Showin’ out in St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG – It was a night to celebrate for fans of the Florida Gators. Six UF commitments helped lead Team Blur to a 49-16 victory in the 2012 Under Armour All-America Game at Tropicana Field. All six players – receiver Latroy Pittman, tight end Colin Thompson, offensive lineman Jessamen Dunker, safety Marcus Maye, cornerback Brian Poole and placekicker Austin Hardin all started for Team Blur, and all six players contributed to a blowout victory as well.

“It’s been great tonight,” said Colin Thompson, out of Warminster, Pa., who traveled the longest distance to participate in the game. “Obviously, the blocked punt by Marcus was awesome. Latroy made a great bunch of blocks. Jessamen was great tonight. I made some plays – did well blocking tonight. It was fun, it was cool.”

Thompson (6-4, 255) nabbed one catch for 16 yards in the game, but impressed with his blocking – just as he did in practices all week long.

For Marcus Maye, it was an opportunity to play in front of a large contingent of family and friends from Melbourne, about a two-drive from the stadium. He echoed the sentiments of Thompson in citing an all-around effort from the group of Gators commitments taking part in the contest.

“We all played pretty well,” he said. “We all came out here to compete with each other. The team bonded – we all had each other’s backs. It was all good.”

Playing out of position at outside linebacker, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Maye still recorded seven tackles for Team Blur, which was tied for a team-high. He also blocked a punt which went out of the back of the end zone for a safety, recovered a fumble and notched a pass break-up.

“I felt like I played pretty well, tt was all fun,” Maye said. “At outside linebacker, I adjusted pretty well. We were just out there playing football and competing.”

Still, the highlight of the night among the UF commitments had to be the 93-yard touchdown return on an interception by Brian Poole. All week long, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound defensive back out of Bradenton Southeast was one of the top performers in practice. He capitalized on that play with a pick-six to cement his status as one of the top defensive backs of the week.

“It was awesome,” Poole said of the touchdown. “My instincts took me to the ball. Once the ball touched my hands I knew I was gone.”

For Austin Hardin, the game was more about overcoming adversity. Hardin struggled to find timing with his holder, Florida State quarterback commitment Jameis Winston, for the majority of the week. On top of that, Hardin battled sickness – even nearly missing one extra point attempt while he was in the bathroom.

The result on Thursday night was a mixed bag. Hardin was 4-of-6 on his extra point attempts, and badly missed a 44-yard field goal. Still, he averaged 65.9 yards on eight kickoffs. Not especially known for his punting, he also had an average of 41.7 yards on three punts.

“Coming into the game a little worn down, but I was able to put some kickoffs into the back of the end zone – about six or seven [yards] deep,” Hardin said. “The return guys still brought them out, and a couple of them fumbled. So I guess they learned about that for next year.”

Wide receiver Latroy Pittman (6-1, 195, Citra, Fla./North Marion) also added one catch for 13 yards, but made a number of blocks which showed off his physical nature at the position.

For offensive lineman Jess Dunker, the game was a bit of a send off. The 6-foot-6, 315-pound lineman – one of the biggest players to participate in the UA Game – will now head to Florida to get settled into his dorm as he prepares to begin classes at UF next week.

“This is a big going-off present,” Dunker said. “Moving in to my dorms [on Friday]. It was great that we got the win.”

Although many thought Team Blur was the far superior team heading into the game, it was only confirmed the two teams took the field. Still, for Colin Thompson, losing was not an option on Thursday night.

“The win to me, means a lot actually,” he said. “If we lost, I don’t know, I wouldn’t be happy. I would take the loss personal more than anything, which is how I’ve always been.”

From the perspective of Poole, the evening only confirmed that there are brighter days on the horizon in Gainesville.

“Great feeling, awesome feeling,” he said. “We really wanted to come out and show the future we’re going to have at Florida.”

His soon-to-be teammate Dunker echoed almost the exact same sentiments on the field as well.

“It only tells me that UF has a bright future” he said. “We’re going to come in and hopefully bring Florida back.”

If the Under Armour week was any indication, the Class of 2012 is poised to do just that for the Gators.