By Matt Florjancic
Pregame speeches or build-up to an important game in the world of sports often elicits words of generals or comparisons to war.
The U.S. Army All-American Bowl finds a way to teach the next generation of college football recruits about the differences between war and football. During the week-long trip to San Antonio, Texas, players get to experience life in America’s second-largest state and learn about the sacrifices made by those in uniform.
“It was a shock to see,” Pickerington Central receiver/safety Jamie Wood said. “A lot of people look up to athletes, guys like us. They’re the real heroes. You notice that once you’re down there, see what they’ve been through and hear some of their stories.”
“Most of them will feel the same thing,” U.S. Army All-American Bowl organizer Nate Seamon said of the players. “It’s an opportunity that the All-American Bowl provides for the players. It’s a powerful moment. It’s a chance for them to spend time with each other and see what the soldiers, who are America’s real heroes, are all about.”
During the week in San Antonio, players get to visit The Alamo, attend a rodeo and enjoy a trip to Six Flags Theme Park.
“We bring the players down Sunday; they play Saturday,” Seamon said. “They’ve got a full week of San Antonio and we do different events with them throughout the week. We really try to expose them to San Antonio and give them an opportunity to see what the culture is. We do a barbeque with the Army on one of the nights where we include a rodeo at the beginning. Besides San Antonio, they get to spend time with a lot of Army folks. Each player gets linked up with a Soldier-hero.
“This is the most powerful moment of the week,” Seamon said of the pairings. “It starts on Wednesday when we link each player up with his respective Soldier-hero. All of these Army Soldier-heroes are veterans of war. Within the past two years, they’ve been overseas fighting in the war for the United States. This was an idea that was formulated between the Army and us a few years ago.”
In addition to learning about one-another, the Soldier-heroes and players get to share a special moment prior to the game.
“It really gives the players a sense of and an opportunity to see what the Soldier-heroes are all about and what they’ve been through,” Seamon said. “It exposes them to something that they otherwise probably wouldn’t get to experience. It’s a humble moment for the players and at the same time, the Soldier-heroes really enjoy it.
“They see each other on Friday at our awards dinner and the culmination is Saturday during pregame when we introduce the players and the Soldier-heroes,” he concluded. “They run out and they meet in the middle of the field. You can see the joy on both of their faces. It’s really a great thing for both of them.”
Matt Florjancic currently works as a freelance reporter and sports announcer for WOBL and WDLW Radio.