When I first saw Vernon Hargreaves in action, it made me want to see more. And still more again. And again. It was amazing. Play after play, he kept at it.
I have a measuring stick for players that I call the "Wow Factor." If a kid can wow me — that is, get me to say, "Wow" out loud — then there is something worth watching again in that particular prospect. It's how you get in the Sentinel's Florida Top 100.
Hargreaves sits atop that list today with the latest update of the Sentinel's Florida Top 100 rankings at OrlandoSentinel.com/recruiting.
When I first saw him play, I had never heard of him. He kept making amazing plays. Plays I didn't think could be made. He was a junior-to-be defending passes last summer at the
Sling&Shoot 7on7 tournament. Hargreaves kept intercepting passes that appeared to be overthrown. His leaping ability was something of superhero heights. He would leap and keep rising as opposing receivers had reached their peaks.
He was fast. He had tremendous hands, and his hips were on a Shakira swivel, but he never gave them away, making it tough for quarterbacks to anticipate when a receiver could gain an advantage. That's because rarely does a receiver ever gain an advantage on Hargreaves.
I was asking people who he was. Most people had no idea. Turns out he was the new kid. He'd just moved into Tampa with his family. His dad, Vernon Hargreaves II, relocated to Tampa for a job at USF as the special-teams coordinator and defensive-ends coach for head coach
, for whom Hargreaves also worked at East Carolina.
The youngster is a third-generation Vernon, and he's making his daddy proud. It's a humble family. As his father sits back and watches his son make plays, he seems just as in awe as the rest of us.
I asked Vernon III last January what he thought about being ranked as the No. 1 player in the state for the class of 2013 college-football prospects. He didn't seem that surprised but, of course, handled the question like a seasoned professional. He carries himself that way.
He was weathering the effects of Tropical Storm Debby on Monday in Tampa when I reached him for a quick interview, something that has been a bit hard for him to keep up with, given the amount of phone calls and requests he gets every day.
"I'm enjoying the process," Hargreaves III said. "It's fun, but yeah, I do get a lot of phone calls, and that can be kind of annoying, but sometimes I just don't answer the phone … still, though, I am enjoying it.
As far as being the top player in the state, he says it's nice, but ...
"I'm happy people think that highly of me, though. I try not to really think about it. I just try to stay humble," he said. "But in the field it doesn't change things. It doesn't make things any easier for me."
He makes it look easy. What's not going to be easy for him, however, is the process of choosing a college. Unless he's real good at keeping things a mystery, Vernon III doesn't appear to be toward any of the 40-plus schools that have offered the 5-foot-11, 185-pound star.
On the national level, Hargreaves III is ranked as the top safety overall and the No. 5 player in the nation by 247Sports.com; the No. 1 safety and No. 4 player overall by
Recruiting; the No. 2 safety and No. 9 player by Rivals.com; and also the top safety in the country and No. 13 player overall by Scout.com.
"I don't really have any top schools," he said — and he also said he does not plan to unveil his final destination until Feb. 6, National Signing Day, which is exactly 193 days from today (Tuesday, June 26).
Hargreaves III said the schools hitting him the hardest with their recruiting pitches are USF and Florida. Many people think he will eventually side with his father and the Bulls.
"I definitely get a lot of that, and it's a good question … I understand that," he said. "But it won't have any effect on my decision."
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting, and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.
Sentinel's Florida Top 100
(Top 50 below, for the rest of the list go to OrlandoSentinel.com/recruiting)