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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - One of the nation's biggest and best high school football players was almost brought to tears on Thursday as he officially accepted an invitation to the 2011 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Nashville (Tenn.) Ensworth offensive tackle Antonio Richardson was honored in front of friends, family and media at his school.
The 6-foot-6, 310-pound lineman who is the state's No. 1-ranked prospect and the ranked No. 60 overall in the nation was humble as he accepted the invitation to join the best 90 college football prospects in the nation to represent the U.S. Army and the state of Tennessee in San Antonio, Texas.
"When they gave me this jersey and they put this hat on my head, I almost started to cry," Richardson said. "Because since I was a freshman watching the guys play in the Army game, and watching the guys play in the Tennessee East-West game, I would have been happy just playing in the Tennessee All-Star game as a senior.
"It's just a wonderful feeling, because of all the hard work I have put for this," he said. "You know, my daddy has always been preaching to me, 'Antonio, if you want this, you have to put the work in, you have to work hard.'"
The one thing that Richardson is looking forward to most about playing in the 11th edition of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl is the competition.
"I'm just looking forward to going against guys my size, my strength, you know what I'm saying, I'm just looking to dominate. Even if I don't dominate, I'm going against some of the best in the country and I'm going down there with the attitude that I am going to dominate," Richardson said. "I'm just going the give it my best, because it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I'm going to make the best of it."
Ensworth Head Coach Ricky Bowers is eager for the country to see that Richardson is much more than a dominating football player.
"It will be nice for the country to see someone so big and that impressive physically that can be so kind and so nice to so many people. I like that opportunity for Antonio," Bowers said. "I think the bowl game itself is great because it's connected with the Army. Freedom is not free, and it's an opportunity for us to appreciate those that put themselves at risk for our well being."
Richardson's recruitment has always been secondary compared to his senior season at Ensworth. Unofficial visits to Alabama, Notre Dame, Tennessee and Vanderbilt have opened his eyes as to what is out there, but he claims that he is still wide open, and after his team is finished with the its season, he will then decide on what five schools will get his official visits.
He does have a group of schools in mind that are in the running.
"UCLA, USC might get one, Oklahoma might get one, Notre Dame might get one, Auburn, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee might get one. Oh, and Miami might get one most definitely," he said. "Those are the ones that I'm thinking about right now, and maybe Kansas and Louisville, too."
Richardson will most likely wait until National Signing Day to announce his college choice, but he said on Thursday that there is an outside chance that he could announce his decision live on NBC during the January 8 broadcast of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.