High School Sports

All-American picks Gators over Dawgs on big signing day at American Heritage

American Heritage All-American lineman Slaton picks Gators

At the largest National Signing Day event in American Heritage School history nearly 40 athletes in eight sports signed with colleges including 6-5, 360-pound lineman TJ Slaton. Feb. 1, 2017
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At the largest National Signing Day event in American Heritage School history nearly 40 athletes in eight sports signed with colleges including 6-5, 360-pound lineman TJ Slaton. Feb. 1, 2017

Tedarrell Slaton has decided he will be taking his 6-5, 360-pound frame and all his talents this coming fall to The Swamp.

The U.S. Army All-American, who anchored the offensive line on three state championship football teams at American Heritage and who is averaging double-digits in both points and rebounds for the school's basketball team this season, picked the Florida Gators over the Georgia Bulldogs on Wednesday morning, removing his name off the short list of the remaining elite football talents who went into National Signing Day still uncommitted to a college.

“I have a really good relationship with the coaches and I really like the campus,” said Slaton, who said he made up his mind about two weeks prior to playing in the U.S. Army All-American game because he wanted to play at a school a little closer to home.

“I hope my Mom can come to every game. I hope to come in and battle for a starting position. But I'm guaranteed right now second string and a chance to play.”

Slaton, who received his first scholarship offer a month into his freshman year at Heritage from the University of Miami, ultimately narrowed his list down to the Gators and Bulldogs because those were the only programs willing to give him a shot to play defense in college, something he's longed to do.

Slaton started at right tackle for Heritage all season, but moved over to defense in short yardage situations. He finished the year with two solo tackles and three assisted tackles. He's got a lot more game film of himself opening gigantic running lanes and barreling over defensive players.

“It's just that aggression, wanting to be known, swarming to the ball,” Slaton said of what he loves about playing defense.

The Gators made off with three of the 15 seniors from Heritage’s unbeaten Class 5A state championship team who have football scholarships.

Four-star cornerback Marco Wilson (6-0, 185), who helped anchor a stingy Patriots defense which gave up less than 12 points a game, and linebacker James Houston (6-2, 220), who is already enrolled at Florida, were the other two.

In all, seven Patriots signed with Power 5 Conference programs.

Under Armour All-American Kai-Leon Herbert, a 6-5, 284-pound four-star offensive guard, who switched his commitment from the University of Michigan to the University of Miami a little more than a week ago, signed on the dotted line for the Hurricanes.

Four-star recruit Kai-Leon Herbert picks Miami Hurricanes on National Signing Day.

“What ultimately led me to UM was my relationship with my former high school head coach, coach [Mike] Rumph,” Herbert said. “And just the relationship I built with [offensive line coach Stacy] Searels and coach [Mark] Richt. Those are two type of guys that are very spiritual and different than most coaches. Miami is a special place to be if you want to be great.”

Dominating All-Broward First team defensive tackle George Ellis (6-3, 290) signed with TCU and All-Broward second team linebacker Willie Hampton (6-2, 220) signed with Nebraska. All-Broward second team receiver Donatavius Butler (6-2, 200) and

All-Broward Second Team receiver Laress Nelson (5-10, 175), who led the team in catches (38) and receiving yards (450), didn't participate in the formal ceremony but ended up signing with Michigan State a little while later.

Nelson also had looks from Louisiana Tech, Toledo and Coastal Carolina.

“He's too good of a player not to sign somewhere soon,” coach Patrick Surtain Jr. said following the ceremony.

Offensive lineman Robert Hawkins (6-5, 275) signed with FAU, quarterback Jason Brown (6-3, 195) signed with Harvard, cornerback Will Allen (5-9, 170) and safety Blake Wooden (6-1, 180), the sons of former Miami Dolphins, signed with Columbia, center Javier Garcia (6-3, 280) signed with Marist College, defensive back Michael Hicks Jr. (5-10, 170) signed with Fort Valley State and linebacker Brandon Mincey (6-2, 230) signed with Garden City College.

Heritage had 25 athletes in seven other sports sign with colleges on Wednesday including golfer Jonathan Cachon (South Florida), tennis star Ronia Dalabany (Hofstra), Lacrosse standout Joseph Weisberg (Haverford College), boys soccer standout Jonathan Gomes (UNC Wilmington) and basketball standouts Drew LaMont (American University) and Skyla Osceola (Nova Southeastern).

Eight members of the baseball team, which is ranked No. 6 nationally in the preseason by Perfectgame.org signed: shortstop Mark Vientos (Miami), infielder Justin Connell (FIU), right-hander Christian Santana (FIU), right-hander Israel Cordero (Barry), right-hander Cody Cortelli (Pomona-Pitzer College), utility man Travis Holt (High Point), outfielder Austin Sacks (Johns Hopkins) and third baseman Anthony Boix (Broward College).

Six players from the back-to-back state championship softball team also signed: middle infielder Brooke Langston (Tennessee), catcher Sidney Grobman (Yale), Jendayi Wright (North Carolina A&T), Olivia Saviskas (Lynn University), first baseman Maya Rodriguez (Caldwell University), and Michalla Reddick (Indian River Community College).

Five players from the four-time defending Class 3A state champion girls soccer team also signed: Jaida Scott (UCF), Rikki Farquharson (USF), Chyanne Dennis (USF), Emily Vasquez (Jacksonville University) and Angel Breedlove (FIU).

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