Smith's Absence Conspicuous for Army Game

SAN ANTONIO — The US Army All-American Bowl Game brings 78 of the best high school football players in the nation together for the biggest and best all-star game in the country. As good as these guys are, though, this year's game is conspicuous for the absence of Paokee's Antone Smith.

For reasons that miff most of the experts who have spent the week in San Antonio watching the East-West practices, Antone Smith, the number two ranked running back in the nation by, wasn't selected to participate.

"The best running back I've seen this year has to be Antone Smith," said Rey Maualuga, a 6-2, 240-pound linebacker from Eureka, California, who will suit up for the West. "I played against him in the CaliFlorida Bowl and he was incredible."

Smith won the 2004 Mr. Football award for the state of Florida after leading Pahokee to its second straight state championship. In 12 games, the 5-8, 180-pound tailback scored 44 touchdowns, rushing for 2814 yards. In the CaliFlorida Bowl Game, Smith was the Most Valuable Player, leading Florida to a 24-22 victory over California. He rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown in the all-star game.

Smith is the man of a thousand moves. Tackling him has been described as trying to grab Jello with chopsticks.

"He runs really low to the ground and it makes him pretty hard to tackle," Maualuga added. "He is going to be a force wherever he decides to play college ball at the next level."

With his dynamic personality, Smith would be perfect to have at the US Army game. At various points throughout the game, some of the All-Americans will be announcing their college choice. Smith, who makes everyone's all-interview team, would have been a marvelous interview.

Smith's final choices are Miami, Auburn, Florida, Florida State and Georgia. He's already visited Auburn and is at Miami this weekend. He's expected to visit Florida January 21 and Florida State on January 28.

Most experts think that Smith will sign with Miami, particularly since Frank Gore and Roscoe Parrish have declared early for the National Football League. He won't give any clues what that choice will be. Instead, he'll go public on signing day with a press conference that will be televised by ESPN.

Another Florida back, Maurice Wells of Jacksonville Sandalwood, said on Thursday that he would be amenable to a visit to the University of Florida, but reported on Friday that the 5-10, 185-pound tailback will announce his choice between Ohio State and Georgia Tech at halftime of the Saturday game.

The U.S. Army All-American Bowl will be played in San Antonio at the Alamo Dome on Jan. 15, 2005, and broadcast nationally on NBC at 1 p.m. Eastern. is a sponsor, the official selection partner and exclusive on-line partner of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, as well as the associated U.S. Army Combine for underclassmen.

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