Thru The Lens
The state of Texas is known for things that are big. The big state is home to vast herds of cattle that range over seemingly endless wide open spaces. And below the sprawling landscape lies vast reserves of black gold known as oil.
But, in Texas, they will also tell you one other thing that is big, and that’s football. Some say that football in the Lone Star State is almost a religion to it citizens.
That high status is why, for the last ten years, the U.S. Army has hosted the annual event geared to some of the finest young football players in the country. High school underclassmen each year are invited to participate in the U.S. Army National Combine testing program.
The first week in January finds the state football population growing by 500 young men. High school juniors from across the United States are invited to participate in the three day event that gives recruiters an opportunity to see the best of the best.
On Saturday of that week, those same young men are guests of the U.S. Army to watch outstanding seniors play in the All American Bowl game. The game is played in the host city of San Antonio, inside the Alamodome.
Participants are given the opportunity to show their physical abilities in a set of on field athletic drills. Throughout the process, the young men are watched and evaluated on their individual abilities. This combined event is organized to give these high school juniors the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and agility. They are asked to run 40 yard dashes, short shuttles, perform a vertical jump and dead lift 185 pound weight as many times as possible.
One twentieth of one percent of the country’s underclassmen are invited to participate in the evaluation process. This top talent included Magnolia’s junior quarterback Justin Fox. Justin’s personal dedication to the sport is evident to anyone that has ever watched the young man play football.
As a freshman, he led his team to a 9-3 season. As a sophomore, his 10-4 record led to an opportunity to play for the state championship on Wheeling Island. And, as a junior, his skills helped to finish the season with a 10-0 record. A perfect regular season.
Throughout those 39 games, Justin passed for 4,172 yards. He also showed his skills in kicking the ball through the uprights for a total of 111 points.
Justin especially gives credits to the seniors on his freshman year’s team for giving him that first-season confidence in the quarterback position. His statistics are impressive on the field, but he is quick to point out that his teammates and coaches are a large part of any success he has had.
Justin’s stats on the field are impressive, but equally as impressive is the fact the young man carries a 3.5 GPA. The importance of academics, along with sports, was one of the points emphasized by former Detroit wide receiver Herman Moore at the Texas combine. Herman explained to the young men that not everyone is a division one candidate. He told the athletes to make a school selection on both the opportunity for academics as well as athletics.
Justin’s father, Jeff, was quarterback for Paden City football team in both ’78 and ’79. Both years he was a member of the West Virginia All Stars team. He accompanied Justin to Texas along with teammate Cameron Benson, who is one of Justin’s receivers on the field. Last year, Cameron caught several of Justin’s passes and carried them into the end zone for touchdowns. Next year, both young men will be seniors on the 2010 Blue Eagle team. Their final season will hopefully give Justin another successful season, with the help of Cameron and their teammates
Justin has been recognized here in the OVAC and has been named as a member of the All-State teams for his athletic talents. He has also been nominated for the Kennedy Award the last two years and has finished in the top 10 both times.
The All-American Bowl has been played with the top 84 athletes each year since it began in 2001. From the past events, several outstanding players have gone on to play as stars in both college and the NFL. Reggie Bush, Vince Young, Adrian Peterson, Brady Quinn along with many others have continued their football career, in part due to this event, sponsored by the U.S. Army.
Only one player from West Virginia has ever played in the annual Texas football game, former Parkersburg Big Red Josh Jenkins. Josh is currently a member of Bill Stewart’s Mountaineer football squad.
With the outstanding football program that Coach Mark Batton and his staff has built over the last 10 years, it is evident that Magnolia is developing quality young players, not only by state standards, but also by national ones. Perhaps next year, Justin or another member of the Blue Eagles will return to Texas to play in the next All-American Bowl as I look Thru the Lens.