Petal (Miss.) dual-threat quarterback Anthony Alford was watching the 2011 U.S. Army All-American Bowl last January when a thought entered his head.
"I called my coach and told him I wanted to play in that game," Alford recalled. "He said, 'You'll have a chance if you keep working hard, keep believing in yourself.' "
Alford's coach was right.
Earlier this year, the soft-spoken standout signal caller was selected to play in the 2012 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and on Thursday was presented with his No. 12 game jersey in a ceremony at his school.
"This really means a lot to me," Alford said.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Alford is a four-star prospect and member of the Rivals250. In 2010, he was the Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year after totaling 2,652 yards of offense and 35 touchdowns.
Alford is No. 4 nationally among dual-threat quarterbacks.
That's not all.
He also is considered an elite baseball prospect, and figures to be selected in a relatively high round during next year's amateur draft.
Wrote RebelGrove.com, "He's Mississippi's top baseball prospect for his class. An outfielder with plus speed (6.40-second 60-yard dash, per Alford) and tools, Alford could be a very early pick in the 2012 Major League Baseball first-year player draft, according to projections."
Despite his success, Alford is a quiet, humble star, according to his coach.
"It starts with leadership," said Petal coach Steve Buckley. "He's not always vocal, but he leads by example. He's also one of the hardest-working kids in the program. Whether it's in the weightroom or on the practice field, he brings a lot of work ethic."
Alford was a part-time starter as a freshman, then took over full time in 2009. As a junior, he led his team to an 11-2 record and a district title. This season, Petal is 5-4, but has won four of its past five games. Alford has accumulated more than 1,000 yards through the air and on the ground.
"Without a doubt [he can succeed in college]," Buckley said. "The thing is, he's not only a tremendous athlete, mentally he understands the game. He can beat you with his legs and his arm. He can be a drop-back passer or be a quarterback that stays on the move. He can run any offense."
Alford, who has not yet committed, is looking hard at six schools: LSU, Mississippi State, Nebraska, Ole Miss, Southern Miss and South Carolina. Each of those schools is known for having strong baseball programs, as well as respectable football teams. He will officially visit the Cornhuskers next weekend, but has yet to schedule any other trips.
"It's a unique situation," Buckley said. "He has the option to do both. At this point, he doesn't know which sport he likes the most. He likes both. So right now, he wants to go ahead, go to college, see which one he develops in the most and weigh his options after three or four years."
For now, Alford is focused on finishing his football season. After that, he'll take part in the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Classic this December, then head to San Antonio, Texas, for the Jan. 7 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
"I'm looking forward to showcasing my talents, meeting new people and getting to represent Petal High," Alford said. "I think it'll help me prepare for the next level by playing against kids I might see in college."