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EUGENE, Ore. - Although the past few months have been a wild ride for Rivals100 member Gabe King, he was able to take a step back from it all on Friday and enjoy the ceremony to announce him as a participant the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. In front of his new home crowd, King officially received an invitation to the prestigious game.
In spite of the fact that he is still on crutches and in pain from his recent knee surgery, King was in good spirits as he prepared to watch his South Eugene Axemen take on the visitors from Roseburg High School on Friday night.
"Man, I'm just happy to have found a place to play. It is my senior year and my time to shine so the opportunity for me to play is truly a blessing. This is something I have always wanted and even though I am out for a few weeks, I will be back to prove I belong."
The 6-foot-5, 253-pounder had surgery this week to remove a damaged meniscus after being injured in a recent practice.
"Yeah, I already had the surgery but I am feeling pretty good. The pain is something I can deal with, it's the not playing part that is tough."
King and his team are hopeful for a return in two weeks when the Axemen take on the state's No. 1 team and fellow Rivals100 member Curtis White, who earlier in the day had a ceremony across town, in his honor to announce his selection to the U.S. Army Bowl.
"I should be back by the Sheldon game but we'll have to see how it goes. They say you can be back in two weeks after a surgery like this and that is my plan. I played on it after I injured it, but once it really started to bother me I had to get it checked out."
King and his mother recently moved from Greensboro, N.C., to Eugene, Ore., in a move to get him eligible to play high school football after a long battle with the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. In order to be eligible to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, King had to play during his senior year and he plans on finishing out the season in a big way.
"I just want to get out there and help my team any way I can. I play on the end obviously but I also play some slot and if I need to, sometimes I'll move to the interior on the defensive line. Right now, I just need to concentrate on getting healthy and then I can worry about where I am on the field."
While he was receiving his jersey and being awarded with the honor of being selected as a U.S. Army All-American, King joked with reporters in saying, "this would be a lot more fun if I was playing. I want to show you guys what I can do."
King is definitely the big man on campus and it is obvious that the school, the program and the fans have all taken to him quickly as there was a large crowd on hand to see him accept the nomination. One thing that gets lost in all the hoopla is that these blue-chip recruits are still just kids and King is clearly just trying to find his way and learn how to fit in at what is now his third school in the past year.
"[The transition] has been really good so far," King said. "The people are real nice and there is a lot of support out here. Honestly, the biggest difference for me has been the weather. It gets pretty cold here and even though it hasn't really rained yet, I can tell it is going to be cold and wet and that is something I'm not really used to."
In a year with a lot of high level talent in Oregon, King's arrival has made an impact on many levels. For the first time, Oregon has more than one selection to the game and went beyond that with four players being selected to play in San Antonio, Texas, on January 9, 2010, televised nationally on NBC at Noon CT.
King described what it has been like in his new surroundings when it comes to the football side of things by talking about the level of football and how it is played in Oregon, a place not usually known for producing high school football talent.
"Actually, the players and the teams are a lot better than I thought they would be," he said. "They are better than where I came from. They play with a lot of heart, a lot of passion and they go hard every play. I respect that a lot. I really don't know if it is because they are going up against me and they want to prove themselves to me or if that is just what it's like out here. Whatever it is, it is tough out here every time you step on the field."
Usually when Eugene, Oregon gets brought up in a football conversation it has to do with the University of Oregon but the home of the Ducks now boasts two of the most versatile players in the country at the high school level. Although Gabe says he doesn't know fellow U.S. Army All-American Curtis White very well, he did offer this up when asked about the No. 90 player on the Rivals100 list.
"I have talked to Curt a few times but I don't really know him too well," King said. "We're haven't talked on a real, friend-type level yet but I'm sure we will at some point. For now though, I can't wait to get back and go up against him."
King thinks highly of White's talent level.
"He is a great player. He is tough, he is real athletic and he is just an all-around talent. He is definitely a great player and the type of guy I want to play with. I know he's probably going to be a tight end, but wherever I sign, I want to take him with me. He's that good."
As for his own plans, King wants to make a statement in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl when he gets the chance.
"It truly is an honor," he said. "Like I said earlier, just to be able to play has been a blessing and being selected to play in this game with so many other elite players means a lot to me. A lot of people have questioned the way things have turned out so when I get back, I am going to show everyone what I am made of."