Dreams Come True For Irish Commits

This coming Saturday, there will be a 14-year old middle school quarterback with big dreams watching the U.S. Army All-American game, hoping and wishing that one day he will cap his prep career off at one of the nation's most prestigious high school football all-star games.

Dayne Crist was that kid once.

"I've been watching this game since the eighth grade," Crist said. "I remember when they did a big special on Mark Sanchez. I thought it would be really cool if I would be able to be in the same position. It kind of seemed unreachable, but I've always kept it as one of my goals."

This week, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Crist finds himself in an almost identical position as Sanchez. He is one of three quarterbacks on the West squad for Saturday's game in San Antonio. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. (EST.) at the Alamo Dome, and NBC will have the coverage. Eighty-four of the top high school players in the country have been selected to play.

Crist is one of 14 Notre Dame verbal commits suiting up for the game, and is one of six finalists up for the U.S. Army National Player of the Year award. The other nominees include Arthur Brown, Terrelle Pryor, Patrick Johnson, Nigel Bradham and Darrell Scott. Notre Dame freshman Jimmy Clausen won the award last year.

"I feel very fortunate, honored and privileged to be in this game and competing with the best players in the country," Crist said. For Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif., the strong-armed Crist completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,178 yards, with 16 touchdowns and just one interception. He also ran for 454 yards and four more scores in 10 games.

There has been a lot of friendly trash talking among the Irish verbal commits playing in this game. Many will get a chance to match up against each other on the field. East defensive back Robert Blanton could get matched up against receiver Michael Floyd. East center Michael Golic Jr., may have to pick up a blitzing Anthony McDonald on a few plays. West guard Trevor Robinson will have to block defensive tackle Brandon Newman at some point throughout the afternoon.

Crist said that he talks with Jonas Gray, who will play running back for the East, on a daily basis.

"He keeps talking about what they're going to do to us," Crist said. "It will be fun to hang out with all those guys during the week. Once we get on the field though, that should be fun. I'm sure there will be all kinds of talking during the game."

Crist, McDonald, Robinson and Floyd will represent Notre Dame on the West squad. Gray, Blanton, Golic, Newman, tight end Kyle Rudolph, offensive tackle Lane Clelland, defensive lineman Sean Cwynar, linebacker Steve Filer, linebacker Darius Fleming and receiver John Goodman will all play for the East.

The 5-foot-11, 214-pound Gray began watching the Army game in 2003, and remembers watching Reggie Bush play.

"I really got excited about it then," Gray stated. "I definitely said that I wanted to play in that game when I could."

Like Crist, Gray is also up for an award. He is one of four finalists named for the EAS Sports Walter Payton Speed and Strength Award, joining Nigel Bradham, Texas pledge D.J. Monroe, and uncommitted running back Covaughn Deboskie.

So far I've been able to accomplish a lot of what I set out to do with my career," Gray said. He ran for 2,390 yards and 31 touchdowns for Detroit Country Day. "At the very beginning of the recruiting process I wanted to go to Notre Dame and now I am. I wanted to play for the state championship, and I did, but we fell short of winning it, and I wanted to play in this game.

"I'm really excited about it."

So is that future All-American tuned in.

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