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The U.S. Army All-American Bowl continued its selection tour on Thursday afternoon with a stop in the Peach State, to honor Thomasville (Ga.) Thomas County Central defensive end Ray Drew. Drew had been looking forward to the ceremony that made the invite official, but he still remembers when he first learned he was wanted in San Antonio in early January.
"I was very excited when I first got word that I was going to be invited to this game because coming into high school I had some set goals and this was actually one of my goals I had set for myself," Drew said.
"It is a great honor," Drew added. "To be put in the same category as Tim Tebow, Adrian Peterson, Mark Sanchez and a number of other great names, it is a lot of pressure but it is good pressure. It makes you feel as though you are doing something right, that the hard work, blood, sweat and tears is paying off."
For the 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive end, the game is an opportunity to compare himself with his peers. He knows that is both a great opportunity and a challenge.
"The competitor in me is very excited, I am ready to go," Drew said. "I also have a timid side to it too because you are going to be on national television and all eyes are going to be on you. So just knowing that I am going against the best, I would like to see how I stack up against the competition."
For Drew's coach, Bill Shaver, the selection is a source of pride not only for his school but also for the surrounding area.
"We are proud that they selected him to play in the U.S. Army game," Shaver said. "It is a huge honor when you think about the kids that have played there and the success they have all had. It is on national television and we will have a guy on national television for the first time. It is a real exciting time for him and Thomas County."
While Shaver can spend hours raving about the kind of player his star pupil is on the field, he is more impressed by the young man he is off of it. Drew isn't shy about the fact that his life is about doing God's work - as is evident every weekend when he preaches at his local church while also speaking at other church-related engagements. Drew's actions off the field are what make Shaver proud.
"That is the best thing about him," Shaver said. "We have had a lot of good football players here at Thomas County and there have been a lot of good football players in South Georgia but what I think might set Ray apart from them is the type of person he is."
It is clear that college coaches around the country believe he will be successful. The four-star defensive end has racked up more than 50 offers and could name his school. While he has taken a very slow approach to his recruitment, in recent weeks he has hunkered down and worked toward narrowing the field.
"In maybe two, two and a half weeks, I am going to come out with probably a top four or five of schools that I have been to and then three or four that I would like to get to see that I haven't had a chance to," he said.
So far, the only official visit that Drew has taken was to LSU for its game against Tennessee. In addition to his visit to Baton Rouge, he has also been on campus at Alabama, Georgia Tech, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida State, Auburn, USF and Florida, as well as others. He is hoping to set up more official visits in the near future.
"I don't have any officials set in stone right now but I do have some I am looking into," Drew said.
Drew mentioned that he would like to attend a game at Auburn, Georgia and Florida before the end of the season, but it will depend on time and travel arrangements.
At this point the Rivals100 prospect is not sure when he will announce, whether it will be at the Army game or on National Signing Day. He just knows that he has to work toward making a final decision over the next few weeks and months.
"Now that it is getting down to crunch time I really have to start looking toward a decision," Drew said. "A lot of people look at it as a three- to five-year decision, but really it is a 40- or 50-year decision because it is going to set you up for life."
The U.S. Army All-American Bowl is comprised of 90 of the top football prospects in the nation. The game, 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.