NCF On The Trail: Texas A&M Aggies
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Ulu-Perry Jr. joins good friends and fellow ESPN 300 prospects Canton Kaumatule and Breiden Fehoko as participants in the game and players to have been honored this week.
"It was great," Ulu-Perry Jr. said of the presentation. "It was great to have all my family here and all my brothers from St. Louis [School]. It was pretty cool and something I'll always remember."
The 6-foot-3, 307-pound Ulu-Perry Jr., the nation's No. 4 guard, committed to UCLA over the summer, but his recruitment rolls on. He will use all five of his official visits and has already gone to UCLA and Texas Tech. He'll visit Oregon State for the Civil War on Nov. 29 and will visit Colorado and Texas A&M in January.
"When I go on trips, I want to take everything," Ulu-Perry Jr. said. "It's supposed to be fun, but it's a business trip. I'm really evaluating the coaches, players the area and how the program is run."
Ulu-Perry Jr. said he'll ultimately have a final decision in late January or early February, whether to stick with his UCLA commitment or flip elsewhere.
Six questions with Fred Ulu-Perry Jr.
If you could start a team with any other player in your class, who would it be?
"There are so many people I would take. Definitely Canton and Breiden. I would take Kanawai Noa from Punahou and Salanoa-alo Wily from Kahuku. There are too many."
What was your earliest football memory?
"I started playing football in sixth grade. I remember I was just a young kid running around trying to learn the game. I got the hang of it my first year and from there it's been fun. My goal from the start was to dominate everyone."
Which football player did you idolize or want to be like when you were a kid?
"I really look up to Olin Kreutz and Samson Satele. Those were the best centers out here and Kreutz is probably going to the Hall of Fame."
If you could take on any pro in their sport, who would it be?
"I'd want to take on Haloti Ngata. He's probably the nastiest defensive tackle I've seen."
Why do you wear your number?
"I wear No. 64 because my favorite car is a 1964 Impala."
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
"I'm a pretty basic person. I just love working hard, dedicating myself to the lord, my family, school and football. I think everybody pretty much knows everything about me."
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Play like a champion. Garner interest from college scouts. Earn scholarships. Treat every scholarship with equal density. Refuse to publicly lean to a program.
Ask Sheffield about a favorite in his recruiting process, and expect an answer that will lead the most persistent, inquisitive person to nowhere. He's quick to say that he's "still wide open with 37 offers."
Ask the five-star cornerback about the Under Armour All-America Game, however, and get a completely different answer. Sheffield was awarded his commemorative jersey on Tuesday in a ceremony sponsored by American Family Insurance.
"It's a huge honor to be an Under Armour All-American. I'm very happy, very excited," Sheffield said. "I've always wanted to be an Under Armour All-American, since I was a little kid. "I just want to get there and have fun and compete."
Hearing Sheffield open up about the game is a treat of sorts, as he's naturally an actions-first kind of athlete. Sheffield prefers letting his game speak for itself -- and it's spoken loud enough for him to earn nearly 40 offers coast to coast.
At 6 foot and 181 pounds, Sheffield is the top-ranked player in Texas and the No. 3 cornerback in the nation. He is No. 8 in the ESPN 300 and has seen a steady rise in the 2015 rankings since its debut last season.
Sheffield's resume has everything college coaches want to hear. His fastest 40-yard dash is 4.37 seconds. He's a cover corner who doesn't mind making the big hits. If he's needed for special teams, he can be a reliable return man, as well.
The world will get a chance to judge for itself when Sheffield competes in the UA game in January. The big question now, however, is, where will Sheffield end up? He's taken official visits to USC, Ohio State and Florida State, and he recently was in Baton Rouge for an unofficial visit to LSU. Sheffield said he'll take an official visit to Alabama next month, and he's expecting to take an unofficial visit for Texas A&M's Thanksgiving game against LSU in College Station.
Sheffield said he plans on taking that fifth official visit. Which team will get it?
"I'm unsure right now," he said. "It'll be one of my 37 offers."
Sheffield will announce his college plans at the UA game. Until then, he's tight-lipped. One thing he won't keep close to the vest is the importance of having a position coach who will push him. He said the winning school will have a coach he can build a quality relationship with, in addition to someone who can potentially take him to the next level.
"That's important to me," Sheffield said. "Real important."
Best player to put on a UA jersey: "Jadeveon Clowney. He's a good athlete, and he was the No. 1 player coming out of high school. He also was the No. 1 draft pick."
Receiver you most want to compete against: "It doesn't matter. I just want to get there and compete."
Your jersey number: "I've always worn No. 11. It's a number I've worn since Little League."
Favorite football memory: "It was my sophomore year in my first year on varsity. I had my first interception, and it was a pick-six. It won the game for us."
Did you know? Sheffield wants to major in sports management. He said the schools he ultimately considers in his top list will have solid sports management programs.
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That’s Daylon Mack, an ESPN 300 defensive tackle who also sees time in the backfield on offensive plays.
Now picture the guy lined up against Mack, who has run the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds. Imagine that guy’s thoughts.
“No chance,” said Mack, the Gladewater (Texas) High School standout.
To say Mack has been dominant at the high school level is an understatement. As the nation’s No. 3 defensive tackle, Mack has five sacks on the year and has been a problem for offensive lineman throughout his high school career. He was rewarded for his play Friday during an Under Armour All-America Game jersey ceremony sponsored by American Family Insurance.
But as good as he is on the defensive line, Mack has been a solid ground-game option on offense. As a burly fullback, Mack has scored eight touchdowns this season.
Let Mack tell it, it’s all about being a well-balanced football player and a respected athlete on the field.
“That’s real important to me. I think I learned a lot of that just going through camps,” Mack said. “I have to know technique, and I learned that you’re always going to see someone as athletic as you. I think because of camps, I’m 1,000 times better than I was last year.”
Mack is hoping that athleticism will allow him to see immediate playing time as a freshman in college. Mack is committed to Texas A&M and has been committed since October 2013. Mack, however, added that he still wants to take an official visit to LSU, and he was at TCU on an official visit when the Horned Frogs beat Texas Tech, 82-27, last month.
Mack also will take an official visit to Texas A&M. No dates have been set for the LSU and Texas A&M visits as of yet. Mack’s current priority is to help to advance his team as far in the postseason as possible.
As for being an Under Armour All-American, consider it a bucket-list item happening in roughly six weeks.
“It feels great,” Mack said. “It’s something I’ve been looking at for the longest. Since the seventh grade, I’ve wanted to play in this. I have a chance of a real dream coming true.”
Best UA Game player ever: “Myles Garrett. I saw him destroy it last year.”
Better feeling: Scoring TDs or getting sacks? “I’d have to say getting touchdowns. It’s something a defensive lineman doesn’t feel. Sacks are great, too. Whichever changes the game, I guess.”
Why do you wear your number? “I wear 34, but I really want to wear No. 5 in college. I want to wear a single-digit number.”
Favorite football memory: “Last year, I ran a 3-yard touchdown against Henderson (Texas) to get us in the playoffs. Then I ran a 67-yard touchdown at Atlanta (Texas) to get us to the third round.”
What Texas A&M’s #WRTS [We Run The State] hashtag means to you: “It’s just really a hashtag. I feel like it’s a true hashtag with Texas teams, but it’s just a hashtag. It’s helped us bring players in, though.”
Did you know … “I’m a big fan of SpongeBob.”
In short, he described it as “a blessing,” and he thought about the people in his life who may have indirectly affected his football career. He thought about his older brother, Tarik Jefferson, a senior linebacker at North Texas.
To be an Under Armour All-American takes sacrifice -- and sacrifice is something Malik said he learned mostly from his big brother. On and off the field.
“He gave me the motivation to work hard,” said Jefferson, the nation’s No. 3 outside linebacker and No. 35 player overall in the 2015 ESPN 300. “I work hard on my own because he wanted to work hard by myself. I remember he would ask me to sit on his back while he did push-ups. He instilled hard work in me and showed me the way. I took notes from Day One. He’s quiet but a hard worker.”
Jefferson the student is now Jefferson the teacher as he prepares for college. At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Jefferson is an absolute playmaker on the field. Few linebackers his size run the 40-yard dash in less than 4.5 seconds. He clocked a 4.39 at The Opening this summer in Oregon.
With more than 30 offers to choose from, Jefferson, a three-year starter for Poteet High School in Mesquite, Texas, is looking at schools such as Texas, Texas A&M, TCU and Baylor, as well as out-of-state schools Alabama, Oregon and Stanford. Jefferson will announce his college plans Dec. 19.
Tuesday’s ceremony, sponsored by American Family Insurance, was icing on the cake for an outstanding high school career.
“I’m very appreciative of everything, and it’s a blessing to know that [Under Armour is] recognizing my true talents,” Jefferson said. “I can’t wait to get there, have fun and compete against the best of the best.”
He then added: “Oh, and to work my tail off.”
Why do you wear your football number? “I wear No. 46 because of my big brother (Tarik). He wore it in high school, so I took after him.”
Best UA game player: “Jadeveon Clowney. Or Julio Jones. He’s an animal.”
Favorite football player: “Von Miller. He follows me on Twitter. I was excited when I got that follow.”
In any sport, which celebrity would you challenge? “Drake in basketball. He doesn’t have a jump shot.”
Did you know ... Jefferson is very active with his church. He is a part of a miming group that does a form of interpretive dance.
Just in case you don't think the love is real for Malik Jefferson at Poteet HS. And people are still rollin... https://t.co/OwalDaoLtH— Damon Sayles (@DamonSayles) November 4, 2014
Before they were considered the nation's best, Murray, a Texas A&M commit and the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback, and Jamabo, the No. 1 running back, were elementary school AAU basketball teammates for the Top Achievers Pistons. As incoming third-graders, they became close as friends and competitors.
Nine years later, the two are still tight -- if not tighter -- and despite playing for rival high schools they showed their camaraderie with a joint Under Armour All-America Game jersey ceremony Friday evening. The ceremony, sponsored by American Family Insurance, preceded the football game pitting Murray's Allen High School and Jamabo's Plano West High School.
The two additionally held separate ceremonies individually Friday. Jamabo first put the jersey on in the morning, and Murray followed in the early afternoon.
"It's a great feeling. It's what you want to be," Jamabo said. "It's the highest honor as a high school athlete, and it's a great opportunity to better myself. It's really something I've worked hard for and something I've imagined for myself for a long time."
"It's a dream come true," Murray added. "I've grown up watching the game, and I've seen the best of the best play in this game. For me to play in it, it's definitely a dream team come true."
Friday night, Murray and Jamabo were eyeing each other as fierce competitors. Both teams are gunning for a district championship. Once the game's over, you can bet that the level of respect between the two will be sky high -- as usual. It's tough, if impossible, to get them to say anything negative about each other. In fact, Murray would love to have Jamabo as a future college teammate.
"That's my dude. He's a great guy," Murray said of Jamabo. "He's a friendly person who's always smiling. I love seeing my friends succeed, especially a guy like him. I hope to ball one day with him. If it doesn't happen in college, hopefully, we can make all our dreams come true and play on Sundays."
Jamabo has Texas A&M high on his list, along with Notre Dame, UCLA, Arizona State, Baylor and Oregon. He doesn't have a set time for an announcement, but he has visited Notre Dame and UCLA. An official visit to Arizona State, he said, is in the works.
But playing in the same backfield as Murray is something Jamabo's thought of.
"He's different. He's not one of those athletes who is cocky or talks about himself," Jamabo said of Murray. "He just goes to work. I respect him more than anyone in the country. I've known him for a long time, and he's done a lot of things on the field that no one else does. He's a great player and a great friend."
Random facts about Soso Jamabo and Kyler Murray
- Entering Friday, Murray had thrown for 2,221 yards and 24 touchdowns with only two interceptions this season. He's also completed better than 65 percent of his passes. Murray's also rushed for 640 yards and 15 touchdowns.
- Entering Friday, Jamabo has rushed for 1,711 yards and 33 touchdowns. He is averaging an incredible 11.3 yards per carry. His best game of the year was a 484-yard, six-touchdown production on Sept. 5.
- Both players are ranked No. 1 at their respective positions, and both wear No. 1 on their football jerseys.
- Jamabo is considered a prime football recruiting target, but he also has college interest as a basketball player. He may consider playing both sports in college.