Saivion Smith said he wanted to play in the Under Armour All-America Game since watching his friend, Jacksonville Jaguars defensive lineman Dante Fowler Jr., play in the 2012 game. Fowler also played at Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“I got the invite on my birthday last year and I’ve just always wanted to play in the game since I was a kid,” Smith said. “It’s been held at [Tropicana Field] for several years and I remember watching Dante and all those guys play in it. They are from St. Pete and I just wanted to follow them.”
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Smith admitted he was upset when he heard that Under Armour announced the 2016 game will be played at The Citrus Bowl instead of Tropicana Field.
“I was not happy about that because I wanted to play at home in front of everyone,” Smith said. “I’m still honored to be part of the game.
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Anthony Chickillo and Auburn freshman defensive linemen Byron Cowart are past Under Armour All-America Game MVPs. Both players are from high schools in Tampa, Fla.
Shavar Manuel, who came to IMG from Blake High School in Tampa, hopes to continue to trend.
“You know that means I’m next,” Manuel joked. “That’s why I chose this game because a lot of great ones in the area did it. I’m just ready to be the next one.”
Other Tampa-area standouts that played in the Under Armour All-America game include Florida defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III and USC defensive back Leon McQuay III.
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