Commentary

Joyner at home at St. Thomas Aquinas

UA All-American DB joins defending national champs' already talented secondary

Originally Published: May 26, 2009
By Jc Shurburtt | Scouts Inc.

While his swagger, versatility and talent automatically make him stand out, Under Armour All-American Lamarcus Joyner (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas) has done a remarkable job of blending in with his talented new teammates.

Joyner transferred to the Broward County private school earlier this year after playing last season at Miami Southwest. The Raiders were named the nation's best football team last year by ESPN RISE and USA Today after going 15-0. So when spring drills began -- Florida allows teams 20 practices, including 17 with pads on -- the practices were more intense and the talent level was higher, and it took Joyner some time to adjust.

"We practice here at a college pace," Joyner said. "That's what I needed to do anyway. That's why this was the right choice for me."

[+] EnlargeLamarcus Joyner
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comLamarcus Joyner has offers from almost every major program, but is down to Ohio State and FSU.
Still, it didn't take long for his new teammates, many of whom are high-level Division I prospects themselves, to see that Joyner would fit right in.

"He's getting used to it real quick," running back Giovanni Bernard said. "We really do practice hard. We don't just sit around and say 'We are going to do this and this on game day.' We get out there and practice hard."

Cornerback Keion Payne, who transferred to St. Thomas Aquinas this year from Fort Lauderdale's Dillard High, echoed Bernard's sentiments.

"He's just a gifted athlete," Payne said. "Playing with him has been great. Ever since he came here, we have been buddies. We got here at the same time."

Joyner joins a talented defensive secondary that includes Division I prospects Payne, Cody Riggs, Brian Robinson and Reynaldo Kirton.

With that much experience in the secondary, it's not surprising that Joyner was used on offense as well as defense during spring practices.

"I was always a two-way player before I got here, and I am doing the same thing now," he said. "That's just what I am, a two-way player. I am playing in a secondary that has a lot of big names and I am also playing offense, too."

But he's not just a DB running some routes. He can make plays.

"He did catch some balls," Payne said. "He's just very explosive. He's a very gifted athlete."

Riggs added, "He's just as fast as me, and he's explosive."

While Joyner might be a weapon on offense, adding him to this already talented secondary makes it impossible to ignore just how good this group will be as it spends more and more time together.

"We didn't get a chance to see how we would all act on the field together in just two weeks of practice," Riggs said. "We have a lot of fun when we are on the field together. We are definitely going to get the chance to play together this summer by going to different camps, etc."

Off the field, in addition to striking up a friendship with Payne, Joyner and Bernard have bonded on the ride to school. Both live in Miami and take the train to school together some mornings.

"That's been a good thing," Joyner said. "I've gotten the chance to talk with him about recruiting and how things are going with him and things like that."

Joyner, 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, holds offers from just about every major program in the country, but Ohio State and Florida State have been at the top of his list for quite a while. The Seminoles' presence is no surprise, as Joyner models his game after former FSU great and NFL All-Pro Deion Sanders.

"I believe that there has never been a better defensive back than Deion Sanders," Joyner said. "I want to place my name beside his. I like Deion because he was a defensive back that played with the swagger of a wide receiver. Like nobody was going to be able to stop him."

Joyner said former FSU defensive back Terrell Buckley was another defensive back he admired. He hopes to take a step toward achieving some of the national acclaim those two players enjoyed during the Under Armour All-America Game.

"My thing is this," he said. "I have done Miami. Hopefully after this year, I will have done Broward. I want to get up there and show the nation what type of player I am."

JC Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at jcsespn@aol.com.