ORLANDO, Fla. – Fifty of the nation’s top underclassmen took part in the Under Armour Future50 experience Dec. 31. The group was headlined by ESPN Junior 300 No. 1-overall Xavier Thomas, but it a group of 2018 defensive backs with NFL bloodlines that stood out.
The group of defensive backs was made up of 12 members of the ESPN Jr. 300, including seven of the top 77 overall in the class, and the group couldn’t have impressed Under Armour Football defensive backs coach and Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders any more than what they did Saturday.
“There are some DBs out here today that can play in the Under Armour Game right now,” Sanders said. “I’ll put it like that. They have the aggressiveness, they have the know-how, they have the want, desire, the passion and the fire. They got it.”
One of those that stood out among a very talented group was junior Asante Samuel Jr. The No. 50-ranked prospect overall, and son of former New England Patriot Asante Samuel, impressed Sanders throughout the two hours the players were on the field.
“Asante was very aggressive. … Very, very aggressive,” Sander said. “I like his game, I like his posture and the passion and fire he plays with.”
— Gerry Hamilton (@HamiltonESPN) December 31, 2016
Samuel Jr. is one of a handful of elite junior cornerbacks in South Florida in the junior class who have been garnering headlines since their freshman seasons. One those future college standouts is Al Blades Jr., who has worked with Sanders at Prime21 camp the last two years.
“Man, Al Blades is poised. He never gets up, never gets down. He’s even-keeled. He’s coachable. I love everything about that kid,” said Sanders.
For Blades, the son of the late Al Blades, and Samuel, teammates at South Florida powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas, every opportunity to work with Sanders is relished.
“[Sanders] has so much knowledge,” Blades said. “Every time you work with him you learn something new. It’s great to get this chance as much as I have.”
Yet another Class of 2018 defensive back on hand in Orlando was Patrick Surtain Jr. Like the other two, Surtain has NFL bloodlines, and impressive ability.
“I watched him a lot (Surtain Jr.),” Sanders said. “I like him at safety, and he can play corner too. He played some safety for us here because we needed the help. He took direction well, he made a few plays and I liked the skillset he brought to the table.”
While Surtain plays cornerback exclusively for his father Patrick Surtain at American Heritage, the No. 7-overall player in the ESPN Jr. 300 took the opportunity to grow as a player showing his versatility.
“It was a great experience to compete against some of the best in the nation. It made me better as a player,” said Surtain Jr. “He told me he liked me a lot at both corner and safety. We talked about reading the quarterbacks eyes, and some little things like that.”
After working with many of the top junior defensive backs in the country, Sanders walked off the field with one final statement to make.
“Some of these guys are going to play on Sundays man.”