Posted by Bryan Fischer
SAN ANTONIO, Tex. – The trophy was raised, the confetti was falling and the hollering from the East squad was energetic.
At that moment, it seemed that the Army All-American Bowl week was over. For the players meandering around the Alamodome floor however, the experiences and friendships developed in San Antonio would prevent the game from ever ending.
“I met a lot of great players from all over, from the east and the west team,” West cornerback De’Anthony Thomas said. “This game, to me, was about friendship. A lot of us are going to the next level and we’ll be competing against each other.”
To a man, from the 5-foot-9 Thomas to the 6-foot-6 Antonio Richardson, players gushed with how they would cherish the memories they made and the bonds they formed.
“Overall, I’m proud of my team, I built a lot of relationships this week,” Richardson said. “I’m sorry I have to leave, it’s almost like these guys are my family now. I’m going to miss these guys.”
Louisville commit Teddy Bridgewater also grasped that the week was more about football, about more than a win or a loss. Standing off to the side as his teammates celebrated their victory, Bridgewater talked at length with an army corporal.
“It’s a privilege, not everyone gets to wear their flag on their jersey and play for their country. This past week has been indescribable,” he said. “It opened my eyes to the world, I sat down and talked with my soldiers and they told me how life is in the army. I was asking them questions. You know you have to have that heart and that courage to be able to put your life on the line each and every day. I just want to say thank you to the soldiers.”
Timing Down Pat
Bridgewater also made a memory on the field, scoring the East’s first points of the game and turning the momentum of the ball game around with a perfectly lofted 22 yard fade to Miles Shuler.
“It was third down and cover zero,” Bridgewater said of the play. “We ran a vertical switch. That’s a hard play to stop when you’re in man coverage. The wide receiver did a good job of selling the out route and converting it into a vertical. Our timing was down pat, we worked on that pass in practice and executed it in the game.”
Developing timing is difficult as is for quarterbacks but Bridgewater was able to overcome that and more during a frustrating week of practice.
“It’s very hard, especially for me, because during the week I was suffering from a groin injury,” he said. “For some reason, every time a game comes around I don’t feel any injury. I was limited in practice to throwing and the little throwing I did, it paid off out here.”
Of course, having so many four and five-star guys to throw to wasn’t a bad perk.
“To be able to throw to different receivers from across the country, with different speeds, different sizes and with some of the best hands in the country, that’s a privilege,” he said. “We only had four days to really get the timing down but it was something special.”
Hart Rolls Into History
Demetrius ‘Dee’ Hart was going to make headlines no matter what he did in the game on Saturday. As one of the best backs in the nation, his commitment would be him talking the talk. On the field, his performance allowed him to walk the walk as Hart became the first player to eclipse 100 yards rushing in Army All-American Bowl history.
“It’s an honor and I am just humbled by it,” Hart said. “The other guys upfront just went out and did their job which helped me get my yardage. I couldn’t have done it without them. To be the first 100-yard rusher in Bowl history is great and, again, I’m just humbled when you think of the players like Adrian Petersen that have played in this game.
“It’s been an amazing week and this is a great, great way to end it.”
As a result of his efforts, Hart was named Army Bowl MVP. Most of his yardage came on one play, a 69 yard scamper along the numbers before finally being tackled.
“Yeah I thought I was going to (score),” he said with a large grin. “We were trying to set it up, we were running up and coach was like, do we have anybody that can run around the edge? Everybody was looking around and I was like, ‘I’ll get it.’ So he said, ‘Dee go in.’
“When I got it, there was one guy up front and I felt like we were one-on-one so you’ve just got to tackle me and he didn’t. So I got into the second level and saw (Nickolas) Brassell. I thought he was going to block the guy but he was running with me trying to celebrate (laughs).”
Hart’s 69-yard run was the third-longest since at least 2004. … The win propelled the East to a 6-5 lead over the West all-time. … Saturday’s attendance of 37,893 was a new Army All-American Bowl record. … The final score of 13-10 made the game the lowest-scoring game. … The East set a Bowl record with 12 sacks. … The East outrushed the West 169 yards to -20 while the West out-passed the East 164 yards to 90.