By: David Furones
We’ve seen three before. St. Thomas Aquinas just raised it to four.
This year’s Raiders became the first from South Florida to send four football seniors to the same postseason all-star exhibition. Cornerbacks Al Blades Jr. and Asante Samuel Jr., defensive end Nik Bonitto and receiver Elijah Moore all accepted their Under Armour All-America Game jerseys at a ceremony at the school on Wednesday.
Blades, a four-star cornerback committed to Miami, gave a heartfelt speech on behalf of all four in front of teammates, coaches and parents. They all took pictures in their new gear.
“For something like this to happen to us and be blessed enough to happen like this, it’s something special,” said Blades, who was first offered a spot in the game as a sophomore at University School.
He was the second prospect in the Class of 2018 invited – with Deion Sanders personally reaching out to him. Blades committed to the Hurricanes last Father’s Day in honor of his late father, Al Blades Sr., a former UM great who died in 2003.
“It just shows everything we do – the hard work, the meetings, the practices,” said Samuel, an FSU commit, about having three teammates in the same postseason exhibition. “It just all comes to fruition.”
The four are excited to exhibit their talent on a national platform in Orlando’s Camping World Stadium on Jan. 4.
“I’m just going to go crazy,” said Bonitto, an uncommitted recruit who plans to visit Texas and Oklahoma this season and has also been to Louisville. “I’m definitely going to represent for STA, family back home, Broward, everybody.”
Moore transferred to Aquinas from Western before his junior season and has played a prominent role in the offense this season after sitting behind a deep, senior-laden receiving corps last year.
“It flew by really quick,” said Moore, a Georgia commit. “I wake up every day like, ‘Damn. I’m a senior.’ I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
American Heritage this postseason will also be sending four to postseason all-star games but not all to the same one. Three – cornerbacks Patrick Surtain II and Tyson Campbell and defensive tackle Nesta Silvera – are going to the Army All-American Bowl. Patriots receiver Anthony Schwartz is headed to the Under Armour game, which will also have Chaminade-Madonna wide-out Xavier Williams present. Late additions are made to the rosters every year as the games approach.
The Under Armour All-America Game will be televised on ESPN2 at 6 p.m. on January 4.