FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The last time ESPNU’s cameras descended Broward County for a high school game in South Florida, Al Blades Jr. was fortunate his team had the night off. The 4-star cornerback for St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale decided to make the quick trip over to Plantation, where American Heritage School was hosting Fort Lauderdale’s Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory School.
While American Heritage cruised to a blowout win Sept. 22, ESPN’s cameras poked around the crowd until they found Blades, the son of former Miami safety Al Blades. During a moment of dead time, ESPN zoomed in on the senior and there was only one logical thing to do. Blades threw up the U.
“I don’t miss a home game,” Blades said Thursday after St. Thomas Aquinas wrapped up practice. “I’m at every home game. I’m there this Saturday. I’m at every home game there is.”
Get of your phone and get down to the Hardrock ASAP 🙌🏽🙌🏽 pic.twitter.com/sCpOuiGzZc
— ⚜Al Blades⚜ (@AlBlades_Jr) September 23, 2017
Blades sees his future teammates firing off tweets to say they’re “1,000-percent committed” every once in a while, but for now he’s fine with keeping it 100. He talks and acts like someone with no doubt about his decision, though, and he’s hoping some of his Broward connections can help round out the Hurricanes’ already excellent Class of 2018.
And Blades is as important a member of the class as anyone. The cornerback ranks No. 11 at his position in the 247Sports composite rankings and received his honorary Under Armour All-America Game jersey on Wednesday. In a county loaded with elite cornerbacks — including 5-star American Heritage teammates Patrick Surtain Jr. and Tyson Campbell, and Blades’ own All-American teammate Asante Samuel Jr. — Deion Sanders declared Blades the best of the bunch.
— Ryan Bartow (@RyanBartow) October 6, 2017
“At the end of the day we’re all from Broward and we all love competing,” Blades said, “but when we have a chance to represent our state as a whole and our county in two different games that’s really special for us to be together and have two tandems in each game.”
If everything breaks right, Blades thinks one of those All-Americans could join him in Coral Gables. It’s no coincidence Blades was at Heritage Field last month — he wants Campbell to join him on the Hurricanes.
The foursome of cornerbacks has received plenty of attention this year and will reinsert itself on the national stage in January. Blades and Samuel will head to Orlando for the Under Armour Game, alongside teammates Nik Bonitto and Elijah Moore. Surtain and Campbell will go to San Antonio for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Neither Surtain nor Samuel will spend their college days playing in Miami Gardens, and even though Blades is planning to take other official visits he says the appeal of staying home is obvious with No. 11 Hurricanes off to a perfect start.
“I talk to Tyson,” Blades said. “At the end of the day, a guy’s going to do what he’s going to do. As long as our name is in that hat and as long as we’re throwing our name out there, I think that’s all it’s going to take. Our program speaks for itself.”