Rivals.com's No. 1-rated running back Bryce Brown (Wichita, Kan.) and Rivals.com's No. 3-rated offensive tackle Xavier Nixon (Fayetteville, N.C.) met last year at the U.S. Army National Combine in San Antonio. They have kept in touch but haven't seen each other since January. The two were reunited this past weekend in New York City, only this time to be honored during a high-profile media tour. Both Brown and Nixon are two of six finalists for the prestigious Player of the Year Award and were selected to represent the U.S. Army All-American Bowl for a promotional tour to the Big Apple.
"It was cool when I found out I'd be with X [Xavier] in New York," said Brown. "We text and talk occasionally... and it'll be great to hang with him and help promote the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and the Player of the Year Award."
The players arrived Sunday and immediately began an exciting yet hectic schedule of media events and activities. The players were joined by Specialist David Obray, the U.S. Army Soldier of the Year. On the schedule were visits to CNN, Headline News, Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends" morning show, plus interviews with Sports Illustrated, USA Today, Rivals.com, New York Amsterdam News and many hometown media outlets. The players and soldier also participated in a satellite media tour in a midtown Manhattan studio, where they were interviewed by television and radio stations across America.
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"It's an honor to be selected to play in this game. And this trip is yet another advantage to playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. I've never been to New York before much less been on national television shows," said Nixon. "It's really cool to be here and experience the city and the culture."
Both the players and soldier took time to visit children at the Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, where they helped make crafts and handed out footballs and hats.
"That was a highlight of the trip. Spending time with those kids and helping to make them smile was real special," both players echoed.
The players also attended the Heisman Trophy Awards Dinner on Monday night at the Hilton in Manhattan.
"Seeing all those former Heisman winners was exciting and inspiring," said Brown. "It makes me hope that one day I could be up there, too. That was quite a gathering of football stars."
"It was pretty cool being at the Heisman dinner," said Nixon. "I really enjoyed hearing the past winners speak, especially Mr. Pete Dawkins. Many things he said hit home with me. He came up to us and spoke and took a picture. I thought that was real nice."
As the snow fell Tuesday afternoon, the players wrapped up a very busy weekend with a trip to Nike Town. Nixon left with two pairs of size 15 Air Jordan's.
"It's hard to find stores that carry many of my sizes," said the 6-foot-6, 285-pound Nixon.
The other four Player of the Year Award finalists were participating in promotional tours in Dallas/Houston and Los Angeles. Dre Kirkpatrick (Gadsden, Ala.) and Randall Carroll (Los Angeles) were in Los Angeles. Jamarkus McFarland (Lufkin, Texas) and Rueben Randle (Bastrop, La.) visited Dallas and Houston.
Brown and Nixon will be together again in San Antonio as teammates on the East squad for the 2009 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. The game takes place on Saturday, Jan. 3 at noon ET in the Alamodome. The game will be televised live on NBC.
Nixon plans to announce his college choice during the game. He has narrowed his choices to LSU, Miami and Florida. Brown has verbally committed to play at Miami. His brother Arthur, a former All-American and Player of the Year finalist, is a freshman at Miami.
The U.S. Army Player of the Year will be crowned during the U.S. Army Awards Dinner on Friday, Jan. 2 in San Antonio. The winner will be presented with the Ken Hall Trophy, modeled after Ken "Sugar Land Express" Hall, high school football's all-time leading rusher.