EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. - East St. Louis (Ill.) safety Glen Faulkner has played nearly every skill position on the football field since he took up the game five years ago in middle school. Last season, as a high school junior, Faulkner finally found the perfect spot. The four-star prospect has excelled as a defensive back, culminating in a selection to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
"This is a great honor for Glen to be selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl," said East St. Louis head coach Darren Sunkett. "I'm so proud of Glen to have achieved this. It just shows you how hard he has worked over the last four years to reach his goals.
"Glen has always been an outstanding athlete. It was just a matter of us figuring out where to play him. He has played quarterback, wide receiver, outside linebacker - wherever we asked him to play - and he never complained. Once he found his niche in the defensive secondary he has really blossomed."
Faulkner, who is committed to the University of Kentucky, was presented with his U.S. Army jersey Tuesday in a ceremony at East St. Louis High School.
"This is such a huge honor," said Faulkner. "I want to thank U.S. Army for giving me this privilege. I also want to thank my mother and my coaching staff for helping me get this far as a football player. I'm in shock right now. This is a major accomplishment in my life. Growing up, it was my dream to get this far as a football player."
East Side, as it is known to local residents, is a major power in Illinois high school football. Coach Sunkett has seen many division one prospects come through his program, and the team is currently 7-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state. Faulkner is the second East St Louis player selected to play in the Army All-American Bowl. He follows wide receiver Kraig Appleton, who was selected to the team in 2009.
"Glen is a safety with great range and ball skills," said Sunkett. "He is exactly what coaches are looking for from the free safety position. He can get from sideline to sideline and make big plays for you, and he has outstanding leadership qualities."
Basketball was Faulkner's sport of choice growing up in the rough inner-city community just across the Mississippi River from St Louis. He played a little football in middle school, but when he got to high school he was drawn to the football tradition at East St. Louis and it became his No. 1 focus.
"I started playing football in the seventh grade, but I wasn't that into it," said Faulkner. "I really liked playing basketball when I was younger. But when I got to high school the coaches helped me learn the game of football and I fell in love with. I played quarterback as a freshman and I did some kicking. My junior year I finally switched to safety."
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Faulkner is ranked as the No. 5 safety in the country by Rivals.com and the top player from Illinois. Kentucky was the first school to extend an offer to Faulkner. He chose the Wildcats back in March over interest from Illinois, Minnesota and Kansas. Faulkner's commitment is solid, and he is looking forward to playing in the SEC.
"Getting to play against the great players in the SEC was a big factor," said Faulkner. "When I went down to Kentucky on my visit I really liked the team. Coach (Joker) Phillips and Coach (Tee) Martin showed me around and I loved the atmosphere at Kentucky."
Faulkner believes he will add athleticism and aggressiveness to the Kentucky secondary. He will be looking to develop physically to withstand the rigors of SEC football.
"I'm going to need to get bigger," said Faulkner. "But I'm quick, I have good cover skills, and I like to hit. I think I have a really good work ethic and I'm just going to try to keep getting better."
Though Faulkner is committed and won't being trying to impress college scouts, he says he still has something to prove when he takes the field in for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January.
"It's a chance to show what I can do as a football player," he said. "I'm going to go down there and prove that I'm one of the best. It's going to be nice playing in the game with all that talent Also, this will be my first time to San Antonio, so I'm really looking forward to going down there."
The U.S. Army All American Bowl is in its 11th year and will be played Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, and televised by NBC.