By: Jim Halley, USA TODAY High School Sports | October 11, 2017
With nine former St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale) players in the NFL, more than any other high school, the Raiders are known for producing good football players.
On Wednesday, four St. Thomas Aquinas players put on honorary jerseys as part of the the American Family Insurance Selection Tour for the Under Armour All-America Game.
Three of the four are defensive players: defensive backs Asante Samuel Jr., Al Blades, Jr.; and linebacker Nik Bonitto. The other player is wide receiver Elijah Moore. The tilt toward defense makes sense as three of the Raiders’ wins on the field this season have been by shutouts.
Samuel, whose father played for Florida State and in the NFL, has committed to FSU and is listed as the No. 25 player in the 2018 class, according to ESPN. He said there are two big reasons Aquinas takes its defense seriously.
“We just pride ourselves on not letting them score,” Samuel said. “One, if they score, we have 300-yard shuttles, so we don’t want to run those after a hard practice. Then, there’s the mentality that we don’t want nobody to get nothing, not a first down or anything. We want to dominate on every play.”
Blades, whose father and uncles Brian and Bennie played for Miami and in the NFL, has committed to the Hurricanes and is listed as the No. 45 player in the class of 2018.
“Every day is a blessing going on the field at practice with 10 different defensive backs or wide receivers who will make you better,” Blades said.
He said he doesn’t feel much pressure to carry on the family name and game.
“The pressure is there, but I don’t mind it, because every day I want to be the best that I can,” Blades said.
Bonitto, who is uncommitted, is listed as the No. 195 player, but has been having an MVP season and leads the team in tackles and sacks.
Moore, the team’s leading receiver with 14 catches for 155 yards and a touchdown, is a Georgia commit and listed as the No. 83 player in the 2018 class.
The Under Armour All America Game is scheduled for Jan. 4 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla. and will be televised live on ESPN2 at 6 p.m. EST.