Soldier Heroes Bond With Army All Stars During Bowl Week
(January 20, 2010)
|SAN ANTONIO (ANS - Jan. 14, 2009) -- The East All-Stars lost the
2010 U.S. Army All-American Bowl football game Jan. 9, but
won the Soldier Heroes-Players Challenge at Sunset Station's
Lone Star Pavilion two days earlier.|
The icebreaking event featured Soldiers and high school
all-star football players teaming up for an East versus West
competition of sit-ups and pushups against the clock,
followed by a food-eating relay race in which hamburgers,
hot dogs and chicken wings were wolfed down.
|Fort Knox, Ky., drill sergeant Staff Sgt. Michael Beers urges Staff Sgt. Monte Culbertson into doing 68 pushups in one minute while LSU-bound West All-Star defensive back Eric Reid of Dutchtown High School in Geismar, La., gives chase during the Soldier Heroes-Players Challenge Jan. 6 as part of the pre-game festivities for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
The sponsor of the game, U.S. Army Accessions Command,
selected the 100 Soldiers based on duty achievement while
deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq. |
They were buddied up with each player as part of the Army's
awareness and outreach associated with the game. The dynamic
duos later were introduced to America before the bowl game,
which was nationally televised by NBC.
Capt. Monita Johnson, a Bronze Star recipient from the 84th
Training Division, Fort McCoy, Wis., paired up with East
All-Star punter Will Hagerup of Whitefish Bay (Wis.) High
School. They met before the Soldier Heroes-Players Challenge
and later ate dinner together.
"She is very, very charismatic," Hagerup said of Johnson.
"We had a great time meeting each other. I have utmost
respect for her."
Hagerup, who averaged 46 yards on three punts during the
football game, also competed for the East in the eating
contest. Two small chicken wings, however, were just enough
to whet the 6-foot-4, 215-pound athlete's appetite.
"Easy," said Hagerup, who will next play for the University
"They were two little tiny things. I'm really hungry. I was
hoping for an extra eating competition.
"It was a lot of fun to be competitive with the guys in a
non-football environment," Hagerup added. "It was a good
Likewise, Johnson said she enjoyed every minute of mentoring
a young football star.
"I learned that his grandfather served in the Army and
retired as a colonel," said Johnson, who served in Iraq from
2006-2007. "He asked what I did in the Army, and I told him
that I was an instructor. He asked how many years I had in,
and I told him I had 22 years in. And he wanted to know
where I was stationed. ... We had a good conversation."
Johnson was glad for the opportunity to serve as an Army
"I get to show the Army in a positive light for the youth
because a lot of things are going on right now with the
war," she said. "I should talk about all the benefits of
being in the military and show them who we are, what we are,
and why we do what we do.
"I believe this (game) will promote how we support our young
This shows that we're there for them and rooting for them,
and in return, if this should be something they decide to
do, then they'll have a positive aspect about it instead of
all the negative publicity sometimes seen about the
Since the Army All-American Bowl is one of two national high
school all-star games, players of this caliber have a choice
to make. West All-Star quarterback Jake Heaps of Skyline
High School in Sammamish, Wash., didn't take any time to
decide to come to San Antonio, where he was paired with Sgt.
1st Class Daniel Sutczak of Fort Riley, Kan.
"I did have a choice, but I don't really think there is a
choice," said Heaps, who will attend Brigham Young
University. "This Army game is so special. To have the
opportunity to meet the Soldiers, to hear their stories and
what they do, gives you such an appreciation for how they
defend our lives and freedom every day."
East All-Star linebacker Nick Forbes of Johnson High School
in Frederick, Md., was honored to meet his Soldier-Hero,
Staff Sgt. Adam Ellsworth of the 200th Military Police
Command, U.S. Army Reserve.
"It was a humbling experience playing with these athletes
and meeting the Soldiers," Forbes said. "I really got to
know my Soldier. It was a unique experience."
Johnson, a native of Detroit, considered both squads winners
- on and off the field.
"I'm ready to watch the football game, and I'm rooting for
the East and I'm rooting for the West, because I think
everybody's a winner," she said.
Article and photo by Tim Hipps
172nd Infantry Brigade
Army News Service
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