AUSTIN, Texas -
It's hard to figure what's the bigger hook.
Is it gathering 45 top football recruits – including 20 from CBS Sports/MaxPreps recruiting expert Tom Lemming's Top 100
– to one spot on National Signing Day?
Is it showcasing USA Football, the official development partner of the NFL, or its pupil, on this day its foe, the International Federation of American Football (IFAF), which has formed a "World" team from 15 countries and four continents to play in a fun little exhibition game?
Or is the "Hook ‘em Horns" region of Austin itself, a perfect central locale for a bonanza of football frolic?
Whatever the case, the "Team USA vs. The World" game at Westlake High School definitely has people's attention – football folks anyway – and that's all good news for Garrett Shea, Director of USA Football.
Considering its the same week as the nation's biggest sporting event – Super Bowl 45 – a couple hundred miles up the road in Dallas, football fans will not be able to get enough.
"This is definitely a unique strategy to promote the game of football," Shea said. "Everyone who cares about high school football, college football and the development of the game should all have an interest."
The son of Terry Shea, the been-everywhere-done-that coach who has led college programs at San Jose State and Rutgers and had NFL assistant stints with the Chiefs and Bears among others, Garrett Shea said never have so many college recruits been in one place on college football's unofficial national holiday – National Signing Day.
All 45 players are scheduled to announce their picks Wednesday morning during a breakfast at the Austin Marriott South.
As of Saturday, all but four of the players have made verbal commitments, with the exceptions being St. John's (Washington D.C) defensive tackle Kevin McReynolds
, Columbia (Lake City, Fla.) defensive tackle Tim Jernigan
, Pearl-Cohn (Nashville, Tenn.) offensive lineman Antonio Richardson and DeMatha Catholic (Beltsville, Md.) offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio
Kouandijo (No. 3), Richardson (No. 40) and Jernigan (No. 41) are all among the nation's Top 100, while McReynolds is ranked the fifth best defensive tackle in the country.
Other top dozen recruits in the game are St. Peter's Prep (Jersey City, N.J.) running back
(No. 5, Rutgers), Redemptorist (Baton Rouge, La.) lineman La'el Collins
(No. 7, LSU) and Shiloh Christian (Springdale, Ark.) quarterback Kiehl Frazier
(No. 11, Auburn).
With so many U.S. standouts playing against physically gifted, but newbies to the sport, this would appear a mismatch.
But promoters point out that last year's inaugural game in conjunction with the Pro Bowl in Fort Lauderdale, was only a 17-0 USA victory.
"That game was 0-0 at halftime and the World Team reached the red zone several times but couldn't cash in," Shea said. "The International team had some big physical kids that really wreaked havoc."
Among the World Team members who were "discovered" at last year's event were linebacker Beck Colter (6-foot-2, 240) and linemen Jacob Ruby (6-8, 285), Bjorn Werner (6-4, 258) and Jessie Williams (6-4, 325).
Colter, from American Samoa, was later signed by SMU, Ruby, of Canada, by Richmond, Werner, from Germany, by Florida State, and Williams, of Australia, by Auburn.
A handful of others will likely get noticed by U.S. colleges on Wednesday, but Shea said the experience of the event is greater than simply an opportunity to impress college or even professional scouts.
"To many of them, this is the single greatest day of their life," Shea said. "They are so humbled and grateful to be here. To play U.S. kids in U.S. soil in American football is a dream. "
Team World defensive coordinator Warren Craney, who also coached last year, said cohesion is his squad's biggest challenge. And there are many challenges.
"We are dealing with different cultures, different nationalities, race, religion, creed and language barriers," he said.
But Southern hospitality helps break down all barriers, USA Football Chairman Carl Peterson said.
"There's no better place to bring the world's best football than Austin," he said. "The passion for this sport in South Texas is deep and generational. Whether a player is from Seattle or Sydney, he's going to love playing in this atmosphere in front of these fans." NOTES:
The International team, coached by Greg Marshall
, of Canada, arrived Friday in Austin and will practice nine times including four two-a-days. … Marshall's 12-member staff consists of coaches from Australia, Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Japan, Mexico and Sweden. … The longest distance for players to travel: 8,480 miles (Australia), 6,559 miles (Japan) and 5,959 miles (Serbia). … USA Football's Under-19 team is led by Westlake (Austin, Texas)
High coach Darren Allman
, who led his team to the Texas Class 5-A state finals in 2009. He's compiled a 57-19 record in six seasons. … Both teams will field 45-man rosters. … Participation in the game is recognized as a U.S. National Team competition by the NCAA and not considered an all-star game. ... Though players from American Samoa will represent Team World, the USA team has at least five players of Samoan decent. WHAT:
Team USA vs. The World Under-19 football game. WHEN:
Wednesday, Feb. 2, 7:30 p.m. (CT)WHERE:
Westlake High School, Austin, TexasALSO:
National Signing Day ceremony from Austin Marriott South, 8:30-11 a.m. (CT) Feb. 2....Check for daily features from MaxPreps columnist Mitch Stephens starting Sunday from Austin and complete coverage on National Signing Day as well as game coverage. Go to our signing day blog
for updated notes from Austin throughout the week.