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July 6, 2012
BEAVERTON, Ore. - Last weekend the world of summer high school football witnessed an overflow of talent.
Travel teams from across the country assembled in Bradenton, Fla., in hopes of capturing the IMG 7-on-7 National Championship. Only one finished undefeated: Team Tampa claimed the title on the strength of several national recruiting targets.
In fact, there is such a wealth of talent in the city now that one team out of the region used some.
"Team Detroit had three guys from Tampa," four-star defensive end Jordan Sherit said. "That tells you about the talent we have (there). It's just an awesome opportunity. I'm so glad. I'm blessed I got the chance to be on Team Tampa."
Now Team Tampa is on the road spreading its reputation.
Five of its members are participating in The Opening at NIKE World Headquarters. Sherit, four-star wide receiver Alvin Bailey, five-star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, four-star safety Leon McQuay III and tight end Travis Johnson all made the trip.
Only Johnson is committed -- to Miami -- and the reputations of all precede them in recruiting circles. Hargreaves is considering an elite list of scholarship offers with no lead pack. McQuay is down to Michigan, USC and Vanderbilt. Bailey is on the verge of trimming his list to a top five while Sherit considers his own cut.
Hargreaves, who hurt his ankle doing the shuttle run and had to sit outmost of the day, feels pressure to keep his reputation and those of his Team Tampa teammates in tact and, in part, justify the hype.
"Everybody knows who Team Tampa is," Hargreaves said. "We've got to put on for Tampa. We've got to keep our name where it's at."
Those at The Opening do so in part by sticking together.
One of the first things Bailey did upon arrival was link up with the other Team Tampa guys to prepare for the the weekend. Among them they feel a collective desire to represent something bigger than their 7-on-7 team.
Spreading the reputation of their city is perhaps a bigger priority.
"As soon as we met up (Thursday) we threw the T's up," Bailey said. "We definitely carry Team Tampa everywhere we go, no matter if it's just one of us or it's all of us. We put on for Tampa. That's who we do it for."
That any of them feel a close enough connection as summer ball teammates to represent their city is a surprise to most. Hargreaves could hardly have imagined they would end up as best friends after starting as not much more than travel partners.
"It's like a brotherhood now," Hargreaves said. "We're all pretty much best friends. We all have each other's numbers and if anybody needs anything we call one of our brothers. It's just a good bond, you know? It's like perfect I guess."