Helena-West Helena (Ark.) Central cornerback Darius Winston has been selected to play in the prestigious 2009 U.S. Army All-America Bowl.
Five representatives from the game, including Colonel David Lee, were at Winston's high school administration building on Wednesday morning for a formal presentation. Family, friends, administration and staff, the football team and cheerleaders were in attendance.
"Darius is a talented athlete whose exemplary displays of leadership and teamwork made him a standout at West Helena high school," Lee said. "On Jan. 3, Darius will have the opportunity to showcase his talents live on NBC and in more than 170 countries around the world. We are proud to be the title partner of a program that like the Army provides young Americans like Darius with experiences that strengthen them and help them succeed in life as leaders."
It is not the first bit of high praise for Winston, who Rivals.com tabs as the nation's No. 2 cornerback prospect for the Class of 2009. He also comes in as the No. 23 prospect in the nation in the Rivals100. He is only the third Arkansan who has been selected to play in this annual game, joining Springdale's Mitch Mustain and Bartley Webb from 2006.
"It's an honor to know I'm going to be playing on the biggest stage that a lot of great players have played in on national TV," Winston said. "This is a great accomplishment. Our whole team is doing pretty good, so far. It's a great honor for me to be in the Army All-America Game. I've been watching these games for the past couple of years."
The high school All-American combines excellent size with pure speed, great hips, a physical nature and raw talent Razorback coaches hope to mold into a collegiate All-America selection one day.
Winston's recruitment to Arkansas has not been as smooth as his play on the field. He publicly committed to the Razorbacks on Feb. 7, following National Signing Day for 2008 recruits. But then scholarship offers started pouring in from the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma and dozens of others.
Winston said he felt he needed to reopen his recruitment and give the other schools a chance since he committed so quickly. He said Arkansas cornerbacks coach Lorenzo Ward told him he would be back with the Razorbacks eventually but to go ahead and explore his options. Winston at the time did not believe him, but on Sept. 5, he announced his "final" intentions to sign with the Razorbacks at a press conference in the same building where he accepted Wednesday's honor.
Cougar head coach Russell Smith said it is not just an honor for Winston but also for the school because nothing like this has ever happened there. He said it will inspire younger players to strive for higher goals like the one Winston has accomplished.
Stay tuned to Rivals.com for information on the 2009 U.S. Army All-Americans.