SAN ANTONIO, Texas - The old coach’s axiom is that big-time players make big-time plays in big games.
So it was no surprise at all that Adrian Peterson of Palestine, Texas, and Ted Ginn Jr. of Cleveland Glenville each took over in the U.S. Army All-American Game on Saturday in the Alamodome.
Ranked as the nation’s No. 1 and No. 2 players by Rivals.com, Peterson and Ginn were as advertised.
Ginn, who took a kickoff return back 98 yards, earned the game’s most valuable player honors. Peterson, who had two touchdown runs, was also named as the Spalding National High School player of the year award.
And despite all of the stars that were also on the stage, none of them were brighter than Ginn and Peterson.
“It was amazing to come out and do something like this with the whole nation watching,” Ginn said. “There was a lot of pressure on us guys to come out here and perform, but once the first hit was out of the way it was just like I was out there on the field at Glenville.”
Peterson said it took him a while to get on track but once he did, he felt like he was in the groove and back out there ripping through opponents like he did this season.
“This game was definitely a step up and it took a while to adjust to the speed of those guys on defense,” Peterson said. “Those guys on the East really were fast, so I just had to take my game to a whole different level.”
The East won the game 45-28, but it was Ginn and Peterson that took their game to the next level.
Ginn’s kickoff return was a thing of beauty. He took the ball at the 2-yard line and then started off to his left. He picked up a few blocks, made a few defenders miss with shoulder and hip fakes and then he burst through the scrum on the left sideline.
He turned his jets on and outraced everybody to the end zone, including both the kicker and two other defenders that had the angle on him.
“I knew once I got past that first wave, that I was going to be able to take it all the way,” Ginn said. “I have to also give a lot of credit to the guys that open up the holes for me. They made it really easy for me. I had to make a few moves and then I was able to just use my speed to get by everybody.”
Peterson also didn’t disappoint with 91 yards rushing on nine attempts for a 10.1 yard average. He also tacked on two touchdowns and both were a thing of beauty.
On his 14-yard with 13:36 left in the fourth quarter, Peterson took the handoff on a zone play to the right. The outside was cutoff by the East defenders and he was able to cut back to the left behind the block of Herman Johnson.
Once he completed the cutback he ended up having three East defenders grab on to him and attempt to bring him down. Peterson dragged those guys the final five yards into the end zone.
“It was tough running,” Peterson said. “That’s something I pride myself on.”
He also prides himself on his ability to take a simple play to the house. That’s exactly what he did in later fourth quarter when he took a rush to right and slipped away from a few tacklers. He then exploded down the right sideline where he leaped over a would-be tackler around the 20-yard line.
He then glided in the end zone for the score.
“I guess I gave everybody a little bit of everything,” Peterson said. “I showed them my power and then my speed. I was pleased with how I played.”
The two big time players also took center stage when they announced their college decisions. Neither commitments had much suspense as both Ginn and Peterson had hinted throughout the week that they were heading to Ohio State and Oklahoma, respectively.
But still in front of a national television audience, Ginn took center stage after his kickoff return and grabbed an Ohio State hat out of the bag.
“We’re really proud of him and the way he handled the recruiting process,” his father, Ted Ginn, said. “He could have let this all big-headed with this, but he stayed really grounded. Ohio State is a great place for him and a great fit."
With Buckeye cornerback Chris Gamble declaring on Friday night that he will enter the NFL draft, Ginn will be a prime candidate to replace Gamble in the Ohio State starting line-up next season. Like Gamble, Ginn wants to play on both sides of the ball for the Buckeyes as a cornerback and wide receiver.
Ginn is the top cornerback prospect to come out of the state of Ohio since Charles Woodson.
Shortly after that, Peterson stood in front of the national television audience and announced that he was heading to Oklahoma. After the game as Peterson walked down the hall all by himself to his locker, it was easy to see that a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
“I’m glad this is over finally,” Peterson said. “I was worrying that this was going to be hard to finally get it over with, but in the end it felt good. I feel really good about my decision. Coach (Bob) Stoops always told me to trust what felt right.
“And Oklahoma felt right.”