On Tuesday afternoon, Tampa (Fla.) Jefferson celebrated senior defensive end Tyriq McCord's selection to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. The 6-foot-3, 222-pound defender was presented his East Team jersey for the annual event.
For McCord, the moment was a bit surreal.
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"It is just an amazing journey from where I came from," McCord said. "I never thought in my whole lifetime that I would become a big star as an athlete. It has always been a dream to play in games like this. I have always wanted to play in something like this, but I didn't think my freshman year that I would be able to do something like that just because of the fact my grades weren't right."
McCord, who is considered a Rivals100 prospect and has options nationwide, almost never reached this moment on the football field due to being sidetracked early in his high school career by poor academic performance.
"I wasn't able to play football going into my sophomore year because of grades and everything," McCord said. "I just busted my butt and worked hard in the classroom and hard on the field. This, this is just putting the cherry on top."
The Sunshine State prospect said that the celebration to announce his selection to the game is indicative of a lot of hard work off of the field, as well as on it.
"It shows that hard work pays off," McCord said. "I have worked very hard to get to this point."
He still remembers when he first got word of his selection to the game.
"It was a blessing," McCord said. "It is great to even be considered for such a game, but to be playing in an All-American Game is just a great feeling. It is just like the feeling I had when our team got to travel to Ohio this year, not every kid is able to get opportunities like that to go and enjoy new experiences like that. It is just a blessing, a new experience, and something that I am really looking forward to."
The four-star prospect though is quick to share that this moment was not of his own creation and is a credit to numerous people who steered him right and kept him on-course.
"This is for all the people around me, most of them are teammates, that have pushed me to be a great player by pushing me in the weight room and on the field. My current and former teammates, my coaches, and other people have had a lot to do with me getting to this point. My parents pushed me. (Former Jefferson wide receiver) Andre Davis pushed me in the classroom. He made sure I had everything right," McCord said. "I would be nowhere without my teammates, my coaches, and my parents."
Now, McCord will travel to San Antonio, Texas in early January to represent those people in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in front of a national audience.
"I am proud of that," McCord said.
As for the game itself, McCord is hoping that he is able to showcase his defensive versatility and ability to make plays in the offensive backfield or down the field in coverage.
"When I get out there I would love to, if I can, play a stand-up outside linebacker position," McCord said. "I would love to do that every play. I would love to do that."
At the college level, McCord said he is hoping to be used as a versatile defender playing as a defensive end with his hand in the dirt in some situations and as a stand-up outside linebacker in other situations.
Speaking of college, McCord has kept his recruiting on the backburner throughout a majority of his senior season but with the season set to conclude in the next couple weeks he will again turn his attention to finding his future home.
"I narrowed it down to six around when school started and probably heading towards the game I will have it down to a top three or four," McCord said. "Right now I have TCU, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Miami, and USC in the picture."
He admits that the SEC schools are in-front for his services at this time.
"I would have to say it is probably between Florida and South Carolina, with Georgia not too far behind," McCord said.
At this time, McCord said his plan is to take all five official visits but nothing has been scheduled at this point.
"There is a great possibility that I make my announcement there," McCord said.
His announcement will be just one of the lasting memories he hopes to forge during the game and events that surround it.
"This is something that I can go back to my kids and tell them about," McCord said. "A lot of people have had success later in life that have participated in this game from what I can see."
McCord and the East team take on the West 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.