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Saturday, April 5, 2014
Dallas NFTC notebook

By Damon Sayles


DeSOTO, Texas -- Rain flirted with the Dallas Nike Football Training Camp on Saturday, but held off long enough for seven athletes to earn invitations to The Opening this summer.

Quarterback Kyler Murray, linebacker Malik Jefferson, wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge, offensive lineman Patrick Vahe (Texas commit) and defensive backs Justin Dunning (Texas A&M commit), Will Sunderland Jr and P.J. Mbanasor. all earned golden tickets after stellar performances at DeSoto High School. Murray, Jefferson, Lodge, Vahe and Sunderland were named camp MVPs of their respective positions.

Justin Dunning, Patrick Vahe, DaMarkus Lodge, Will Sunderland Jr., Kyler Murray, Malik Jefferson
Justin Dunning, Patrick Vahe, DaMarkus Lodge, Will Sunderland Jr. (top row) and Kyler Murray and Malik Jefferson (bottom row) all earned invites to The Opening.
After ACL injury, Dunning returns with a bang

Those who know ESPN Junior 300 safety and Texas A&M commit Justin Dunning felt his pain in September when he went down with a left ACL injury and missed his junior season. The smile on his face after the Dallas NFTC -- and the bigger smile after getting the news that he earned a trip to The Opening -- pretty much told its own story.

Seven months after the injury, Dunning not only is running at full speed but also showing the skills that made him one of the nation’s most coveted defensive back recruits. He showcased his talents Saturday and was rewarded with a trip to Oregon.

“It’s amazing what God can do,” Dunning said. “The way I was able to get back on the field, especially with rehab, it’s just been amazing.

“It was real frustrating to have to watch my team play this past year, but it motivated me to work harder and rehab harder. It’s been a long process. I got down sometimes, but I knew I had to keep my head up high.”

Dunning, No. 224 in the ESPN Junior 300 and the nation’s No. 13 safety, committed to Texas A&M in November.

No matter the sport, Murray plays to win

As good as Kyler Murray is on the football field -- and he showed it Saturday -- he is equally gifted on the baseball diamond. In a Friday baseball game for Allen (Texas) High School, Murray went 3-for-3 with a walk, two home runs and a double off the wall.

Baseball is a love of his, and football is a passion, but winning might trump all with Murray. Winning the quarterback MVP and earning an invite to The Opening was a definite goal.

“It’s what I came out here to do,” said Murray, the nation’s No. 2 dual-threat quarterback. “Even though it’s baseball season, I still had to get ready for this camp. I came out, performed, and had a good time. It was fun.”

Having rarely lost in high school, Murray is making it a priority to show off his winning mentality.

“Wherever I go, I play like I’m the best,” Murray said. “I never let pressure get to me. I just come out and show I’m the best.”

Murray, No. 47 in the ESPN Junior 300, has a host of offers, but many feel he will follow the footsteps of his father, former Texas A&M quarterback Kevin Murray. The younger Murray, however, is the first to admit he is open to all schools and recently spoke with Texas coach Charlie Strong on Thursday.

Jefferson praises 2017 standout

Dylan Moses, a 2017 LSU commit, didn’t win the running back MVP award, but he did receive praise from one of the best players in the 2015 class.

Linebacker Malik Jefferson earned a trip to The Opening, and he feels Moses is one of the next in line to have his shot to compete in Oregon. Jefferson, No. 43 in the ESPN Junior 300, is tightlipped about his own list of top schools, but when it comes to Moses, he was quick to express his feeling.

Dylan Moses
Dylan Moses, a 2017 prospect, earned high praise from older prospects.
“It’s a blessing from God to be here, and being here with everyone was fun ... especially Dylan Moses,” Jefferson said. “Watching him compete, you know he’s going to be a heck of an athlete when he gets older.”

Border battle for The Opening? Oklahoma DB wins

While there were plenty of defensive backs from Texas looking to impress The Opening selection committee, one of the players from north of the border stole the show.

Will Sunderland Jr., a Midwest City, Okla., native, said he had something to prove, and the 6-foot-3, 192-pound safety delivered. The No. 4 player in Oklahoma made play after play and was excited -- but not completely surprised -- about earning his golden ticket.

“On my way down here, I just had the mindset: ‘MVP, MVP,’” Sunderland said. “I mean, I was trying to get to The Opening. I’ve been working hard every day.”

Sunderland has offers from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Arkansas and Kansas State, and he said he isn’t planning on rushing his decision. He does have an idea of how he wants to tell the world when that time comes.

“I hope to one day announce my decision on ESPN,” he said.

Quick hits ...

Linebacker Justice Austin represented Arkansas well by posting the top SPARQ rating at the Dallas NFTC. Austin’s score of 124.08 was aided by a 41-foot power ball toss, a 33.1 vertical jump, a 4.78 40-yard dash and a 4.1 shuttle time. ... ESPN Junior 300 running back Ja'Mycal Hasty was named the running backs MVP of the Dallas NFTC. Hasty committed to Baylor on March 29. ... Defensive tackle George Lea made the trek from New Orleans to participate in the event. He was named the defensive lineman MVP. Lea has offers from Arizona State, Washington State and Southern Mississippi. ... Arguably the catch of the day came during wide receiver-defensive back 1-on-1 drills toward the end of the camp. 2016 receiver Jordan Jones, representing Smackover, Ark., made an incredible fingertip catch that earned a huge roar from the fans in attendance. Jones said he’s still looking for his first offer.