While many of his teammates and classmates will be celebrating New Year’s in the typical fashion high school kids do, John Burroughs football star Ezekiel Elliott will be ringing in 2013 in a way very few ever get to do.
The JBS senior, who starred as a running back/kick returner for a Bombers teams that made three straight trips to the Missouri Class 3 state championhip game, and amassed more than 3,000 all-purpose yards and scored 50 touchdowns this past season alone, has been invited to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on January 5 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
The U.S. Army All-American Bowl, which is widely considered the nation's premier high school football all-star game, will feature 90 of the best schoolboy players in the country, in a classic East vs. West matchup that will be broadcast live on NBC.
"It's just an honor to be selected, and to be considered one of the best players in the nation," Elliott said from the visitor's locker room at Chaminade College Prep in Creve Coeur, where he and his Bomber basketball teammates spent the week competing in the Chaminade Christmas Tournament.
"I'm really excited. I can't wait to get down there. I think it's just going to be a lot of fun," Elliott, ranked by Rivals.com as the 9th best running back in the class of 2013, and the 77th best overall, said.
In April, he gave a verbal pledge to play for Urban Meyer at Ohio State University
Elliott, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Offensive Player of the Year this season, and likely choice for Missouri state Player of the Year, received the news that he had been named to the U.S. Army All-American squad back in the fall, before JBS' 2012 season had even ended.
'Zeke', as he's called by family and friends, has known for some time that he would be playing in the game this year.
He'll be a member of the West squad and will wear jersey No. 24.
The only hard part for Zeke so far, has been just waiting for the game date to actually get here.
"I'm leaving on Sunday, and they told me that I'll used kind of in as an all-purpose back," Elliott said. "I'll play running back. I'll play in the slot. I'll get to return kicks. They said they're going to use me a lot. I just can't wait to get down there to see how it goes."
Kickoff for this year's game is scheduled for noon local time, and will be televised live on KSDK-Newschannel 5. The game itself has been billed as "an unforgettable look at the future of college and professional football."
The U.S. Army All-American Bowl website states that more than 200 NFL players have played in the game in the past, including current stars like Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts, Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs, Percy Harvin of the Minnesota Vikings, and Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals.
The state of Missouri saw two players in the game last year, De Smet Jesuit's Durron Neal and Dorial Green-Beckham, the Springfield-Hillcrest phenom now at Missouri.
The game annually also serves as a platform for players who have not made a college choice to do so live on national television. Any pledge prior to signing a letter of intent starting in February is non-binding. For his part, Elliott has by all public appearances been solid on sticking with going to Ohio State. One needs only to follow his Twitter account to see that.
That didn't stop his father Stacy, a University of Missouri linebacker during the Bob Stull era, from at least keeping the door open until February during a November KSDK TV interview.
While the recruiting element to the week has the focus of college football fans come actual gametime Saturday, the 90 U.S. Army All-Americans will be quite busy all week.
The players will practice everyday until Friday, with the game obviously scheduled for Saturday.
But beginning on Wednesday night, the U.S. Army All-Americans will begin a series of goodwill events and fan-friendly showcases, starting with the Soldier-Hero Challenge, where the players will meet and get to hang out with members of the military for a night of "laughter, stories, and kindred spirits".
On Thursday, the city of San Antonio will host a Welcome BBQ at the Alamodome for the players, but will also allow fans to purchase tickets for the chance to hang out and have a meal with the 90 All-Americans.
Later that night, the players will then attend the week's gala event, the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Kick-Off Party, which will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.
Friday night will feature the U.S. Army All-American Awards dinner, where the national Player of the Year award will be announced.
"We just want Zeke to have a real good time down there," Burroughs basketball coach Steve Wilcutt said. "He's such a fine young man, and we all know what a great player he is. He really deserves all the accolades he's been getting."