Only the Best Shine in Texas

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS - U.S Army All-American Bowl organizers hit it out of the park again this year, following 2004's homer with another ringdinger in 2005.

The merger of armored athlete and armed forces is a marriage made in heaven, if not Hollywood. It brings together concepts of discipline, fitness, courage, tactics, motivation with the aim of victory. It's a natural: "Only the Best" and an "Army of One", sharing a few hours in the national spotlight, earning a well deserved salute while preparing for battles that await.

That's not intended to suggest it's all about the future in San Antonio. They also honor the past of a game that was essentially designed by coaches with Army and more particularly, West Point backgrounds. Generals from Bradley to Neyland, to Eisenhower to Patton were both football and military minds, who saw the gridiron as something of a military chess board.

Before and between War Worlds they honed their skills as leaders and strategists on the football field as either players or coaches, or both. (Obviously the Army influence is at the very heart of Tennessee football.)

Football luminaries recognized and feted during the week included: Coach Herman Boone of "Remember the Titans" fame, a man who blazed a path through the wilderness of school segregation. And former Heisman Trophy winner Pete Dawkins, who played for Army, was also on hand to present the Player of the Year award named in his honor. Throw in the down-home humor of Lou Holtz and the matinee appeal of 2004 Heisman Trophy winner Matt Lineart and you have the total package.

This year wasn't nearly as good for Tennessee as in 2005 when the Vols received commitments from such standouts as Rico McCoy, Raymond Henderson and Adam Myers-White and eventually landed eight Army All-Americans en route to obtaining the nation's No. 1 recruiting class as determined by Scout.com.

Jacques McClendon was UT's only represenative in the game this year, and the Vols didn't get any commitments during the broadcast. There was a point in the week when they appeared to have the edge for linebacker Jerrell Miller, but North Carolina got the on-air pledge in the end.

It wasn't a good day either for high school player of the year Mitch Mustain, who is still considering Tennessee. Mustain had looked extremely sharp during workouts this week, but wasn't the best of Only the Best on Saturday. Of course, that title alone is enough to put you in the pressure cooker especially in a game against the other contenders for the same title. He's another in long line of great players that had bad all-star games.

JUNIOR INVASION

Corporate headquarters have been overrun by over 400 of the best junior prospects in the country. Anytime you get on the elevator it's filled with impressive athletes, many whom will return to play in next year's U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Only the Best seems to get better every year.

Big Combine day Sunday that should reveal a lot more about the Class of 2007. Reports to follow on names worth remembering.


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