WHAT IS A Dreadnaught?

I’ve been asked that question any number of times in places like West Palm Beach, Tampa, Sarasota, Kissimmee, and even Winter Haven. It’s probably happened to you if you’re the Lakeland High School football fan we hope you are.

As a matter of fact the first Dreadnaught wasn’t a Dreadnaught at all, it was a Dreadnought, a British ship of the line which fought against the French forces at Trafalgar under the British Admiral Lord Nelson.

A Dreadnaught Battleship.

A century later a whole class of fighting ships were dubbed Dreadnoughts and were, at the time, the most massive pieces of fighting machinery the world had yet seen. How then did this ponderous sea machine come to lend its name to a small mid-Florida school (and town) in the early 1920’s?

Well, once upon a time, just 82 years ago in 1923, Lakeland High School had quite a football team. They breezed through the season with a 10-0 record demolishing such foes as Orlando (34-6), Gainesville (3-0), Clearwater (19-0), Summerlin-Bartow (27-0), and Hillsborough (14-6). Blessed with a great football team, the school also sported a legendary principal. The late I.G. McKay (pronounced McKai in the Scottish manner) was quite a man. Short, stocky, with a bristling mustache and penetrating eyes, McKay was a disciplinarian in the most literal sense of the word. Some of you old timers are likely stealing a smile as you read this, remembering that no matter how big or tough you were, you didn’t cross paths with that ex-British soldier and come out a winner.

Anyway, after the defeat of arch-rival Hillsborough, the principal called the student body to assembly. As usual, when McKay approached the lectern and raised his hand, complete silence fell over the assembled students; and he spoke.

He recounted the exploits of the team and spoke to the players, C.T. Butler, fullback; Ernest (Goof) Bowyer, quarterback; Sloppy Murrell, center,and all the others who had contributed to the undefeated season. Then, in the oratorical style of the day, he compared the team to a mighty Dreadnaught, rolling over the opponents as just a massive ship steams through stormy seas.

At the close of his speech, McKay suggestedthat from that day on the team be known as “The Dreadnaught,” and the name has stuck for 82 years.

And I’ll bet you one thing, you never heard of another team with our name. If you’re like me you wouldn’t have it any other way.