McPherson, Kan., quarterback Tyler Matthews has a special place in his heart for the United States Army. His father is an Army veteran and served in Iraq and many other family members have also gone through the ranks.
On Tuesday afternoon the 6-foot-3, 205-pound senior was honored with a ceremony at his school officially inviting him to play in the 2012 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. It is not something that Matthews takes lightly as he knows the prestige that comes along with such an honor.
"I'm very proud to be involved with an event with the U.S. Army with all the men and women that are serving our country," Matthews said. "It really is a huge honor. I'm really excited for it. It's going to be a great time and I'm looking forward to it.
"They told us a little about what it meant to be selected. I know they said they took into account who we are both on and off the field. It means a whole to know that our character was part of why we were chosen. It is more than just football. That is something that I am definitely proud of."
Matthews knows the history of game itself as well. Having watched it both on television and in person he knows that only the best players in the country are invited to play in the annual contest.
"It's a huge honor to be a part of an event with all the great athletes that have taken part in the present and the past," he said. "My sophomore year I actually went to the combine down there. I got to watch the game in person. That was awesome back then. I looked up to those guys and I never even imagined I would get to play in the game one day. It was kind of a dream come true."
Matthews has seen many of the games alumni go onto very successful college and NFL careers and says it means a lot to him to be able to participate in the same game in which they took part.
"I know guys like Adrian Peterson and Tim Tebow have played in the game in the past," he said. "Knowing that they played in the same game that we're all going to be playing in and knowing that they're successful is really neat for sure.
"I also know a few guys personally who have played in it. The Browns - Arthur Brown and Bryce Brown - I know both of them. Bubba Starling played in it last year. I played against him. I looked up to them when they were playing in high school and I didn't ever see myself getting the same honor that they got being able to play in the Army game."
Matthews made an early commitment to TCU and remains strong in that pledge. Despite the game taking place in their home state the Horned Frogs have only had one signee play in the Army Bowl prior to this year. Two others in addition to Matthews - Edward Pope and Ethan Perry - have also been selected to this year's game and the talented quarterback sees it as a chance to make fans of the program proud.
"I love getting a chance to represent TCU," he said. "Representing them in any way positive that I can is a big deal to me. It's exciting and I hope they're excited. Obviously with them going to the Big 12 it's a really exciting time for TCU. I'm going to go down there and represent TCU in a positive way and have fun doing it. It'll be cool knowing that (Pope and Perry) are there too and we'll be playing together."
In addition Matthews is also close to another quarterback taking part in the game and looks forward to spending time together off the field and a friendly rivalry on it.
"Gunner Kiel just got named to the game and I'm really excited about that," Matthews said. "He and I are really good friends. We've been at the Elite 11 and a few other things together and we've stayed in contact. We text all the time. That's going to be really fun to get to hang out with him all week and in the game with him."
Matthews and the West team take on the East in the 12th annual U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. The game will be nationally televised on NBC.