It can be extremely difficult to stand out at a national all-star game featuring 100 of the nation’s most highly regarded high school football seniors, but Mauldin High cornerback and Clemson signee Jeadyn Lukus did just that.
With 5:49 left in the second quarter of Sunday’s Under Armour All-America Game in Orlando, Florida, and the offense facing third-and-14, Lukus was covering a receiver down the right sideline. Once the pass was released, Lukus quickly determined the throw was lacking in velocity and instead of going stride for stride with the intended target, he broke off short and made an incredible leaping interception, looking as if he went some 40 inches into the air.
It was in front of his own sideline, where coaches and teammates broke into absolute hysterics.
“Jumping is one of my strongest things, but I didn’t think I was going to have to get that high,” Lukus said Tuesday evening. “I was on the receiver, but when the quarterback threw the ball I could tell with how fast we were going it wasn’t going to make it so I just stopped running. Once it got close enough to me I knew I had to go get it and still knew I could. Once you’re in the game, your instincts really just take over and you don’t have a lot of time to think.”
The interception went viral on social media and was widely shown on outlets such as ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” Lukus was interviewed immediately after the play by the sideline reporter on the live ESPN national telecast. The affable and humble Lukus, ranked the 39th-best recruit and seventh-best corner in the 247Sports Composite, was surprised by the widespread reaction.
“I’ve always known I could jump that high and almost everyone at my high school knows how high I can get up there,” he said. “To be honest, I didn’t know it was going to be that crazy big of a deal until I got on the sideline and everyone was telling me how high I really jumped. I’m not going to say it was normal because it was a nice play, but I wasn’t thinking, ‘Oh, man, that’s going to be on ESPN ‘SportsCenter’ and all that.”
Lukus said the aftermath “was crazy for sure. My phone was definitely blowing up for a few days.”
So just exactly how high can he jump?
“Honestly, I’ve got no clue on what my vertical is,” Lukus replied. “Everyone’s been asking me about that.”
Lukus is Clemson’s second-highest ranked 2022 signee and top-ranked defensive player. He was one of four Clemson signees playing in the game, joining Greenville High offensive lineman Collin Sadler and a pair of wide receivers — Dutch Fork’s Antonio Williams and Myrtle Beach’s Adam Randall.
Many of the nation’s top high school players participated. Some of those who didn’t will play in another prestigious all-star game Saturday at the All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas. Quarterback Cade Klubnik and defensive back Toriano Pride are Clemson signees competing along with running back Trevor Etienne, who has the Tigers in his final three with Florida and LSU and will be announcing his college choice during the game on NBC.
Of competing in the Under Armour game, Lukus said, “You don’t really see competition like this, especially in South Carolina and the Upstate, so it was nice to go against guys who are just as good as you and in the top percentage of players in the nation. It’s an iron sharpens iron type of thing so it was nice and I liked it.
“There’s always going to be that type of thing where you’re cool with everyone, but at the same time you’re there for a reason and you’re going to compete with them no matter what. It’s fun off the field, but on the field it’s all business until the game is over. Once you get to a certain level that’s always how it’s going to be so that was no surprise.”
He enjoyed the comraderie of getting some personal time with guys he’d previously met at summer camps and other functions and others he’d only known through social media. Because the game featured so many of the top players, the vast majority had already signed during the early signing period last month so there wasn’t much recruiting going on between players.
Lukus praised the organizers for doing a great job of keeping the players busy with a rigorous schedule that mixed football with team events (although surprisingly, being in Orlando, no theme park visits). There were multiple trips to the beach and abundant food.
“Every minute of every day was pretty much booked with activities to make sure we were always doing something,” Lukus said. “The whole week was such a blur. It was fun because you got to know better a lot of the people you’re going to be playing with and against. Even though it was two different teams, we still did almost everything together except for practices. We got pretty much just as close with the other team as our own teammates.”
It was back to reality on Monday and his final few days of high school. Lukus took a final exam on Wednesday and then just needed to finish up with his last one the following day. He’ll move onto Clemson’s campus on Sunday.
“I’m excited and I’m sure everyone is ready to get down there and start getting to work,” Lukus said. “Just ready to start the next chapter.”
This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Mauldin star/Clemson signee Jeadyn Lukus recaps amazing all-star week