By Brian Lepley,
USAREC, Public Affairs
Jan 25, 2016
SAN ANTONIO – The nation's best high school senior football players are not the typical teenagers Staff Sgt. Charles Buford deals with daily.
From late September to early December the Kansas City Battalion recruiter travelled the 5th Recruiting Brigade area with the U.S. Army All American Bowl selection tour. Buford was at each ceremony where an Army All American player or band member was announced.
"I was excited to meet these young people, these students that are so driven to do something that they love," Buford said. "Their candor, their personality, demeanor is top notch. They were so thankful and humble they were selected, were very respectful of the military."
Each of USAREC's five brigades had a recruiter representative on its tour, a temporary assignment that culminated in the five NCOs serving as mentors during the week leading up to the game here in south-central Texas.
With NCAA football scholarships in hand, none of the 98 U.S. Army All American players will join the Army. But each one of those players have hundreds of classmates that watched their football-playing friend in the game, classmates that may enjoy jumping out of airplanes or starting a law enforcement or health care career in the Army.
"I think the tour and the game helps the way the public sees the Army; that we're not just the image you see on TV and movies," said Staff Sgt. Edward Barabagallo of the Mid-Atlantic Battalion and the 1st Brigade tour rep. "That we're real people, we're not robots, and that we're out in the community, having contact with the community."
The five NCOs spent bowl week here mentoring the U.S. Army All American players and musicians during a variety of activities designed to get the young people and the Soldiers communicating. Overall there were 27 Soldiers serving as mentors during bowl week, including 10 from U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
"It's been a great opportunity for us, going to practice, having meals; we've done a community event, visiting kids organizations in San Antonio," said Staff Sgt. Eric Scott, Salt Lake City Battalion and 6th Brigade rep. "The events we do with the players and musicians, we hope we're helping them turn into leaders."
After the week, the three NCOs see the U.S. Army All American Bowl's regard by the nation's top high school programs as a defining career moment. That translates as the biggest achievement these players and musicians have experienced in their young lives.
"This is a huge part of their lives, a culmination of what they've worked on for years," Buford said.
"The Army All American Bowl bases its player and musician selections on character and you could see in these kids, how humble and excited they were," Scott said. "It was a very big deal. They were really happy they were going to San Antonio."