PLANTATION, Fla. — The first — and only — throw that headed Tyson Campbell’s way Friday night at Heritage Stadium came on a third-and-long with a victory all but sealed up for Plantation’s American Heritage School. The lead was up to 4 touchdowns during the fourth quarter and Chaminade-Madonna School of nearby Hollywood, Fla., hadn’t managed anything, especially through the air against American Heritage’s vaunted cornerback duo.
Another drive was about to stall and this time Chaminade-Madonna quarterback Quinn Dempsey had to drop back for one of his few pass attempts during a 41-13 loss. Wide receiver Marvin Alexander lined up on the left side opposite Campbell. He took two steps off the line of scrimmage, bumped Campbell and then darted inside for a quick slant.
The play lasted all of 2 seconds. Dempsey and Alexander connected, but Campbell was right on top of the play to stop the wideout in his tracks after a minuscule 3-yard pickup.
“It’s kind of boring,” the 5-star cornerback said after the win by the Patriots, “but at the same time being a team player I’ve got to hype the other defensive guys up, so it’s no problem for me as long as we can get the ‘W.’ ”
For the first time since the preseason, American Heritage’s blue-chip cornerback tandem was back at full strength. Patrick Surtain Jr., the nation’s No. 1 cornerback in the 247Sports composite rankings, returned from a two-game absence to lock down one side of the field. Campbell, the No. 3 corner, locked down the other and American Heritage, ranked No. 5 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25, rolled to another win in Plantation.
It’s hard to remember one unit on a single high school team garnering the hype American Heritage’s cornerbacks have, but it’s what happens when an unprecedented collection of talent shares the field. The two starters are perhaps the most coveted high school players at their position in the nation and some have made the case for Surtain as the best corner prospect ever. They were first groomed at the high school level by former NFL defensive back Mike Rumph, who’s now Miami’s cornerbacks coach and was previously American Heritage’s coach. Their coach with the Patriots now is the elder Patrick Surtain, a three-time Pro Bowl selection who will serve on the coaching staff at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January. The two cornerbacks even got to be the subject of an extensive profile at The Undefeated earlier this week.
Patrick Surtain Jr. is back and the nation’s best CB duo will be in action tonight on ESPNU. American Heritage hosts Chaminade-Madonna at 7. pic.twitter.com/bFcog4l3KC
— David Wilson (@DBWilson2) September 22, 2017
This is all a meandering way to say teams don’t try to throw against American Heritage. Campbell finished the game Friday with 2 tackles. Surtain had 1 pass defended. They’re both priority targets for anyone left recruiting them, impressive enough to even put one college coach on a flight less than 24 hours before the kickoff of a conference game.
About half an hour before kickoff, Clemson cornerbacks coach Mike Reed walked down to the American Heritage sideline, where he could spend the next couple of hours evaluating the tandem. The game, which was televised on ESPNU, didn’t end until about 10 p.m. The Tigers kick off against Boston College at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.
“I really appreciate that,” Campbell said. “Hopefully, I impressed him today. … I don’t think they have a night game tomorrow. It’s real special that a coach did all that just to come see me.”
The Hurricanes are out on Surtain — the 5-star corner didn’t include Miami in his top 6 — but are still firmly in the mix for Campbell. His recruitment, however, is as fluid as ever. Clemson was once considered among the front-runners, only to fade. Now Campbell says the Tigers are “back in the mix.” He previously told Rivals’ Adam Friedman the Hurricanes were a lock for his top 5. Now he won’t commit to an official visit in Coral Gables, Fla., and hasn’t visited since April.
Campbell does plan to use all five of his official visits, although he’ll wait until after the season. He knows three destinations already: Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State. The other two are still up in the air. His parents are encouraging him to take his time.
“This is a pivotal moment in my life,” Campbell said.
Campbell will be at Hard Rock Stadium this fall, though. He has a handful of game visits planned, including a trip to Miami Gardens, Fla., on Nov. 11 to watch the No. 14 Hurricanes host Notre Dame. He’s also going to Athens, Ga., on Nov. 4 to watch the No. 11 Bulldogs host South Carolina. And he’ll either be in Baton Rouge, La., or Gainesville, Fla., on Nov. 25 — that’s when No. 25 LSU is hosting Texas A&M and No. 20 Florida is playing its annual game against No. 12 Florida State.
But even as Campbell’s recruitment remains uncertain, Miami can offer some things none of its challengers can.
“I feel comfortable with them. Keeping in contact with them makes me feel comfortable,” Campbell said. “And it’s close to home, so that comfort’s always going to be there. I’ve been there plenty of times.”
And then there’s the Rumph factor. For Campbell’s first two years at American Heritage, Rumph was his coach each day. Rumph helped Campbell transition from a talented athlete without a position — he grew up mostly as a linebacker — into one of the nation’s premier corners.
For the Hurricanes, Rumph can be more than just a typical lead recruiter.
“It’s kind of weird from a recruiter-to-a-coach standpoint,” Campbell said. “He doesn’t make it weird or anything. He talks to me like he’s just my coach in high school, so giving me tips and life lessons and stuff like that, it’s really not much of a difference.”