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FREDERICK, Md. - Four years ago Nick Forbes watched his first U.S. Army All-American Bowl. His eyes fixated on his family's TV screen, mesmerized by the likes of Michael Oher, Rashard Mendenhall, Brian Cushing and DeSean Jackson, the best high school players in the country. Forbes was not even in high school yet, but he was already planning his future. He turned to his mother and said, "I want to play in that game one day."
And now he'll get the chance.
On Wednesday afternoon at Governor Thomas Johnson High School, Forbes officially accepted the invitation to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
"This is like a dream come true," said Forbes, a 6-foot, 223-pound linebacker who is committed to Cal. "It's crazy that eight years ago I was playing pee-wee football, just running around and not knowing what was going on. From that to Army All-American is really humbling and exciting."
Forbes, a four-star recruit who is ranked No. 73 in the Rivals100, has been receiving accolades and awards ever since he stepped foot on Thomas Johnson's football field. But this particular award held special significance.
"Getting an invitation from the U.S. Army means a lot," Forbes said. "I definitely believe in paying your dues to your country. It's such a commendable thing to go all around the world to protect our freedom to afford us the opportunity to play football. After football I'm almost 100 percent positive I want to serve my country."
Forbes is no stranger to the military. His grandmother is retired from the Army; her house is decorated in military apparel, a shrine to the armed forces. His mother and uncle were in the Air Force, and they instilled in Forbes values such as honor, respect, discipline and hard work.
On Friday, Forbes' mother, Carol, sat among her son's teammates, coaches and well-wishers in Thomas Johnson's gymnasium. She beamed as her son stood at the podium to accept the Army's invitation.
"I'm extremely proud of Nick," Carol Forbes said. "Being selected as an Army All-American means a lot to me, especially with our family's history in the military. He went to the Army combine last year, and when he saw the camaraderie and the patriotism, he got a better feel what the army was all about.
"It's an athletic and an academic honor," she continued, "but it also says something about Nick's character that the Army chose him."
Forbes' head coach, Ben Wright, sat alongside his star linebacker at the ceremony. Wright has coached Forbes for the last four years and can attest to his character.
"He's a very hard worker, he's very easy to get along with and the kids at school all like and respect him," Wright said. "It's been a pleasure to coach him. I'm very proud of him, and he'll make us more proud as he goes away to college and gets a degree from a great school. That's worth more to me than any football honors."
Indeed, football is only a small part of who Nick Forbes is. Forbes, who carries a 3.6 GPA, is a well-spoken, humble and driven young man with aspirations of earning a college degree and making an impact beyond the gridiron.
But before Forbes starts dwelling on the future, he's focusing on the here and now. And right now, he wants to take Thomas Johnson back to the playoffs. After that he'll play a little 11-on-11 at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January with some of the best high school players in the country.
"It's going to be fun meeting all of these great players," Forbes said. "I can't wait to play with them, against them and to hang out with them. It's really a great honor to be in the same category as them."