On Wednesday, the U.S. Army All-American Bowl added its offensive center for the East Team when it welcomed Apopka (Fla.) offensive lineman Ty Darlington. The 6-foot-3, 265-pound offensive center still remembers when he first found out he was invited to San Antonio, Texas.
"I actually got the packet informing me that I had been invited on last Christmas Eve," Darlington said. "So it was like a Christmas present.
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"I was ecstatic really," Darlington added with regards to the invite.
"It was something that I had looked forward to, sort of dreamed would happen, since eighth or ninth grade. It was a goal that I had."
Darlington was just as excited after receiving his official East Team jersey as when the initial invite arrived.
"It is a big deal," Darlington said. "I am honored to play in it. I am looking forward to going out there and competing. I am just really excited for this opportunity."
When Darlington arrives in San Antonio, Texas in early January, he is looking forward to taking in the entire experience that the event offers.
"You are not going there to just play football, it is an experience,"
Darlington said. "You get to do some things with the Army and also things away from the field with the other players. Obviously the game is a big deal, but I am going to enjoy myself."
When the lights come on in the Alamodome though, it is about football though.
"I am going to be playing football, I love playing football, and I am looking forward to the competition level," Darlington said. "I am sure the competition will be so much better than typical high school competition. So I am looking forward to that part, playing against really good guys."
During his high school career, Darlington has moved around on the offensive line, but his time at the U.S. Army All-American Game will provide a week of working on his craft at his future position.
"I am pretty sure they selected me as a center, so I presume that is where they will line me up at," Darlington said. "I am looking forward to that because I play guard for my high school team all year, because of the scheme we run and what we do, we need a pulling guard, but I am looking forward to getting some work at center. That is what I expect to be playing in college."
While some prospects will be departing San Antonio for their future college home, the Oklahoma commitment will not to head to Norman, Oklahoma early. His reason - he is pursuing top honors amongst his graduating class.
"I am graduating near the summer because I am No. 1 in my class academically and if I graduate early, I wouldn't be able to take any AP classes and I would lose my class rank," Darlington said.
Darlington is in the fourth quarter of his high school academic career and the game is tight when it comes to his academics, but he believes he can make one last surge into the end zone.
"I have to finish out strong," Darlington said of becoming valedictorian. "There is a girl right on my tail, but if I finish out the semester strong I will be."
For Darlington, the word student-athlete holds significance on both sides of the hyphen.
"I think not enough people take it serious enough," Darlington said.
"That is what is going to last, your education. After four or five years at Oklahoma, most guys aren't going to be able to go onto the next level, so the education is what is really important. It is definitely important to me to be a complete player in the classroom and not just on the field."
Darlington is planning to take an official visit to Oklahoma on the weekend of Dec. 16, but he is hoping to have to reschedule that trip.
"Hopefully I can't make it because that is the weekend of our state championship game if we make it that far," Darlington said. "Hopefully I will be busy that weekend and can't get out to Oklahoma."
Darlington and the East team take on the West in the 12th annual U.S.
Army All-American Bowl on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. The game will be nationally televised on NBC.