That's just fine with Niles Paul
Enjoying his senior year at Omaha North, Paul stands as perhaps the best pure athlete the state has to offer right now. He's a champion in the 100 meter, 200 meter and has helped his team to take the state title in the 4x100 as well. Niles was also a runner-up in the Junior Olympics back in 2001. He's also ranked as one of the top 15 receivers in the country, one of the top 100 players overall.
If this young man didn't need anything, it was another award attached to his name.
He's got one, though, and it's one that every high school football player wants to get.
Since it's creation in 2001, the U.S. Army All-American Bowl has become THE high school football game of the year. Yes, there's the title games all the prep athletes want to be in, but there's only one game where the best of those compete against each other.
You don't have to ask one of its latest members, though, because he, like every other prep football player in the country, knows about it all too well. "I have watched it every year and every time I watch it, I wanted to be playing in it against those players on TV," Niles said. "No matter what sport it is or whatever, if I was doing it, I wanted to be doing it against the best."
Paul will get his chance as he'll represent the West, which will face off against the East on January 6th in Texas. Who he will be facing is still yet to be determined, but with former names from the game like Reggie Bush, Vince Young and Vernon Davis, Paul won't have to look very hard to find a challenge.
Paul knows he can play with them, though, but because of where he's from, he's thinking nobody else knows……………yet.
"I know I can play with those cats," Paul said of the rest of the All-Americans. "Nebraska hasn't had a guy in the game, so people think we can't play. I'm going to show them that we've got ballers here in Nebraska."
"I'm doing this as much for the state of Nebraska as I am for me."
While Niles certainly is a star in his own right, he'd tell you that he didn't get there completely on his own. Sure, Paul has the athleticism and size to make him a coveted athlete by anyone, and he's got motivation galore. But one thing he has had, which he says has made him the player he is today, is someone that in some ways is as good as himself.
Phillip Bates Jr.
Also a senior at Omaha North, also the relation of a former Husker (Phillip Bates Sr lettered at fullback for Nebraska in 1980 and 1981), Bates had some obvious potential of his own. And next to Paul, he's perhaps the best prep athlete in the state right now.
While Niles will admit that there's more than a heated battle between each other, he credits the younger Bates with helping to get him where he's at right now. "I'm always better when I am being pushed by someone else. That's why me and Phil go at each other like we do."
"At one point he was faster than me and could bench more than me. That's the kind of stuff that keeps me trying to be the best, but it's also because I want to be better than Phil at everything."
|Niles Paul (left) and Phillip Bates can be
bitterest of enemies, but the best of friends.
There's friendliness to this back and forth, but it can become quite intense as well. Always laden with trash talking between the two, you'd think at times, these two couldn't stand to be in the same place.
Paul just laughs about that, but he'll admit that when it comes to their competition, he's always going to try and be on top. Not ironic then the first question he asked when he was informed that he would be making the trip to San Antonio as an All-American.
"I asked them if Phil was going too," Paul said with a laugh. "That was the first thing I wanted to know."
Much has already been made of the fact that Paul will be playing for Nebraska and Bates will be playing for Iowa State. Phillip Jr. had been offered by the Cornhuskers as a quarterback, but it was obvious to Phillip that with his athleticism, the system of Iowa State fit him the best. The Omaha North QB will never be mistaken for a drop back passer, something more prevalent in systems like that of Nebraska's. So, for him, it was a natural fit.
But for Paul and even for Bates, this was just another angle they could take in seeing who was not just better individually, but who had the better team. "I remember after I committed to Nebraska and Phil was looking real hard at Iowa State, I said ‘Fine, go there and get killed'," Paul said. "I just told him not to complain to me when we whip up on them for four straight years."
With Iowa State hosting Nebraska this weekend, you can imagine that these two have already found out a way to compete even though they won't be on the field. "If I win, Niles has to wear an Iowa State shirt and if he wins, I have to wear a Nebraska shirt," Phillip said.
For Omaha North, Paul's induction into this elite group is an honor they haven't experienced before. Their name will now go along side such prep-talent factories from Oaks Christian in California to Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey.
It's hard not to be proud of that and Paul would agree, but his pride doesn't come from just representing his school, but representing his state as well. "This honor isn't for me. It's for my little brothers and every other football player in the state of Nebraska," he said. "Nebraska gets no credit for putting out legit players, but I'm going down there to prove them wrong."
"Nebraska's for real and when I go down there, I am going to make sure they all see that this state has some of the best players around."
"I'm going down there to ball."