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LUFKIN, Texas - Being one of the most decorated high school football players in the Lone Star State is enough reason to celebrate the success that five-star defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland has had in his high school career. However, in front of friends, family and his classmates on Monday, McFarland gave his community another reason to celebrate when he was selected to play in the U.S. Army All-America Bowl.
The nation's No. 2 defensive tackle and No. 13 player overall showed up in the Lufkin auditorium to a house full of teammates, fellow students, and a cheer squad that had created a cheer specifically for their Army All-American.
McFarland wasted no time letting people know exactly who was to be thanked.
"I just want to thank the Army for giving me the chance to play in this game, it's a great honor," McFarland said upon accepting his ceremonial jersey. "I want to thank all my family members, my mom, my grandma, my coaches, and all of my teammates because if it wasn't for them I wouldn't be here today."
Following the raucous ceremony McFarland talked about his evident focus on keeping his humility in spite of the massive amount of praise heaped upon his 6-foot-3, 280-pound frame.
"I try to stay humble because you never know what is going to happen, but you are never going to forget the people that have supported you and made all of this possible," he said. "My family, it started out being small and being guided first from a young age and then as you get older, when you get out on the field coaches getting you to do the right thing."
McFarland is the second Lufkin Panther to be selected to be part of the game joining former Texas A&M Aggie, Reggie McNeal.
However, it's not just McNeal that makes the game special for McFarland it's playing in the shadows of players like Vince Young, Tim Tebow, and in particular fellow east Texas stars like Adrian Peterson.
The big run-stuffer also can't help but think of the chance to spend some time around players who have dealt with the onslaught of attention that comes with being the caliber of recruit to play in a NBC nationally televised game on Jan. 3.
"It feels really good to be part of the tradition and it will be fun to interact with some of the guys and get to know some guys that have been dealing with the same stuff," he said.
While many of those before him, including Peterson, have made their selection at the game, McFarland says that a decision is as likely to come tomorrow as it is in roughly six weeks.
"I think it would be a nice experience to do it that way, but I'm still trying to get the list down of the schools I like," he said.
"I had three schools, but I've narrowed it down to two, Oklahoma and Texas. It's about time for me to make a decision, I want to look at Oklahoma and Texas but I feel like I can get a closer look if it's just the two schools I'm looking at."
Whenever it does come time for McFarland to make his choice, you can bet on him being surrounded by coaches, family, and teammates to make sure there are plenty of people to accept all the congratulatory handshakes.