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April 16, 2008

Army All-American Bowl adds California's best

MORE: Big names added to Army Bowl | All-Time Team: Offense | Defense | All-Time Top 10

Horace Greeley said it best: Go West, young man.

That's exactly what the U.S. Army All-America Bowl did to find some of its newest selections to play in the Jan. 3, 2009, game that will be broadcast on NBC. At least seven new players from California have been added to the roster, including four who have already made commitments to USC.

U.S. ARMY ALL-AMERICAN
Five-star LB Vontaze Burfict is one of an impressive group of USC commits set to play in the Army All-American Bowl.

Corona (Calif.) Centennial five-star linebacker Vontaze Burfict is pumped to be playing in the Army game along with fellow USC commitments Randall Carroll, Patrick Hall, Chris Metcalf and T.J. McDonald.

Also signed up and ready to represent are standout receivers Shaquelle Evans of Inglewood, Calif., Rolando Jefferson of Fresno (Calif.) Edison and Byron Moore of Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne and Fresno (Calif.) Edison safety Cliff Harris. More announcements – including several more blue chip Californians – are expected in the near future.

Burfict, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound inside linebacker, said getting a chance to play with his fellow future Trojans in front of 36,000 fans was a big pull for him. Another thing was helping bring a victory to the West squad. The East won last year's game 33-23.

"Representing USC and California and bringing back a victory to the West is something that I'm really excited about," Burfict said. "I think it's going to be our year this year. We have too many good athletes on the West team. I don't think they're going to be able to hang with us."

Burfict was invited to play in several all-star games, but he said wanted to play in the nation's premiere game.

"I saw all the people that are in the NFL from the game and then all the guys that are in college that played in the game," he said. "I compared it to the other game out there, and there wasn't really a comparison. All those guys right there tells me the Army game is better."

Carroll, a fleet-footed receiver who's ranked the No. 21 player in the country, said representing USC with his close friends was another strong pull to play in the game.

"I'm very excited to be able to play in the Army game with my SC boys," Carroll, a 5-foot-11, 175-pounder from Los Angeles Cathedral, said. "I appreciate the Army for recognizing our talents and inviting us as well. It's going to be great to go and play on the biggest stage for high school football and show the entire nation how we do it in California."

Vontaze Burfict, LB, Corona (Calif.) Centennial
"He's a stud. He has size, can run and loves to hit. You don't see many players like him." - Centennial coach Matt Logan
Randall Carroll, WR, Los Angeles Cathedral
"He was third in the state 100-meters last year running a 10.52 and he did that with a bad hamstring and a lousy track coach… me." - Cathedral coach C.J. Fulwilder
Shaquelle Evans, WR, Inglewood, Calif.
"One of great things about Shaq is that he's an easy kid to root for. He is very unassuming. When he scores a touchdown the whole team erupts on the sidelines because he is a likeable kid." – Inglewood assistant Khalid Ali
Patrick Hall, ATH, Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure
"In the state championship game, he was flying up from safety and just making plays all over the field. And he did that with a slightly sprained ankle at the end of the season." - Rivals.com recruiting analyst Barry Every
Cliff Harris, CB, Fresno (Calif.) Edison
"Cliff is special. Cliff is a playmaker, and this is a great opportunity for him. You get guys from Texas, the East Coast… all over the place down there. Cliff will live up to the challenge." - Edison defensive back coach Tony Perry
Rolando Jefferson, WR, Fresno (Calif.) Edison
"He really goes up and gets the ball. And he's got some mojo to him. On his tape, he hurdled a couple of kids in the openfield." - Rivals.com recruiting analyst Barry Every
T.J. McDonald, S, Fresno (Calif.) Edison
"My dad has always stressed to me to play as many different sports and be as well rounded as possible in everything I do." - McDonald, who also plays two-guard in basketball and centerfield in baseball
Chris Metcalf, S, Compton, Calif.
"I'm a long, rangy guy who can run really well. I've always watched guys like LaRon Landry and Reggie Nelson, and that's how I've always modeled my game after." - Metcalf
Byron Moore, ATH, Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne
"I know the East has gotten the best of the West the past few years, but I think this is the year that this changes. We're going to win the game this year." - Moore
McDonald, a four-star safety from Fresno (Calif.) Edison, said he is working on getting all the Trojan commitments together for their official U.S. Army jersey presentation ceremony.

"It'd be really cool to do it all together," McDonald, whose father is his high school coach and played several years in the NFL , said. "We kind of came up with the idea last week. We were there together and we just started talking about it. We thought since we were going to be teammates in the future and teammates in the game, that we should do it all as a team."

When the invitation to play in the game came, McDonald said the decision to accept was a no-brainer.

"Ever since I watched Reggie Bush play in the Army game, it's been a dream of mine to get a chance to play in the game," he said.

Along with playing with his future Trojan teammates, McDonald will also get to play with a current high school teammate in Cliff Harris. Harris is a 6-foot, 165-pound lockdown cover corner that already has picked up scholarship offers from Arizona, BYU, Oregon, USC, Utah and others.

"We were going to play in the game together, no matter what we did," McDonald said about he and Harris' plans for post-season games. "It was a real big honor for the both of us. Cliff went to the combine in Texas, and he was one of the camp MVPs. So I knew he was pumped up about the invite, and then I got the offer and that was something we had both been waiting to get for a long time.

"There are so few teammates that get to play in this game, and I know Cliff, Rolando and I view this as one of the biggest honors that you can get in high school."

Metcalf, a 6-foot-2, 179-pound four-star safety from Compton, Calif., is another future Trojan that will be in San Antonio. Metcalf decided to accept the invitation to play in the game because of its strong tradition.

"I saw how they have 21 players that have played in the game that were first-round NFL picks," Metcalf said. "I was like 'wow'. I'm going to be playing in the same game that guys like Adrian Peterson, Reggie Bush and Ted Ginn did. They are a lot of my favorite players, and that was really cool."

Evans, who is 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, is one of the nation's elite receiver prospects and has already drawn more than 30 scholarship offers. As a junior, he accounted for 30 receptions for 608 yards. He had one kickoff that he returned for 86 yards and a touchdown. He also had one rushing touchdown and earned all-league and all-area honors.

Evans said he's excited about playing in front of the big crowd.

"I just look forward to the experience of playing in a prestigious game and meeting new people," the humble and reserved Evans said. "I've never been away from the West Coast, so meeting new people from the East Coast will be really good. I'm also excited about playing in that big dome in front of all those people and with all that noise. I've never had a chance to play in front of 36,000 people."

Hall, a 6-1, 181-pound do-it-all player, is considered the next great player from Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure to participate in the game, following the likes of running back Darrell Scott and Lorenzo Booker.

"I think he (Hall) is a difference maker at every level," Rivals.com recruiting analyst Barry Every said. "You look at him, he's such a smooth athlete and he has such a football player's mentality, he brings something special to the table."

Moore, a 6-foot-1, 200-pounder with offers already from Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota and New Mexico, said he thought for a total of about 2 seconds before he accepted the invitation.

"I've watched the Army game for a long time, and I remember watching Terrelle Pryor in last year's game," Moore said. "I remember watching that and thinking about how cool it would be to be out there on the same field that all those great stars of the past have played in. It didn't take me long to accept (the invitation). It's an amazing honor."

Indeed, it's an honor that these young men, and several other stars from the Golden State and around the country, will carry with them forever.

Look for more U.S. Army All-American Bowl player participation announcements on Rivals.com in the coming days and weeks.



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