When the Largo Packers finished their final practice this week, before bussing all 14 of their region qualifiers to Port Charlotte for the Class 2A region tournament, a surprise guest wandered into the school's wrestling room.
Professional wrestler and local resident "Nasty Boy" Brian Knobbs came in to speak with the wrestlers and give them a rousing sendoff for their trek south and perhaps, a record-setting weekend.
Knobbs, an acquaintance of Largo wrestling coach Jeremy Frioud, was invited to speak with the team this week. He made his visit memorable.
Combining fire and brimstone with personal testimony, Knobbs told the team that they should always believe in themselves and forget what others think of them. That through hard work and determination they can reach heights they never dreamed, just like he did.
Knobbs explained how after playing football and wrestling in high school he joined the U.S. Army and wrestled in the service. But after a hitch in the Army with seemingly no focused future, advice from former NFL great and childhood friend Matt Millen prompted Knobbs to follow his love- wrestling. Soon he became a star.
"Now is your time; this is your stage," Knobbs said, bursting with emotion. "Make a name for yourself. This is your time to put Largo on the map. You have a great coach and great assistants. Give it your all. Do all you can do. It's your time to shine."
The visit was, of course, a surprise to the wrestlers who were riveted to Knobbs' every word. The visit was all a concoction of Frioud's.
"We met at the gym a long time ago," Frioud remembered of their first encounter. "We always talked about him coming in. I thought his speech was great. He is someone who has gone through everything in life and is a man you can respect and look up to. You could see the kids' eyes were all wide. He put forth a good message and the kids seemed to take it in."
Ironically, Knobbs himself seemed motivated by the Largo wrestlers who huddled around Knobbs after his speech as they performed a group cheer with Knobbs in the middle of the pack.
"Hey, these guys are one step from the state championship [tournament]," Knobbs said afterwards. "The fact that every member of their team qualified for [the region tournament] is really impressive. That's rare! That means you are already on a step up! Now, just put to the pedal to the metal and take it home," he said.