ARMY AA BOWL: Army All-American selection tour
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Cody Kessler grew up watching Mark Sanchez and Jimmy Clausen in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, one day hoping he was good enough to get invited.
That dream came true Monday when Kessler, a four-star pro-style quarterback from Bakersfield Centennial, was selected to the U.S. Army game, which will be played Jan. 8 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
"It's awesome," Kessler said minutes after the jersey presentation in Centennial's library. "It's a dream come true. I always said I'm going to push for that. The Army game was my main one.
"I remember watching Jimmy Clausen. I loved watching him when I grew up just because I try to style my game after him. The way he plays is the way I want to play and then Mark Sanchez, that's probably my favorite quarterback, him and Clausen. They both played in this game and I said, 'I have to make it.'"
Rated second at his position by Rivals.com, Kessler worked out at the U.S. Army National Combine last year and stayed for only one quarter of the game because he had to return to his high school for a formal dance.
The school get-together mattered because Kessler figured if he was going to get invited to the Army game after his senior season he'd have to miss the dance. Making it his junior year became that much more important. He'll have to miss it this year to play in the nation's most prestigious all-star event. Kessler seems fine with it.
"I went to the combine and the game is the next day but we had a formal that night so I saw only part of that game," Kessler said.
"Matt Darr is from (Bakersfield Frontier) and he's one of my good friends so we watched about a quarter of it but then we had to head back here for my formal. I knew I wouldn't be able to make it my senior year if I was playing in the game. I had to at least go to the formal last year."
Kessler said he had four goals heading into this season and three have already been accomplished. The 6-foot-1, 208-pound prospect wanted to compete in the Elite 11 (he did this summer and was one of the top quarterbacks in attendance), commit to a big school (Kessler pledged to USC in early June) and get invited to the Army game.
Fourth on Kessler's list is a state championship and although that cannot be determined for some weeks, Centennial is off to a 4-0 start and Kessler is playing well. He's completed 44 of 58 passes (76 percent) for 771 yards with 10 touchdowns and an interception. Kessler has also rushed for two scores.
Playing in the Army game will be the major focus of Kessler's week in San Antonio but he also plans to recruit other top prospects to USC. Fellow Army invitees De'Anthony Thomas and Victor Blackwell, two other USC commits, have already discussed which recruits they should go after.
Target No. 1 will be five-star outside linebacker and Alabama commit Brent Calloway. Gardena (Calif.) Serra five-star wide receiver George Farmer is also high on the wish list - that's if he's not already committed to the Trojans.
"What we're going to do, we've already talked about it, we're going to start recruiting guys that we want," Kessler said. "Brent Calloway is one of my really good friends. We went down there last year for the combine, we met, and he stayed with us and we talk all the time.
"I'll text him once a week and just say, 'SC.' I've been trying to get him to come. We talk a lot. He's from Alabama so it's hard for him to change his mind but hopefully once we get down there and hang out again we can change his mind."
Whether it was a slip of the tongue or just foreshadowing, Kessler mentioned Farmer along with the other SC commits that will target other prospects during the Army week. Farmer, the nation's top receiver by Rivals.com, has long been considered a lean to the Trojans but hasn't committed yet. Miami is also getting serious looks.
Kessler hopes he can convince Farmer USC is the right place for him prior to the Army game. If not, Farmer will assuredly be on the top of Kessler's wish list once they get to San Antonio.
"I always mess with him," Kessler said. "Every time I see him I ask him why he isn't committed yet so I'm going to just start telling people he's committed to SC so we get him. George is real cool.
"The biggest questions people asked me when I was being recruited were, 'What's your top three? When are you making a decision? Are you going to commit?' I know people can get frustrated. It's hard to tell people. That's why I always ask him, just playing around. Whatever he does I hope he's happy. Hopefully it's SC because I think he's the best receiver in the nation. Victor Blackwell is right there with him."