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IOWA CITY, Iowa - With his teammates and family members in attendance, A.J. Derby accepted what his head coach at Iowa City High, Dan Sabers, called one of the greatest honors for their program.
Before hitting the practice field on Monday afternoon, Derby officially accepted the invitation to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on January 9th in San Antonio, Texas.
"It is a great honor to be selected to this game. I feel like this is not only me being selected, but my teammates and coaches, who got me this opportunity," Derby said after accepting a jersey from the U.S. Army representative.
The 6-foot-4, 218-pound quarterback was selected to participate in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl after attending their Junior Combine last January. While in San Antonio, Derby was moved after spending time with the Army personnel in San Antonio.
"That was a big reason that I decided to participate in this game. After being around them in my time at the combine, it made me want to be a part of their game."
One thing Derby also has on his mind is showing the rest of the country that kids from Iowa can play a little football. In the history of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Derby is the seventh player from the state of Iowa to participate in the contest.
"I want to go down there and compete against the best in the country and show them that we can play a little football in Iowa," Derby said.
The Little Hawks are off to an 8-0 start this season and ranked No. 1 in the state of Iowa in Class 4A. While Derby is quick to deflect the individual praise that comes his way, his City High coach was equally as quick to speak with pride about his star player.
"I am very excited for A.J. to achieve this opportunity, both for him and his family," said Coach Sabers. "When you get to work with someone as neat as A.J. there is no doubt that it all starts with mom and dad."
Derby is the son of former Hawkeye John Derby, who played for Iowa in the late 80's and early 90's. A.J. recently verbally committed to follow in the footsteps of his father and older brother, Zach, who is currently a redshirt freshman tight end on the Iowa Football team.
Sabers is also very proud of Derby's ability to stay humble in the spotlight.
"There is no doubt that a part of his success is because of his leadership while remaining humble. I think that is a real accomplishment to achieve all his honors and remain respected by his teammates."
Thus far this season, Derby has completed 45 of his 97 passing attempts for 970 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has also rushed for 498 yards and 7 touchdowns through eight games.
Derby's goal for the rest of the season is very simple.
"We came into this season focused on winning the state title and that is what we are going to try to do."