Larry BlockSFHSSports: Twitter | Facebook

With the Class of 2017 receiving much of the attention over the past year – as colleges collected commitments from the seniors – last Saturday belonged to the future stars.

With 50 of the best underclass football prospects in the country taking center stage on a week that was reserved for the senior Under Armour All-Americans, it was truly a showcase event.

At the center of this impressive test of skill was the fact that Deion Sanders and Charlie Ward were on hand to help and make a huge difference in the lives of a group of athletes who will one day make an impact at the college level – and beyond.

As always, South Florida athletes chosen for the event, didn’t just come and “show up”. What Class of 2018 standouts from Miami-Dade and Broward did was turn heads and have many asking who each and every of the five that attended were.

Fresh off watching his brother Dalvin’s performance in the Orange Bowl, James Cook was the player that everyone came to see. Since reclassifying from 2019, this gifted running back ran and caught his way into the hearts of everyone who attended.

“This was a lot of fun,” Cook said. “Some great talent out here. I really enjoyed the competition and appreciate the talent.”

As Cook had people talking, the Miami Central standout was certainly no alone. Chaminade-Madonna’s Xavier Williams, who is one of those gifted two-way prospects, was on hand. So were American Heritage defensive back Patrick Surtain Jr., and St. Thomas Aquinas defensive backs Al Blades and Asante Samuel.

For the defensive backs, they were indeed worth the price of admission. The hard work that Samuel, Blades and Surtain put in was recognized by Sanders, who at 50, can still do things many simply will not attempt.

“Those young men will really be very special,” Sanders said. “I cannot wait to see them in this game next year – and then in college and in the NFL draft. They have that unique opportunity.”

All the athletes who attended were treated to a weekend that included time with the media and getting some very impressive gear that always helps get the Under Armour name out. They were treated like the quality football player they are now – and will be in the future.

“This was really good, I enjoyed it a lot,” said Samuel, regarded as one of the best in Miami-Dade and Broward for the upcoming season. “You get to turn your game up and have people like Deion (Sanders) give you things that will help, playing the position.”

In addition to the South Florida athletes, IMG had a number of prospects on hand. So did the remainder of Florida with wide receiver Jacob Copeland (Pensacola Pine Forest), quarterback Joey Gatewood (Jacksonville Bartram Trail), 2019 offensive lineman Evan Neal (Okeechobee-IMG) and receiver Justin Watkins (Citra North Marion).

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