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BRADENTON, Fla. - It was a perfect Friday night at Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee. The Hurricanes wrapped up a perfect regular season with a 44-14 victory over Sarasota (Fla.) Booker, the weather cooperated on senior night and the festivities went off without a hitch, and senior running back Mike Blakely was officially invited to the 2011 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
"It meant a lot because I know that most athletes from my area have never been invited to that," Blakely said. "To go out and represent the country doing something that I like to do, it just shocked me."
The 5-foot-9, 195-pound senior running back didn't play in the regular season finale as he is resting a minor ankle injury. He expects to return in the playoffs and after pursuing a state championship, is looking forward to taking his talents to San Antonio for the game. He knows that it is a prestigious honor to be among 90 of the nation's best football players at his level.
"I know a lot of good athletes from Florida have been in that game and for me to be a part of it, it means something," Blakely said. "I just want to represent for my team, for my school, for my family."
Blakely is also hoping that he starts a trend for Manatee, opening the door for future All-Americans.
"It feels great to be there to represent me and Manatee," Blakely said. "If I do good, then it reflects well on here and they will get more attention here and see other people on our team that are doing good. I hope they can get it. I hope this opens a door for them. I remember always watching the game and thinking I hope I can be in that game. I have watched it plenty of times. It is exciting to now be a part of it."
A little over two weeks ago, the four-star Rivals100 prospect pledged to the University of Florida. He said that his commitment is solid and he will have no second thoughts.
"I am a man of my word. Nothing has changed in that regard." Blakely said. "It feels good to be going to Florida. Tom Peacock, the guy I stay with, he is basically a father to me, he went to Florida and graduated from there. My mom is a Florida fan. My family would have supported me no matter what decision I made, but it is even better going to Florida."
"It feels good to be a part of Gator Nation," Blakely added.
On his senior season, Blakely has rushed for 15 touchdowns and thrown for two more. The Hurricanes open in the playoffs next week when they host St. Petersburg (Fla.) Northeast.
The U.S. Army All-American Bowl, in its 11th year, is set to be played in the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, on Jan. 8 and will be nationally televised on NBC.