Best memories from past UA games
Before Da'Quan Bowers was a household name, he wreaked havoc at the '08 UA game
The Under Armour All-America Game is entering only its fourth year, but the talent level and competition have been excellent, leading to many memorable moments. Here are a few of our favorites.
Tom Luginbill: Da'Quan Bowers and everyone else
It took about 10 minutes on the first day of practice for the 2008 Under Armour All-America Game before players from both teams knew they would have their hands full with Bowers. Not only was the defensive end as talented as -- if not more talented than -- everyone else on the field, he also played with a relentless motor on each snap with the sole purpose of letting everyone know he was there to embarrass you if you weren't ready.
The battle between the offensive and defensive lines is always my favorite matchup to watch during the week surrounding the game, because this is how most players get exposed or make a name for themselves. Rarely do offensive tackles or defensive ends play against anyone who can truly challenge them or force them to play hard on every snap during their high school career, especially on the offensive side, and Bowers knew it. He outquicked, outathleted and outplayed an excellent group of tackles -- even effectively sending one home, in my opinion, because he could not handle the jump in talent.
The next step for Bowers was to play this way in college. Steady success took some time, but the Clemson Tiger has worked himself into a likely top-five overall selection in the NFL draft as a result of his dominant and consistent play as a true junior.
Billy Tucker: Great memories off the field
I have taken many great memories from the field at the Under Armour All-America Game. We scouts are fortunate to watch these talented athletes from across the country compete at one venue all week, but we also get the unique opportunity to witness them in a different light off the field with friends and family. It's a chance to see what life is really like for many of these blue-chip prospects outside of the hype and star rankings. This is the last high school all-star game for all the players in attendance and a special moment for them to share with their parents, many of whom have followed and supported them since the start of youth football.
Last year, cornerback John Fulton's experience in Disney World was truly magical because his father, Sgt. Maj. John Fulton Sr., was on leave from serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. It was the only high school game he got to see that year; before his deployment, he had not missed any of his son's games and had significantly influenced his son's development on the field.
The elder Fulton arrived at Walt Disney World during the week to not only watch his son practice and play his final prep game but also be by his side and guide him through his college decision. He stood proudly by his son with a huge smile as the four-star cornerback announced in front of a national TV audience that he was choosing Alabama.
It certainly was a special moment, considering the circumstance surrounding his father's presence at the 2010 Under Armour All-America Game. Fulton Jr. said it was an honor and a blessing to play in front of his father once more before college.
Craig Haubert: Big-city shine
It is always fun to take a second and look back on the All-America Game; so many great memories from the past three years flood in. It is amazing how much happens in one week. However, one memory that quickly jumps out is Dominique Easley's performance during last year's game.
Coming into the week, I was eager to watch Easley in the practices and the game. He came from the New York City area, which is not known for its gridiron talent. He also had a defensive end/defensive tackle tweener build and was a player a little less heralded on the national scene. I wanted to see how Easley would fare against other top prospects from around the country, many of whom hailed from places with rich histories of producing major college level talent. Easley may have lacked the ideal size as he took reps inside at defensive tackle, but from the early going, he not only proved he belonged but was also among the most productive players on the field.
On video, Easley's explosiveness grabbed our attention, and his evaluation started off with, "Easley is one of the quickest players off the ball in this class, and at times it seems like he has the offensive huddle wired and knows the snap count." With great first-step quickness, a defensive lineman can be tough to stop. Easley, who possesses outstanding first-step quickness, wreaked havoc all week, particularly in the game. His get-off combined with the ability to use his hands and get skinny made him a consistent disruptive presence in the White team's backfield, and he seemed just unblockable at times. Easley made several highlight-worthy plays and finished with 4 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 quarterback hurries and 1 forced fumble to earn MVP honors.
After his performance on the national stage, Easley was no longer an under-the-radar prospect. His freshman season at Florida didn't go smoothly, but he is still young, and with the abilities he showcased at last season's Under Armour game, he still has a bright future and is someone to watch.
Tom Luginbill is ESPN's national director of football recruiting. Billy Tucker and Craig Haubert are recruiting coordinators for ESPN Recruiting.
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