SAN ANTONIO - On Saturday, millions of viewers around the country will be tuning in to watch the country's best athletes put their talents on display during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. While their football skills are more than worthy of the media attention, their efforts outside of the game that they love so much are perhaps more impressive.
On an average day at Lufkin High School, five-star defensive lineman JaMarkus McFarland has a brutal schedule. While football practice is an obvious event in his daily planner, McFarland balances going to class and then studying at night. Somewhere in between, the Oklahoma commitment also finds time to give back to his community as president of his school's student council.
"I feel that we're mostly stereotyped because we're football players just because we have the chance to go to play on the next level," McFarland said. "It's really a big thing to me to give back and so that I won't be judged just by my performance on the field."
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At school, McFarland is also an office aid who assists with the students that are in the special education classroom. Last week, the No. 2 defensive tackle in the country was at a nursing home, spending time with elderly individuals who didn't have family around for the holidays.
McFarland and his big heart was one of eight put on display and honored as a nominee for the Doc Blanchard Award and Glenn Davis Award on Tuesday evening.
"The Army All-American Bowl is not only a celebration of football, but also a celebration of what it means to be a soldier – someone who is proud ot make a difference as a member of their team and their community," said Colonel David Lee, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-7, Strategic Communications, Marketing and Outreach, U.S. Army Accessions Command.
"The nominees for the Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis awards epitomize the Army's high standard of excellence in community service, education and athletic distinction. Through their mental, emotional and physical strength, these fine student-athletes truly reflect a strength like no other – the strength of the Army Strong Soldier."
While scoring a winning touchdown or making a momentum-changing interception excite these individuals, it's seeing the effects of their actions outside of the game that means the most.
"To me, it's the most special thing in the world to have a young one look up to me," running back Edwin Baker said. "To have a person that doesn't have a lot and all he wants to do is see a person that can make him happy, that brings joy to my heart."
The Doc Blanchard Award will be given to a member of the East team. Those nominees include Baker, linebacker Zeke Motta, defensive back Donovan Tate, and offensive lineman Brennan Williams. The Glenn Davis Award is dedicated to the West player representative who will chosen from the nominee list of McFarland, quarterback Allan Bridgford, defensive back Marcus Davis and running back Chris Whaley.
The winners of both awards will be announced during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Awards Dinner on Friday night.