ORLANDO, Fla. — A friendly debate arose as the Under Armour All-Americans devoured their post-practice meal Thursday. What state has the best football?
By sheer volume, Florida, Texas, Georgia, and California take the cake, but the state of Louisiana will be well represented in the Under Armour All-American Game on Saturday.
Louisiana has seven players on the field, including Rashard Lawrence, Willie Allen, Ed Alexander, Kristian Fulton, Shyheim Carter, Michael Divinity and Andre Anthony.
“A lot of states out here have talent, but it just goes to show that Louisiana has some of the best talent in the country,” said Fulton, the No. 4 ranked cornerback from Rummel in Metairie.
“We get it out of the mud out there in Louisiana. We start playing football at 5 years old, and we just have that tough mindset, that savage mentality. I’ve seen that from a lot players from Tyrann Mathieu to Leonard Fournette.”
Divinity, a linebacker from John Ehret in Marrero, added to that.
“To me, Louisiana has the best football,” said Divinity, who was named the Class 5A Defensive Player of the Year in Louisiana. “We just get overlooked because Florida and Texas get all the hype.”
LSU commitment Saivion Smith would disagree.
“First off, Florida has the best high school football,” said Smith, who grew up in Tampa, Florida, and played at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. “They have some good players, some savages out there in Louisiana, but Florida has the best. Just go look at the rankings.”
The rankings say Louisiana has 19 players ranked inside the ESPN top 300.
Continuing the legacy
Divinity understands what this type of game can mean for the future of Louisiana football and former teammates. Divinity and Carter (Kentwood) are the first All-Americans from their high schools.
“It started when Leonard Fournette and Malachi Dupre and all them came out,” Divinity said. “It went from a couple of players like Speedy Noil and all them, to all the kids here this year. It could be a bigger number next year.”
Divinity said he thinks this kind of exposure could pay huge dividends for Louisiana kids down the road.
“A lot of colleges are seeing us, and now they’re looking at the younger guys — juniors and sophomores — and seeing what kind of talent they have on their teams,” he said. “This game has opened up opportunities for young guys at our schools.”
Lawrence still recovering
Lawrence, the top-ranked player in Louisiana will not play in Saturday’s game. The 6-foot-3, 305-pound defensive tackle from Neville in Monroe has been battling an ankle injury since the end of the high school season.
Lawrence played through the injury, leading Neville to a 45-26 state championship win over Karr.
The No. 7 overall recruit in the class of 2016 is weighing offers from LSU, Alabama, Ohio State, UCLA, Florida State, and Washington.