This is a story I wrote for a local online news site several months ago, but they never published it. So I thought I would share it here on my blog:
Packers have a rich history in Largo
By Greg Lindberg
The NFL’s Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers aren’t the only sports team with a large following. If you live in Largo, there is a popular Packers squad right in your backyard.
So where exactly did the Packer name come from? In its early days, the school was located near a large orange packing plant at the corner of Missouri and East Bay Avenues. Trains would come through to pick up the oranges for distribution to other areas. It was only fitting that the school took on the Packer name for its athletic teams.
Aside from the Packer name, the official mascot is a razorback hog. According to Largo athletic coordinator Jim Casey, a principal at the school in the late 1950s and early ‘60s was a graduate of the University of Arkansas and was a huge Razorbacks fan. The school adopted the pig as a result. Some also claim that the football team would practice near a pig farm in the area. Animal farms were once a common site to see in Pinellas County.
The pig mascot also represents the rural aspect in the history of the school and its longtime rivalry with the city-centered Clearwater High School.
“It was always the farmers against the city folks,” Casey said. “Every time [Largo] played Clearwater, kids would dress up in overalls and straw hats.”
Rick Rodriguez has been the head football coach at Largo since 2000. But he previously coached at Clearwater High for 16 years prior to joining the Packers. Rodriguez admitted it took some time getting used to coaching on the other side of the rivalry.
“But I’m all Largo blood now,” he said.
Rodriguez’s teams have dominated his former school. The Packers, who wear helmets that show a mean-looking hog with its teeth sticking out, are 12-1 against the Tornadoes in their last 13 meetings.
“We’re one of the best football programs in Pinellas in the past 10 years,” Rodriguez said.
Because of how popular Largo football is, students dress up in school colors – blue and gold – for pep rallies and football games. The pig mascot has appeared at football games as well. In the past, a senior would dress up in a razorback costume and attend games to cheer on the Packers. But because it was so hot to wear the heavy costume, nobody volunteered to do it last fall. It was also discovered that the mascot was missing from the team’s field house. It has not yet been replaced.
“I think somebody stole the thing,” Rodriguez said. He wonders if it was a Clearwater fan who took it.