Like many before him and after him, Jernigan was a workmanlike player that did his job and played hard. He’s a great example of what a Columbia player should be.
If anyone ever wants to stop for a few minutes on their way through this unique Southern location, just remember that Lake City resides at the crossroad of I-10 and I-75 less than an hour from the Florida-Georgia state line. That’s where one can find all the hospitality to be desired, as well as a really talented football program backed by the community.
Not many players make it to the riches of the NFL, Columbia players included. Each Columbia player, regardless of the talent level, does still know hard work and how to be a part of a community that continues to support one another each and every day.
Perhaps that’s what makes this program so strong. It’s a community built on helping each other, and football is the ultimate team sport. The two go hand-in-hand.
The people in Lake City take pride in the community, and they certainly take pride in their Columbia Tigers, too.
A special thank you to each person that helped make this trip to Lake City a special one, and for all the information and hospitality distributed without asking for anything in return. That's what community is all about, helping one another.
For UCF insights, college football news, and recruiting information go to: The Daily Knight podcast; it will be found on iTunes and Spotify. For more UCF and recruiting information, head to Twitter @fbscout_florida and @UCF_FanNation, as well as my YouTube Channel and Instagram page. Like and Subscribe!