This story originally appeared in the December 2011/January 2012 issue of Gator Country Magazine. VIP subscribers to GatorCountry.com receive the magazine in the mail every month, and copies are available throughout Gainesville.
Under Armour All-America Game
The Under Armour All-American Game is played annually at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. This year’s game is at 8 p.m. on Jan. 5, and will be televised on ESPN.
So far, six of Florida verbal commitments have officially accepted invitations to play in this year’s game. They are Boynton Beach offensive lineman Jessamen Dunker, Marist, Ga., kicker Austin Hardin, Holy Trinity safety Marcus Maye, North Marion receiver Latroy Pittman, Southeast cornerback Brian Poole and Archbishop Wood, Pa., tight end Colin Thompson.
Thompson said once he received the phone call it was a no-brainer to play in the game.
“I knew for a long time that I wanted to play in this game, so once they called I committed to play in the game in the same phone conversation,” Thompson said. “I felt like that it was the best opportunity for me and I only hear great things about the game. I look forward to playing the game.”
For Dunker, the Under Armour game was a simple choice because of the opportunity to play in front of family.
“I picked this game because it’s close to home for me and my family will be able to come and watch me,” Dunker said. “I also picked this game because it’s treated like a real All-American game. You get to have fun and relax, but also compete and play against some of the best in the country.
“Also, you get tons of free gear and stuff.”
This game was a goal that Hardin set for himself when he entered high school as a kicker.
“It means a lot to me. It was one of my high school goals to be an All-American and I worked really hard for it. The camp that decided it had all of the top kickers from all around the country. Duke’s kicker, Texas’ kicker and Florida State’s kicker were there and I was able to outperform all of them for the spot.
“It was well worth it and I’m honored to be a part of it.”
Four of Florida’s biggest remaining targets will join Florida’s six commits on the field.
Berkeley Prep wide receiver Nelson Agholor, Lakewood Senior defensive end Dante Fowler, Harris County, Ga., defensive end Jordan Jenkins and Palm Beach Gardens offensive tackle Avery Young will also be competing in this year’s game.
U.S. Army All-American Bowl
The U.S. Army All-American game is planned annually at the Alamodome in San Antonio. This year’s game will be played at 1 p.m. on Jan. 7 and will be broadcast on NBC.
So far, three Florida commits have officially accepted invitations to play in this year’s game. They are Venice defensive lineman Dante Phillips, Land O’Lakes tight end Kent Taylor and Charlotte, N.C., offensive lineman DJ Humphries will represent the orange and blue in the game.
For Phillips, playing in the game was a no brainer once he received the invitation.
“Playing in the Army game has always been a dream for me so it was an easy decision,” Phillips said. “It was my goal from the time I started playing football and something that I have always want to accomplish was to play in the game.”
Humphries grew up watching the Army game and has watched how former players have played in the game before going on to have great careers.
“I have always watched this game and the tradition of great players playing in it inspired me to want to play there,” Humphries said. “I look forward to playing against some of the best players in the country,”
Taylor said pride and tradition were the reasons he choose the Army game.
“The game has produced a lot of great players in the past. It’s a huge honor to be able to participate in this game with some of the best players across the country,” Taylor said.
Phillips, Taylor and Humphries will be able to use this week to recruit several players as three of Florida’s top targets will be participating in the game as well.
Tampa defensive lineman Tyriq McCord, Miramar cornerback Tracy Howard and Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) defensive lineman Darius Hamilton will all be competing in the game.
Playing in the game was an easy choice for Hamilton as well.
“The Army game is a more prestigious event in my opinion and it’s honor to be invited to it so that’s why I choose this game,” Hamilton said. “A lot of NFL greats have come out of that game. I just think it’s going to be a great experience.”
Playing in front of the people who protect him every day was the reason why Howard chose the Army game.
“I selected the U.S. Army game as my mom had always told him if I ever got the opportunity to play in the Army game I should. My family appreciates what the Army stands for and I think I should play for the troops as they are on the battle fields for us. Plus, they ensure we sleep well at night.”
Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl
The Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl will make its debut in Phoenix at 6 p.m. on Jan. 3, adding a new player to the high school All-American games. The game will by broadcasted by CBS Sports.
Florida will be represented by Bolingbrook, Ill., linebacker Antonio Morrison in the game.
“It’s a great to honor to be able play in this game against such great talent,” Morrison said.
Offense-Defense All-American Bowl
The Offense-Defense All-American Bowl is being played at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas on Dec. 31.
Florida will have one future player participating in this year’s game with Stephenson (Ga.) Stone Mountain defensive tackle JaFar Mann accepting an invitation.