The U.S. Army All-American Bowl introduces future football heroes with present American heroes annually, and this year, a Covington resident is in the middle of it.
Sergeant John Evans moved to Covington in 2005, enlisted in the Army in 2006, was on deployment to Iraq in 2008 and is currently stationed at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. Now he has been enlisted for a different sort of duty, during the yearly high school All-Star football game in San Antonio.
The game, which is played at the Alamodome Saturday at 1 p.m. and televised on NBC, pits the best 90 players in an East versus West matchup and serves as a launching pad for future football stars such as Andrew Luck, Jamaal Charles, Percy Harvin and Patrick Peterson.
During the game and in the week's activities leading up to the 12th-year event soldier-heroes are paired with players offering support and guidance, along with joining in on the festivities. Prior to the game, soldiers will repel onto the field from the dome's roof, but some of the Army's best have been involved long before just prior to kickoff.
"They tend to have us all quite busy," Evans said. "It should be quite an event to see it. We'll do a little marching on the field, link up with players on the field and cheering on the players to keep them motivated."
Evans is one of many Army volunteers helping out with the game after being selected from the military branch's best.
"One of the things that got me nominated was I had an award of valor from a previous deployment," Evans said.
The Army goes through each brigade to see which soldiers will participate in the All-American Bowl to bring out the soldier-heroes it thinks would be a good fit for football's future stars. Evans was selected from the 75th Fire Brigade, Alpha Battery, 3rd Battalion, 13th Field Artillery in the multiple launch rocket system battalion for, among other things, his actions in Iraq.
While deployed in the early months of 2008 through mid-2009, Evans was part of a mission to construct a wall across Sadr City to give the Green Zone buffer space from enemy rocket attack in Iraq. However, the work didn't go as planned when Evans' group made enemy contact for three months straight.
"During that time, I was a heavy machine gunner for Charlie company of first battalion sixth infantry regiment," Evans said.
He is now able to communicate that type of valor to 17, 18 and 19-year-olds athletes participating in the game as they embark on a college career.
"I'm thoroughly impressed to see 16, 17, 18 year olds who already know just what they want to do with their life," Evans said. "A lot of the kids I talked to have plans for the NFL or already have scholarships lined up to play college football across the country. It amazes me, the attributes they have that I see every day in military life."
Evans got a close-up look at the All-American Bowl competitors Wednesday when the players and soldiers participated in the solider-hero challenge. Evans matched strength with the West team players in a push-up competition.
"We were assigned to pair up with players and band members for push up competition, sit up competition, eating competition and we ate dinner with them and talked about what school they were going to and the different jobs and roles within the military we did," Evans said. "And, how the military can benefit young men and women as far as education benefits."
Evans also came away impressed with the athletes, who he feels will one day become star football players.
"I'm going to have to buy one of the jerseys before the game and get some autographs," Evans said.