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January 4, 2013

Hargreaves III takes home the MVP Award


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Vernon Hargreaves III could barely recount his own performance Friday night. It was an evening so good, it became indescribable.

"I'm just blessed, man," Hargreaves said.

There was no bigger star than Florida's lone five-star commit at the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game. In a sluggish contest that dragged to a 16-3 final with 227 yards of combined total offense (and 667 yards of punts), Hargreaves was the winning team's most valuable player.

His presence was felt immediately. On the game's opening drive, quarterback Kevin Olsen decided to throw toward Hargreaves twice. Three plays and zero yards later, the drive was over.

It wasn't as crazy as one might think. Hargreaves happened to be covering the nation's No. 1 receiver, Laquon Treadwell. In fact, he rotated back and forth between guarding Treadwell and No. 11-rated wide receiver Stacy Coley throughout the game.

"Vernon, he's a great corner," Treadwell said. "He's very smart. He's very patient. He can see most of his half of the field."

No one has doubted Hargreaves' coverage abilities for as long as he can remember, but during his junior season, he decided it was time to round out his game and work extensively on tackling.

Only Reuben Foster, the nation's top-rated linebacker, had more tackles than Hargreaves' five in Friday's game. Hargreaves was nearly impossible to get past in the open field and seemed to appear out of nowhere at times.

Former all-pro linebacker LaVar Arrington worked with players all week and was in awe at how Hargreaves stood out amongst a sea of the nation's best players.

"Dude is a special player. Case closed," Arrington said. "Sheesh, he's got it, man. And he's a good-looking kid, too, isn't he? Good God, he's solid."

Hargreaves' noteworthy night was capped off by an interception in the fourth quarter that turned into a showcase of athleticism. He cut back, ran clear across the field, made a couple of defenders clad in white Under Armour swag miss and ended the return 18 yards later.

After spending a week of practice in Lake Buena Vista, Hargreaves said he knew exactly what was going through opposing quarterback Shane Morris' mind.

"He's a gunslinger," he said. "I knew if I got something in front of me, he was going to try to throw it behind me. So I just backed off a little bit and he threw it right to me. I tried to score, but I kind of got tired a little bit."

His team's offense could only turn it into another field goal. It was that kind of night.

Tropicana Field is a 50-minute drive from Tampa's Wharton High School, Hargreaves' usual football home. In five months, he'll head a couple hours north to be the latest addition to Will Muschamp's secondary.

"If you're Florida right now, did you see that last game they just played? They need him really bad," Herm Edwards, Hargreaves' coach for the night, joked. "He's a great player, boy. He plays with great passion."

Florida safety commit Keanu Neal had a first-row seat for Hargreaves' prowess most of the night.

Said Neal: "We have a motto: 'No Fly Zone.' That's going to take into action when we get there."

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