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It had been a topic that had been discussed on every TV news program, radio talk show and in newspaper columns over the past two months.

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Last Friday night, at two locations in South Florida, the long-awaited “satellite camp” made its local debut.

Greeted by Michigan head coach and satellite camp advocate, Jim Harbaugh, the approval rating couldn’t have been any higher for the over 400 student-athletes who filled University School and St. Thomas Aquinas for three hours.

The issue of the satellite camps has played out – with Alabama’s Nick Saban being the most vocal in the past month. But those who watched Harbaugh and his staff, Pittsburgh’s Joe Narduzzi and his quality coaches, and first-year Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin and his Terrapins, came away very impressed with the experience.

With much of the attention on the larger schools – which included Syracuse at St. Thomas – there were coaches from UCF, USF, FIU, Stetson, Florida Tech and Temple, who also had a chance to watch the impressive talent and continue the year-round evaluation process.

“You could not find a better event than what we saw out here tonight,” University School defensive coordinator Wayne Blair pointed out. “Everything was set up here to have an event that everyone would remember.”

Hosting the University School portion of the satellite camp, Blair and Sharks head coach Daniel Luque ran an outstanding showcase that not only brought in the players and coaches, but the media and recruiting websites that attended, putting a positive spin on the entire three hours.

“The NCAA does not allow the head coaches to come out in the spring, so what these events are really doing is helping the decision makers have that forum to make those key decisions on the younger kids as well,” Killian head coach Javi Valdes explained. “I don’t see anything wrong with giving these football prospects additional chances to get that rather expensive college education paid for.”

As Narduzzi and Durkin spoke and helped instruct, all eyes were on Harbaugh. Easily the most popular figure on the football field in Atlanta, last Thursday, St. Thomas Aquinas and University School on Friday, and in Tampa on Saturday, Harbaugh did not look like a 52-year-old man. His energy level and passion were impressive to all.

After introducing each coach who attended, Harbaugh asked the team if they were ready to take a lap. And, almost on cue, he led the way with an old-school lap around the field.

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“How great is this guy,” St. Thomas slot receiver Jordan Merrell challenged. “This guy is the real deal – and what an honor for all of us to have his instruction. All the head coaches and their staffs made a difference as well.”

There is no doubt the first satellite camp was indeed a success. But how long will the NCAA continue to remain tolerant when its member schools are recruiting in a way that many have never done before.

At a time when recruiting has been under a microscope, with too many parties potentially getting involved, the satellite camps will be watched closely to see if it is indeed something that will fill every city in the nation.

Leave it to South Florida athletes to always bring the best to any game or camp. It’s always been that way, and the competition level and appearance by some college coaches, enhance to competition. No matter if it was a receiver/defensive back battle or a 40-yard sprint through an obstacle course – athletes from South Florida raise the bar.

High-level prospects wanted that chance to show what they could. Aquinas 2018 defensive back Al Blades Jr. was there. So were linebackers Diego Fagot (Calvary Christian) and Mater Academy standout Edwin Sosa.

American Heritage standout junior defensive end Andrew Chatfield, senior athlete Laress Nelson and sophomore lineman Zackary Zambrano were there. So were Miami Killian linemen Brian Baker and junior Delone Scaife were very impressive – and all the college coaches were watching.

Other athletes who turned some heads included Flanagan 2018 safety Hunter Goetz, Cardinal Gibbons tight end James Bostic and St. Thomas 2018 offensive lineman Jason Swann.

Chaminade-Madonna didn’t disappoint. The Lions brought a number of quality prospects. Receiver Joshua Ali and defensive back Anthony Johnson stood out; North Broward Prep standout Kevin Austin, Western’s Ki-Jana Whyte, linebacker Kris Moll (Coral Gables), Columbus tight end Max Gonzalez-Brito and way under the radar Dr. Krop receiver/safety Randall St. Felix.

The best thing about an event like the one held on Friday, local and regional high school coaches flock to see the big time college coaches, but also support their own players.

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Former St. Thomas head coach Rocco Casullo was on hand to support his Mater Academy players. Former St. Thomas player and assistant Jason Milgrom has put Chaminade-Madonna back on the map, and he made sure that a number of his prospects came out. Also supporting players were John Lopez (Ronald Reagan), Dave Coleman (Piper), Matt Garris (Coral Springs Charter), Pat Surtain (American Heritage), Jesse Norris (Plantation), Dominic Anderson (South Plantation), Monte Dillworth (West Broward) and North Broward Prep’s Rex Nottage – to name a few.

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