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When Marlboro County (S.C.) head coach and athletic director Dean Boyd first spoke with Lateek Townsend about playing football for him in the ninth grade, he saw the potential in the now highly-rated defender.
Four years and nearly four full football seasons later, Townsend has seen that potential realized, as he was honored at his high school on Tuesday with a selection in the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Bowl, to be played on January 8 at 1:00 p.m. ET in San Antonio, Texas.
"He (Boyd) told me 'Lateek, you've got to keep working hard; you're going to be a great football player'," Townsend said at the ceremony. "He always kept me up. Even when things got down, he told me just to keep working."
The Bulldog's veteran coach delivered a message at the podium to his prized linebacker after he was presented with his All-American jersey by members of the Army who were in attendance at the ceremony.
"I think you can see how much they care about you and what you've meant to this program," Boyd said. "We ask that you can go out there and play as hard as you can, and I know that's going to happen. You're representing not only everybody in this gym, but everybody in this community."
As Townsend's coach, Boyd was also extended an invitation to participate in the bowl week festivities in the Lone Star State.
"We're proud of Lateek and all of his accomplishments," he said. "I would like to thank the U.S. Army for providing us this opportunity to participate in bowl week."
Marlboro County's entire student body was present in the gymnasium, along with the band, the Bulldog football team, friends and family of Townsend, and several media members. Townsend gave a lot of credit to others for the honor.
"At this time I would just like to thank God, because I know this wouldn't be possible without God. Also, I want to thank my teammates. I know this is an individual award; nothing would be possible without the team. That's what got me here. I'm just one of the players that stuck out from the team that got me here."
The four-star linebacker, who was also recently selected to December's Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, thanked everyone from family members to mentors and middle school coaches.
"I want to thank my team and my coaches. I want to thank God for blessing me with the ability and support to make it this far in life. Finally I want to say that it's an honor and a privilege to represent Marlboro County High School as a player in the Army All-American Bowl. I promise to do my absolute best to represent you."
Principal Kenneth Bowen spoke first at the event, and called it "one of the biggest events in Marlboro County High School history".
The Bulldogs are not unfamiliar with a U.S. Army All-American selection, as wide receiver Tymere Zimmerman also received the honor back in 2001.
The 6-foot-2, 217-pound Townsend has discussed making his verbal commitment at the All-American Bowl, which will broadcast nationally from the Alamodome on NBC. On the Sunday preceding the award ceremony, Townsend named South Carolina his leader, with Clemson, LSU, Southern California and Florida also still in the mix according to the Palmetto State prospect.