U.S. Army’s All-American Bowl Showcases America’s Top African American players

By Gregory Moore
Updated: January 8, 2005

The U.S. Army All American Bowl game showcases some of the country's top college prospects every year; many who go on to become college and/or NFL standouts.

The U.S. Army All American Bowl game showcases some of the country's top college prospects every year; many who go on to become college and/or NFL standouts.

SAN ANTONIO – In all likelihood you probably have never heard of Vince Young, Lendale White, Reggie Bush, Tommie Harris or Kevin Jones prior to their exploits either over this past weekend or during this year’s NFL season. That’s not a bad thing, lack of recognition of these players prior to their exploits, because unless you lived where they were going to high school or were a family member, teammate, or friend, their names wouldn’t have registered anyways. Yet did you know that there are 78 young men, many of them African American, who are in this ‘lack of recognition’ boat each and every year prior to them participating in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl game that has taken place in San Antonio for the past few years. But this is more than just a game. As the text from their website states, “The U.S. Army All-American Bowl is more than one game it is a week of great activities for athletes and fans of all ages. Each year the nation’s top underclassmen travel to San Antonio to take part in the country’s only national combine, the U.S. Army National Combine. The combine provides underclassmen athletes with the opportunity to compete against some the nation’s other great underclassmen.” I was first introduced to this game when the game was here back in 2002. I remember that game well because Denzel Washington’s son was on the West squad and Washington was there with the two coaches that his movie, “Remember the Titans”, made household names. That game of 2002 is the same game coming next week that will showcase such talents as Ryan Perrileux, Ryan Reynolds, Marcus Shavers and so many other young men who will be playing in front of some 20,000 football fans and family along with a national audience thanks to NBC broadcasting the game that day.

Many times while sitting around and talking to friends, I have found myself engaged in talking about how great it would be to see some of the top high school players play under one setting. The All American Bowl game does just that for those who want to see the ‘stars of tomorrow’. It is a game that allows a city like San Antonio to play host to an event that has just grown since inception. The company, SportsLink, Inc., has been successful in putting together an event that encompasses everything that high school football is while at the same time bringing together players, college coaches and parents together in one setting where they can all get a chance to ‘know each other’.

BRINING EMPHASIS TO THE TOP HIGH SCHOOL PLAYERS For far too long, college players have gotten all the ink when it came to who was the best player in the country. What SportsLink has been able to do was partner itself with several companies and individuals to provide a series of awards for those participants of the game. The list of awards is as follows: Herman Boone Trophy – Awarded to the winning team; Ken Hall Trophy – Awarded to the Ball Park National High School Player of the Year, which is the equivalent of the high school Heisman; Pete Dawkins MVP Trophy – Awarded to the game MVP; Army of One Award (East and West) – Awarded to the two U.S. Army All-American’s for their commitments to their communities; U.S. Army Scholar-Athlete Awards – Awarded to the U.S. Army All-Americans with a GPA of 3.5 and higher; Walter Payton Trophy – Awarded to the Myoplex Speed & Strength Athlete of the Year; Snapple Frenzied Fan of the Year – Awarded to the nation’s craziest fan found on a search during the U.S. Army All-American Selection Tour and the Adams Coach of the Year – Awarded to the nation’s top head coach.

At the 2004 All American Bowl, former Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis helped with the clinic portion of the bowl week program.

At the 2004 All American Bowl, former Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis helped with the clinic portion of the bowl week program.

Honoring these fine individuals is what this game is all about and it is well worth attending the luncheon awards ceremony to see these coaches and players get presented their earned awards for a game that they so dearly love. Despite what so many non-sports fans think and/or believe, high school athletics is just as important in the growth of the human spirit as would be a student who participated in choir or band. And for those students in those particular activities, they have events, some of them national, that allow these students to gain recognition amongst their peers. The same can be said for the football awards that will be handed out. For these young men, these awards are just as important as the overall competition medal may be for a choir member.

EVEN IF YOU SON ISN’T PLAYING, THE COMBINE IS AVAILABLE

Fox Sports' James Brown served as the 2004 Master of Ceremonies for the 2004 All-American Bowl luncheon.

Fox Sports' James Brown served as the 2004 Master of Ceremonies for the 2004 All-American Bowl luncheon.

Rarely do high school kids have the opportunity to impress coaches from the college ranks and to actually see where they are against other players of their caliber. The U.S. Army All-American Game includes this combine for those players who want to showcase their skills to these college coaches who would be in attendance. With the opportunity being offered however, potential participants need to have secured an invitation by the host organization. Now this may sound like SportsLink is locking out potential players but actually what their process allows them to do is to provide potential colleges with the best prospects available in an environment that is conducive giving these young men a great opportunity to further their playing careers at the collegiate level.

High school football coaching legend Herman Boone is an intregal part of why this game is so successful.

High school football coaching legend Herman Boone is an intregal part of why this game is so successful.

It’s hard for parents, especially African American parents, to actually understand how important it is for them to make sure that their football player gets the most exposure for trying to get a scholarship to play college football. One of the biggest mistakes that these parents make is to rely solely on the coach himself. That is a tremendous mistake that hurts the player because unless that individual is a stand out player, he will not be ‘showcased’ to potential college coaches. It’s a trend that is really all to prevalent these days because many of your more outstanding players come from the smaller cities and towns across the country and many of the parents simply do not have the means or capabilities to produce a professional package for their child.

That is where this combine comes into play and why it is important for parents to actually be heavily involved in maybe having a good relationship with the high school coach to obtain such information. This combine cannot take place of a video highlight tape but what it can do for those football players and their parents who can afford to make the trip is a venue where the talent can be judged and possibly contact between the player and a coach could be made. If that happens, then for the player who may have come a great distance, this was indeed a worthwhile trip. While many players may not get the scholarship to the big schools a great majority of them may have gotten deals at smaller schools thanks to this combine.

ABOVE ALL ELSE TOP AFRICAN AMERICAN PLAYERS SHOWCASED I want to round this piece up talking about how great that so many African American football players get a national stage like this game. For far too long African American kids never really got the opportunity to be showcased like this in such a grand event. Sure there have been local or regional events like this but for a national game to actually showcase the multitude of talent that is out there. Even for a dedicated sports writer like myself where I have access to recruiting websites and such, I have missed quite a bit of news about so many recruits because sometimes they just slip by. If it weren’t for this game, I’d be remiss in finding about a lot of kids who have made commitments to the big and small schools.

So if you get a chance next weekend, or you want to plan a little weekend getaway and want to see what tomorrow’s superstars look like, San Antonio might not be a bad place to visit when the 2005 All American Bowl comes to town. If you want more information about the game, go to their website at www.allamericangames.com. If not, don’t forget to see the game on your NBC affiliate and of course you can catch a recap and story about the game on this very website.