TYRONE, Ga. -- As he stood at the podium and was presented with his Under Armour Game jersey as part of the American Family Insurance Selection Tour, Shaq Wiggins (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek) made sure to thank those who helped him along the way.
"Being in this game would not be possible if not for the support of my family, my teammates, my coaching staff and the teachers at Sandy Creek keeping me on the right path," Wiggins said. "It is such a blessing to have this chance to play in such a prestigious game."
The Under Armour All-America Game, in its sixth year, puts around 90 of the best high school football players in the country in a head-to-head matchup. For Wiggins, it is the first step in proving the cynics wrong.
"Some people doubt I can make it because I am undersized or I cannot do this or I cannot do that, and that just kind of gives me that itch," Wiggins said. "Once I get down there and I am going up against receivers like Laquan Treadwell, then I will be able to really show them."
No one has ever doubted the confidence level of Wiggins, or his audible presence on or off the field.
"I am jumping around, talking to people even when they make a big play on me," Wiggins said. "I always try to be energetic and usually that involves me being just a little talkative."
Sandy Creek head coach Chip Walker can attest to that statement, but he also says Wiggins' confidence is backed up by stellar play in the secondary. The 5-foot-10, 165-pound cornerback has 11 interceptions over the past two seasons. Coming from a program that has produced standout players like Calvin Johnson, Rajion Neal, Isaiah Johnson and JaQuay Williams over the last decade, Walker thinks Wiggins stacks up favorably with anyone he has seen before.
"He is a very energetic person that we never have to motivate on the football field," Walker said. "He has an uncanny knack for being in the right place when the ball is in the air, but he also has a lot of the quick-twitch muscles that allow him to make plays on the ball and recover when he does happen to make a mistake. I have been coaching high school for 22 years and he is one of the best I have ever seen skill wise."
Since he committed in February to Georgia, Wiggins has utilized his vocal nature to try and help bring other top recruits to Athens. But Wiggins thinks there is more to his efforts than simply recruiting.
"I am not just trying to get kids to come to Georgia just because they are elite players," Wiggins said. "I am trying to develop a relationship with them because we will not all play football forever."
As for his plans next fall, the four-star defensive back hopes to make an immediate impact in Georgia's secondary.
"Georgia is lacking at cornerback after this year, so if I can come in and get bigger, I think I can fill that role in the nickel that Damian Swann has done in the past and make a name for myself," Wiggins said.
That would go a long way toward quieting his critics.