The tradition of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl attracted Lincoln (Neb.) Southwest linebacker Josh Banderas from the early stages of his recruitment.
Last January, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Banderas decided to get a taste of the experience and made his way to San Antonio for the junior combine that took place a day before the Army Bowl game.
"When I saw the (Army Bowl) players walking around with all their gear on and the facilities, I wanted to be down there myself," Banderas said.
Through his performance at the junior combine, his performances throughout his high school career and at events like the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge, Banderas earned his spot on the Army Bowl roster for 2013.
Monday morning, Banderas was honored for that selection in a ceremony at his school. Now, he looks forward to being among the nation's best who will take the Alamodome field on Jan. 5.
"It was pretty cool when I got the invite," Banderas said. "I look at it as this is going to be almost a semi-college level. You've got the best guys and some of them are going to start at the best college programs in the country your freshman year. Being able to play with the best of the best is just one step down from playing next year in college."
Banderas has met several of his future West teammates at camps and combines he has attended in the past. Fellow 2013 Army Bowlers Jake Raulerson and Ricky Seals-Jones were on Banderas' Southwest team at the Five-Star Challenge in June.
"There are a bunch of guys I hung out with I am looking forward to seeing again," Banderas said. "Everyone's season is over and it's about meeting the guys and having fun during the practices and the game.
"But you definitely want to reflect the Cornhuskers. You want to play good, maybe make a couple plays and get your name (announced). You represent who you are and where you are from."
The opportunity to represent himself, his home state and his future team are all important to Banderas. The platform he has in San Antonio could be the jumping off point for what he wants to accomplish when he arrives on campus in Lincoln full-time to start his career as a Cornhusker.
"I want to bring back the true Blackshirts -- the mean, shutout, three-and-out kind of defense -- and hopefully be the leader in the center of it," Banderas said.
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