SAN ANTONIO, Texas - The talent is deep and the scholarship offer lists are a mile long at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Simply put, it's the best of the best. In fact, there is so much talent that excellent football players get lost in the fold. One guy that has not been mentioned as much as the likes of DeMarcus Granger is Louisville (Ky.) Central defensive tackle James McKinney.
Make no mistake about it, though, McKinney is having a solid week.
"So far this has all been very overwhelming," McKinney said.
"Not overwhelming in the sense that I can't hang with these guys or anything, but it's just a great experience. I mean you start playing football in junior high and you see events like this on television, but you never really expect to actually be playing in them or anything like that. This is really just a great experience."
The 6-foot-2, 277-pound McKinney is ranked as the nation's No. 99 player overall and the No. 9 defensive tackle in America. He is also ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the Bluegrass State. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.94 seconds and a 24-inch vertical jump.
"One of the greatest things about this whole experience for me is getting to represent my home state of Kentucky," McKinney said.
"I don't get to play against guys like this in Kentucky very often. There are some good players like this, but very few guys are like this. It's good going against these guys knowing how you stack up and what it's going to be like on the next level. Everyone here is good, there are no holes on either one of these teams, there are no weaknesses and that is a lot different than I am used to."
McKinney has been very impressed with the talents of many of his East teammates, but the guys that he sees the most of are the guys in the trenches on the other side of the ball. It's no secret that the East offensive line is loaded and it's certainly no secret to McKinney.
"All of those offensive linemen are so good," McKinney said.
"I am used to just being bigger than all of the guys blocking me and just being able to physically manhandle them. It's a lot different out here though. These guys are all bigger than I am and they are surprisingly quick too. I get the better of them sometimes, but sometimes they get me too. It's just making us both better because it's raised competition."
McKinney committed to the University of Michigan early in the recruiting process, but backed off his commitment because he was unsure. Michigan still remains in the picture and has taken an official visit to Ann Arbor. He has taken three other official visits and is torn on where to take his last official visit.
"I have visited Michigan, Clemson, Louisville and Nebraska," McKinney said. "I still have one visit left to take, but I am very confused on where I want to take it. I will take it to Florida, Oklahoma or Ohio State, but I just don't know where yet.
"I am going to try to take that visit on the 21st and then make my commitment the following week. If I don't take the visit on that date, well then I'm just not sure how it is going to go, I guess we'll wait and see.
And McKinney says all – but one – have a chance to still land him.
"All of those schools are still in it except for Louisville. Louisville is completely out of it now," he said.
"I left early when I was on my official visit there and so we just kind of parted ways. It wasn't that I did anything wrong or that they did wrong. I was talking to another recruit there and we were talking about Louisville and I told him that Louisville was kind of a basketball school. The coaches told me that if I felt that way then that was fine, but I didn't need to be saying stuff like that to other recruits. At that point I knew and the coaches knew it wasn't going to work out between us so I decided to leave and they were cool with that."
As a junior McKinney had 90 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and eight sacks. He also played some tight end and fullback where he collected 290 yards receiving and 50 yards rushing.
"I am not leaning to anyone enough to come out and say it," McKinney said.
"I have so many different things going through my head right now and it's all confusing. In my head I have an idea of what I want to do and all, but it's just that I've never really been 100-percent sure about anything. All of these schools are great options and it's hard to just get set on one."