Miami Gulliver Prep’s Dionte Mullins waited all season to get his hands on a football in a live game.
When the ball stuck to his glove Saturday, even he was surprised.
And a crowd of 24,186 at the Citrus Bowl was left in awe as Mullins reached back and snared a touchdown pass with one hand to make what most considered the most memorable play in the 2016 Under Armour All-America game.
“I didn’t know I caught it, and I saw the ball in my hands and then I just made sure I ran into the end zone,” Mullins said. “I shocked myself that I caught it.”
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It was a 24-yard touchdown connection between Mullins, a 5-11, 179-pound wide receiver and University of Miami commitment, and Palmetto (Bradenton) High quarterback Jack Allison, a fellow UM pledge, that fueled a 27-0 rout for their squad, Team Highlight over Team Armour in the ninth annual national All-Star event.
Mullins, who was unable to play his senior season at Gulliver because of academic ineligibility, set some pretty high goals for himself in October when he received his formal invitation to Saturday’s game. Mullins said he wanted to finish with more than 100 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
He fell short, finishing with two catches for 35 yards. But one of those catches was his Odell Beckham Jr.-like play when he reached back with full arm extension while leaping despite tight coverage from Louisiana standout Kristian Fulton.
“I didn’t expect to catch it, but the man above helped me on that one,” Mullins said. “It was a slant and go. [Fulton] bit on it for a little bit. I thought it would be an over-the-shoulder pass but it wasn’t. I adjusted my body to the ball. I had a lot of fun out there [Saturday] playing with a lot of the best guys from around the country.”
Mullins was one of seven Miami-Dade and Broward County players invited to the game, six of whom participated in the game that was played in 15-minute quarters and coached by former NFL coaches Herm Edwards and Steve Mariucci.
Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas defensive end Nick Bosa was on the roster but not at the game as the Ohio State commitment continued to heal from a knee injury that forced him to miss the latter half of his senior season. Three local coaches — Roger Harriott (St. Thomas), Earl Sims (Gulliver) and Pierre Senatus (Miramar) — coached in the game as well. Hallandale wide receiver and University of Florida commitment Joshua Hammond started the game and played on special teams.
Deerfield Beach standout Cavin Ridley did not have a catch but made news after the game when he announced he would enroll early at the University of South Carolina.
“[South Carolina] was recruiting me since they were at Auburn,” Ridley said. “They recruit South Florida kids and recruit them the best they can, and I just believe in coach T-Rob [Travaris Robinson] and the things they tell me. I just ran with them. It’s a new staff, and I think everybody in the world would like a new start.”
Ridley joins Miami Central defensive end Keir Thomas as the latest top-flight local recruits to commit to the Gamecocks.
St. Thomas Aquinas receiver Sam Bruce caused a little stir on social media when he donned Ohio State garb before the game. But the University of Miami pledge said after the game his next stop is UM.
“That hat wasn’t even mine, I just put it on for a minute because it matched with the red-and-black jerseys we were wearing,” said Bruce, who caught one pass for 2 yards and had a 46-yard kickoff return early in the second half. “People are crazy on social media, man. My next stop is the University of Miami. It’s all about the ‘U.’ ”
Bruce has visits scheduled to the Florida, South Carolina and Miami this month.
“I’ll announce my final decision on [National] Signing Day, but I am solid to UM right now,” Bruce said. “I just want to visit those other schools to see what they have to offer me.”
Flanagan linebacker Devin Bush Jr. and wide receiver Dredrick Snelson were back on the field where they helped the Falcons win the Class 8A state championship three weeks prior. Snelson had one catch for 13 yards and Bush finished with three tackles, including an assist on a tackle for loss. Bush is an early enrollee at the University of Michigan and will head to Ann Arbor on Monday.
“This was the best way to end my high school career,” Bush said. “It’s bittersweet, but I can’t wait to start the new chapter in my life.”