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Everyone's watching

The week of the Under Armour game, 93 recruits get five days to prove their worth

Updated: January 30, 2012, 2:18 PM ET
By Zach Schonbrun | ESPN The Magazine

This story appears in the Feb. 6, 2012, "Recruiting Issue" of ESPN The Magazine. Subscribe today!

THE THROWER
Jameis Winston

As the nation's top prospects arrive in Orlando to prep for the Jan. 5 Under Armour All-America Game, the year's top-rated QB is set on playing at Florida State. That is, if 6'4", 195-pound Winston, from Hueytown, Ala., doesn't enter the MLB draft, where he is projected to go early as a pitcher. His baseball option has people questioning his FSU decision. After Tuesday's practice, a broadcaster asks about his level of commitment to Florida State, and Winston responds, "Strong." That doesn't stop Alabama commit Amari Cooper from chiming in, "You're coming to the 'A,' right?" "The Tallahass-'A'," Winston says, smiling.

Jameis WinstonBenjamin Lowy/Getty ImagesThe nation waits to see whether top-ranked QB recruit Jameis Winston enters the MLB draft.

THE BRAND NAME
Deion Sanders Jr.

Prime Time's 18-year-old son pulls out his iPhone and snaps a picture of the football cards he just autographed. "I'm taking pictures of everything, man," he says. The photo is on his Twitter feed minutes later, sent to 26,000 followers. To understand the power of celebrity, look no further than Sanders, a CB from Flower Mound, Texas, who, although he has received one scholarship offer, from Houston, is a weeklong attraction. While Deion Sr. coaches top prospects nearby, crowds of youth football players gather around 5'8", 170-pound Deion Jr. for autographs, and girls scramble to take pictures with him. "It might be pressure to somebody else, but not to me," Sanders says. "Football's a game; it's fun. I'm just out here having a ball."

Deion Sanders Jr.Benjamin Lowy/Getty ImagesDeion Jr. doesn't feel any pressure during the game -- he just has fun.

THE BRAND NAME (PART 2)
Trey Griffey

Different attention trails Trey, the son of former MLB star Ken Griffey Jr. who is etching his own name as a 6'2", 184-pound wide receiver out of Orlando. Griffey (near right, with Winston) has offers from Washington State, Iowa State and Arizona, among other schools. Reserved and humble, he understands why the media follow him all week but doesn't relish the attention. Instead, he keeps the hood of his sweatshirt tight over his head and speaks about 9-year-old brother Tevin. "He's the athlete of the family," Griffey says. His dad attends each practice, snaps photos like many in the crowd of proud parents and tells Griffey to have fun. After the game, Griffey responds to his dad's whistle and walks over to hug his mom, Melissa. "Are you wearing tights?" she asks. "No, Mom," he says sheepishly. "That's a compression sleeve."

Jameis Winston and Trey GriffeyBenjamin Lowy/Getty ImagesTrey Griffey is carving his own name as a wide receiver.

THE UNDECIDED
Eddie Goldman

Goldman is a huge defensive tackle prospect, literally -- 6'4" and 310 pounds at only 18 years old. He's also an out-of-nowhere talent from a 12-year-old Washington, D.C., charter school (Friendship Collegiate Academy) without its own home field. Goldman didn't play organized football until eighth grade but started getting five phone calls a day from recruiters by his senior year. In his freshman season, he had to travel to a camp and combine to seek attention; now attention follows him. He's considering offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida State and Miami, among others. "I wasn't used to answering a lot of questions from the media," Goldman says. "Now I am. I like it less."

Eddie GoldmanBenjamin Lowy/Getty ImagesD.C. recruit Eddie Goldman is literally a huge surprise -- he's 310 pounds.

THE DECOMMIT
Joey O'Connor

The 6'4", 295-pound offensive tackle's decommitment from Penn State after the Jerry Sandusky scandal made more waves than his original verbal, as news vans stalked his Windsor, Colo., home. So he knows the importance of his play this week. "I'm worried. Are schools going to come back to me?" he says as it begins. The knee injury he suffers during a Tuesday afternoon practice adds to the fears about his future. On his back on a training table later that day, he looks scared. "Anything tender right there?" the trainer asks, checking O'Connor's right knee. The player's red face manages a shake: No. Ibuprofen and ice solve the problem. Two weeks later, his other problem gets fixed: O'Connor commits to Ohio State.

Joey O'ConnorBenjamin Lowy/Getty ImagesO'Connor decommitted from Penn State after the Sandusky scandal broke.

THE NO. 1
Mario Edwards

Edwards is the nation's top prospect, a 6'4", 297-pound defensive end from Denton, Texas, who can do a standing backflip. He received his first scholarship offer (from Tulsa) after his freshman season and still gets up to 20 recruiting letters a day despite his verbal commitment to Florida State. Phone calls? Don't bother. "I don't answer numbers that I don't know anymore," he says. Yet despite the hype, Edwards plays with a chip on his shoulder all week because he knows every player is there to show him up. "I had to prepare for that," he says. "I ran a mile every day to stay conditioned. Everybody wants to knock off No. 1." In the players' lounge, he peers over his shoulder at the day's practice highlights on ESPNU, which show him slipping on a rush as the broadcaster mentions that he's the nation's No. 1 player. Edwards shakes his head and mutters, "They got me when I fell."

Mario EdwardsBenjamin Lowy/Getty ImagesMario Edwards gets up to 20 recruiting letters a day, despite the fact he's committed verbally to Florida State.

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