Koch, who is leaving for San Antonio Thursday, has two players to watch this year. Linebacker Travis Beckum and defensive end Raymond Henderson are representing the West in the annual game, which kicks off Saturday at noon Central and will be televised live by NBC.
Former Oak Creek defensive tackle Robert Taylor, currently at Illinois State, played in the inaugural game on Dec. 30, 2000 in Dallas. The event has since moved to San Antonio and been played in January.
In four of its five years in existence, the Army All-American Bowl organizers have invited an Oak Creek player. Running back Brian Calhoun, now at the University of Wisconsin, was selected for the second annual game, but could not compete due to Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association rules in place at the time, which would have forced Calhoun to forfeit his eligibility for basketball and track had he played in the all-star event. The WIAA has since amended those guidelines.
Last year, defensive end Rhyan Anderson, now at the University of Miami (Fla.), was selected but chose not to attend. For those scoring at home, Oak Creek has produced five Army All-Americans. The rest of the state of Wisconsin has had only two, both currently playing for the Badgers: former Brookfield Central offensive tackle Joe Thomas and former Arrowhead defensive tackle Nick Hayden.
Koch was in Texas not too long ago. He made an annual pilgrimage to Dallas in December to visit his brother-in-law and watch the Texas state high school football championship games. While taking in the action on the gridiron, he said, discussion turned to the upcoming Army All-American game and his two star players, Beckum and Henderson.
"Everybody knows about them," Koch said. "They are like, ‘Oh, those are your two kids.' They know all about it. It's a big deal. Like, ‘wow you must have a heck of a program up there because this is the best of the best.' It's really kind of a cool thing for the kids and even for myself."
Koch has been following his stars' exploits in San Antonio via the coverage Scout.com has provided at HS-AllStars.com.
"They have somebody who has been monitoring the practices and talking to all the players," Koch said. "Travis and Raymond are doing really well."
Koch referenced Jamie Newberg's Day Two West practice report, which cited Beckum for the "hit of day" after a pair of crushing blows dealt to tight end Dajleon Farr. He was also proud to read that Henderson had beaten Reginald Youngblood, the No. 2 ranked offensive tackle in the nation, around the edge a few times.
"It was kind of neat to see that our kids are doing well," Koch said. "They are not just down there, but are actually more than holding their own. They're kind of standing out. That's kind of neat."
Koch is excited to take part in the many events that will be available in San Antonio for the players and coaches.
"They have a coaching clinic set up with it," Koch said. "It's not just a horse and pony show. You really get to learn some football and network with a lot of coaches from around the nation and swap ideas. I'm looking forward to it, kind of mixing a little bit of business with fun."
Seeing Beckum and Henderson perform, however, will be the real highlight for Koch. Beckum, one of 18 players on the watch list for the BallPark Franks National High School Player of the Year award, has committed to Wisconsin. Henderson, one of the nation's top defensive end prospects, is considering Iowa, Nebraska and Tennessee. He will announce his final decision publicly on Saturday.
"There's a pride thing. It's kind of like your kids," Koch said. "I guess you are going there kind of like a proud papa, seeing them down there competing and handling themselves well.
"Then networking with some of the other coaches. It's nice experience-wise to see how things are on the other side or at different places around the country. It's a good learning experience. I'm excited about the entire experience.
"We've had a four-year relationship with Travis and a two-and-a-half-year relationship with Raymond and I hope that I'll be able to meet some new people down there, build some relationships with some of the coaches around the country. Keep in contact and learn from them. That's what I'm really looking forward to."
What: U.S. Army All-American Bowl, featuring the top high school football players in the country.
When: Saturday, Jan. 15 at noon Central.
Broadcasts: NBC will televise the game live.
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