Before Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Deshaun Watson and Leonard Fournette were college difference-makers and NFL forces, they participated in the Under Armour All-America Game.
College football's future stars were again on display Thursday during the annual event in Orlando, Florida, and Team Highlight—coached by Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders—beat head coach Steve Mariucci and Team Spotlight, 23-21.
While the contest gave playmakers such as Maurice Washington—who scored three touchdowns—the opportunity to demonstrate their skills, far more than just an exhibition game was at stake. Defensive end Tyreke Smith (Ohio State), wide receiver Anthony Schwartz (Auburn), linebacker Nik Bonitto (Oklahoma) and defensive end Jayson Oweh (Penn State) all announced their college choices during the ESPN broadcast.
Fans tuning in for the announcements were greeted with one before the game, as Smith said he would join the in-state Buckeyes:
Schwartz wasted little time as well and committed to Auburn during the first quarter.
He is a 4-star prospect, and Justin Ferguson of SEC Country noted Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn is apparently building a track squad: "With Anthony Schwartz joining a group that already has a ton of speed, I think Auburn's 2018 football class would win a lot of meets if it competed as its own track team."
The Big 12 got involved in the announcements in the second half when 4-star prospect Bonitto declared his intention to play for Oklahoma next season.
Oweh, who is also a 4-star player, closed the announcement portion of the evening by joining Penn State. It gave the Nittany Lions a victory over Ohio State, considering they were both pursuing Smith and Oweh at defensive end.
All-Star games are not typically known for defense, but someone forgot to give Team Highlight the memo.
Led by a strong defensive line that generated consistent pressure up front, Sanders' squad held Team Spotlight scoreless on the way to a 13-0 halftime lead. Spotlight missed an opportunity to score with an incomplete fade route to Justin Shorter, a 5-star receiver heading to Penn State, in the end zone of the final play of the second quarter.
Washington, a 3-star running back, made sure Highlight didn't miss its early scoring opportunities.
He powered his way through the first level and unleashed an electrifying juke to open up the scoring with a touchdown run and then showed off his pass-catching abilities when he hauled in a touchdown reception from Dorian Thompson-Robinson for his second score.
Not even intermission slowed Washington, as his long kickoff return to start the third quarter set up his touchdown run that gave Highlight a commanding advantage. It continued an impressive week for the uncommitted running back, as 247Sports' Greg Biggins noted:
To Spotlight's credit, it finally cracked the code against Highlight's defense and battled back in the second half. Ricky Slade, a 5-star running back heading to Penn State, scored on a screen pass, and Xavier Williams, a 4-star wide receiver heading to Alabama, hauled in a touchdown pass from Joey Gatewood.
Gatewood, who is an Auburn commit and a 4-star quarterback, also scored with his legs before Spotlight recovered an onside kick.
However, Highlight made one final defensive stand in the closing minute and clinched the victory.
Recruit rankings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.