ST. PETERSBURG — While college football fans tuned in to the Under Armour All-America Game to catch an early glimpse of the players who will be coming to campuses nationwide next year, six players made their choices during the game.
The process started and ended with a shock.
Lucas Thompson, the No. 8-ranked safety in the country by ESPN, was the first to announce his decision during a game break. After listing his finalists — Miami, South Carolina and East Carolina — Thompson, from Winter Garden, paused before answering: “East Carolina.”
As evidenced by the silence, the fans in Tropicana Field were stunned.
The final player to commit was Landon Collins, the No. 1-ranked safety. Collins, from Geismar, La., announced he was picking Alabama over LSU. April Justin, his mother, said — on national television, mind you —that she thought he should be going to LSU.
“It’s my life,” Collins said. “I gotta be happy.”
“I can’t tell you what it is that she doesn’t like about Alabama, she used to be a 'Roll Tide, Roll’ fan all the way. I don’t know.”
While the fans and announcers were surprised by Justin’s public disapproval, Collins was not.
“She’s going to speak what’s on her mind no matter what,” he said. “That’s a mother for you.”
WIDE RIGHT: Florida fans, who saw their kickers make all 33 extra point attempts last season and 8-of-10 field goals in the 40-49-yard range, watched Gators commit Austin Hardin miss an extra point wide right, then a 45-yard field goal in the first half for the white team.
Hardin had said at practices this week that his holder — QB Jameis Winston, a Florida State commit — hadn’t previously practiced that skill. The two did synch up on their next three PATs, but then a point-after kick at the end of the third quarter clinked off the left upright.
He finished 5-for-7.
Hardin, from Atlanta, is the No. 1-ranked kicker by ESPN. He wowed Florida fans at an earlier all-star game in Georgia when he was good from 57 yards out.
Black team K Ross Martin, a Duke commit from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, made his only field goal attempt of the night from 32 yards out.
After making his first extra point attempt, the second one was blocked with less than a minute in the game.
LOCAL STARS: Black team CB Brian Poole, from Bradenton Southeast, wowed the crowd as he set an Under Armour game record with a 93-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter. …Lakewood DE Dante Fowler Jr. recorded a sack for the white team in the third quarter. …Former Buccaneers WR Keyshawn Johnson was a late addition to the white team’s coaching staff. …For the second straight year, the band from King High School played at the game.
Laura Keeley can be reached at email@example.com
Photo: Lakewood defensive end and FSU commitment Dante Fowler Jr.