DETROIT - The U.S. Army All-American Bowl has become quite familiar with Detroit Cass Tech over the years. Former Technicians such as Joseph Barksdale (LSU), Boubacar Cissoko (Michigan), Will Campbell (Michigan), and Dior Mathis (Oregon) have played in the game. Linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone will carry on that tradition when he suits up for the West team on January 7 in San Antonio.
According to Cass Tech head coach Thomas Wilcher, not every school can be so blessed.
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"Dior, Will Campbell, Barksdale and Boubacar Cissoko," Wilcher said. "I think it's a big step, because a lot of schools don't have the opportunity to get a kid to go there almost every year, to have a kid represent their school."
However, attending Cass Tech isn't an automatic invitation to participate in the country's most prestigious high school all-star game. Jenkins-Stone has been honing his craft on the football field since he was a young child.
"I just kept working hard," Jenkins-Stone said. "I just kept praying that I would hopefully get this opportunity. And I got it."
Following in the footsteps of his former teammates is an exciting prospect for Jenkins-Stone. Like Campbell and Cissoko, he will attend Michigan after graduating from Cass Tech. Without those who came before him, Jenkins-Stone may not have had the motivation and drive to reach his dreams. However, their participation in the game inspired him to keep pursuing the dream, and to one day wear the jersey as an All-American.
"When I was younger, I was sitting there watching them get the [Army All-American] jersey and pull it up and smile," Jenkins-Stone said. "I was always thinking, 'Man, one day I'm going to try to do that - I'm going to do it.' Now, it's a dream come true."
Wilcher knows the impact of sending players to the Army All-American Bowl. Having sent several in the past few years, he's aware of what it means to the school. The successes of past players have helped Cass Tech succeed on the field going forward.
National exposure for the Cass Tech program is important to Wilcher, but so is positive press for the city of Detroit. Jenkins-Stone's participation in the all-star contest serves as another sign of hope for a city that has fallen on hard times in recent years.
"I think it's good that he's accepted the offer to play in the game," Wilcher said. "I'm really delighted that he has the opportunity to represent Cass Tech and to represent the city of Detroit. It's very special as a coach because you get the chance to have somebody represent your program, have the opportunity to represent the city, and you also have someone to represent their family."
With his Michigan commitment out of the way, Jenkins-Stone will not worry about making a college selection during the Army All-American Bowl broadcast. Instead, he can focus attentions this fall on his play on the field - and trying to lead Cass Tech to a state championship.