It's that time of year again: Pads are popping and high school football standouts are living up to their billing or emerging as better than expected. And, once again, the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Selection Tour is starting, honoring 90 of the best high school football players in the country with pep rallies and jersey presentations. The tour kicks off Thursday by honoring players in New York, Texas and California, including stud defensive end Ishaq Williams from Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln.
"The U.S. Army All-American Bowl Selection Tour Kick-off events are exciting every year because they mark the start of a new group of All-Americans that will get the chance to showcase their skills at the most prestigious high school football game in the country," said Rich McGuinness, President of All-American Games, the company that created the bowl. "We are honored to have such high-ranking Army officials, such as Lieutenant General Benjamin C. Freakley taking part in the selection tour. These events are a fantastic way for these tremendous athletes and musicians to be recognized for their excellence by their school, community, family, and friends."
Williams, a 6-foot-6, 220-pounder who is being recruited as a defensive end, linebacker and tight end by different schools, kicks off the tour in the East with his jersey presentation Thursday morning at the Lincoln auditorium. Williams will receive his jersey from Army Lieutenant General Freakley, who has led soldiers in combat three times during his illustrious military career, serving in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom and assumed senior command of Fort Knox, Ky,. and the Human Resources Command in May. Freakley feels the relationship between the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and All-American Games is a natural fit.
"It's a great partnership recognizing the best of the best of America's youth in athletics and in band, and that's what the Army does as well, recognizing the best of America's youth to serve their country," said Freakley. "The folks at All-American Games that select the players pick remarkable people and we delight in their selections. They select the whole man for football and the whole man and woman for the band, people of good character that get good grades, often do community service and are good examples of what young men and women should strive for."
And Freakley, who has been to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl each of the last three years, knows you can't beat the atmosphere and the experience.
"It's a remarkable atmosphere," he said. "With the players each being paired with a hero solider who has served man and woman overseas and shown great courage in protecting our country, the players build a bond with these men. The best moment for me is when the soldiers repel from the rafters and the players are introduced with their solider hero and come up with their own way of celebrating. Our game is the game. I'm a bit biased of course, but the tradition of the game coupled with the strength and character of the Army and the players is a combination that can't be beaten. I'm excited to kick off the selection process with Ishaq Williams, who is a great example of that character and strength and balance between academics and football."
Williams is ranked as the No. 4 weakside defensive end in the country and is No. 62 overall by Rivals.com. He has offers from more than 30 programs, including Alabama, Notre Dame, Penn State and USC.
In Texas, a double ceremony will take place as Cibolo (Texas) Steele teammates Malcolm Brown and Marquis Anderson will be honored with their U.S. Army All-American jerseys to begin the Southwest. Brown, a 6-foot, 220-pound pound running back is committed to Texas while Anderson, a 6-foot-3, 280-pound defensive tackle is committed to Oklahoma. The teammates and future Big 12 rivals will receive their jerseys from Major General Donald M. Campbell Jr., whose decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Bronze Star Medal and many others.
Brown is ranked as the nation's No. 1 running back and is ranked No. 8 overall in the country. Anderson is ranked as the No. 8 defensive tackle in the country and is ranked No. 98 overall.
And finally, Mission Viejo (Calif.) linebacker Tre Madden will receive his jersey and kick of the West. The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder is committed to USC and will receive his jersey from Colonel Barrye L. Price, whose decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and many others.
Madden is ranked as the nation's No. 5 outside linebacker and is No. 73 overall.
With four Rivals100 prospects being honored in the same day, the 2011 U.S. Army Bowl will clearly be star-studded once again.
"The U.S. Army All-American Bowl always puts together a roster of the nation's best high school football players," said McGuinness. "These events are just the start of the exciting roster-building process that will run into December."
The U.S. Army All American Bowl is in its 11th year with notable alumni such as Vince Young, Adrian Peterson, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Jimmy Clausen, Terrelle Pryor and others.
The Bowl will be played Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, and televised by NBC.