Olney (Md.) Our Lady Of Good Counsel cornerback Blake Countess received his U.S. Army All-American jersey at a presentation at his school on Tuesday morning. For Countess it was the culmination of a lot of hard work to earn that coveted jersey but also the beginning of the next step in his career as well.
"It's exciting to be selected and such an honor," said the 5-foot-10, 171-pounder. "I was a little nervous leading up to the ceremony but once it started it was great. I was honored to receive the jersey in front of my family, friends and teammates."
However, Countess knows this is just the beginning.
"I'm already thinking about trying to earn my spot on the East defense and working hard to impress the coaches at the game," he said. "I know that this isn't an end, it's a beginning and there is just more hard work to be done."
And for Countess, hard work is not an issue. In fact he had to prove himself more than most to earn his selection to the Army Bowl. It all started with an appearance at the MDHigh Elite Showcase in March.
"I actually went to that one just to compete," he said. "I knew there would be some of the best guys in the area there so I wanted to show what I could do but also compete and get better. The only way to get better is to work hard, compete against the best and never back down."
Following that it was a trip down south to the Tuscaloosa Nike Camp. Countess decided he wanted to head to the University of Alabama rather than closer camps at Penn State or Virginia Tech because he wanted to show his stuff against the best in the SEC.
"You hear about all the great athletes down south and in SEC country and I know they have more speed down there so I wanted to show I could compete at that level," he said. "I think I did well and I went down there to get my name out there a bit more. I was still looking to earn more offers but the Army Bowl was always in the back of my mind."
Now that Countess was more prevalent on the radar after making the top performers list in Tuscaloosa, his focus became on impressing those making the decision regarding the Army Bowl. That meant a stop in Philadelphia at a Football University Camp in hopes of earning an invite to the FBU Top Gun Camp in Virginia in July.
"In Philly, I thought I did well and I learned a lot from the defensive backs coach Bo Orlando," Countess recalled. "I learned a lot about film work, breaking down your opponent, work ethic and other things. Since he played in the NFL he had a lot of credibility with me and I listened to everything he said.
"And at Top Gun it was the same but a higher level of competition. I knew if I worked hard, gave it my all and listened to the coaches I'd have a chance at getting selected."
A month later, Countess got the call.
"I was excited and I wasn't expecting it, I tried not to get my hopes up too high," he said. "So when I got the news I was really happy but I knew I just had to work even harder to prove to everyone I belonged. It helped motivate me even more heading into my senior year and I really want to represent my school and state down there."
Between now and the Army Bowl, Countess will be busy. He has a huge playoff game against DeMatha this weekend, a rematch of a tough loss earlier in the season, and then numerous trips to schools to try to narrow down his recruiting focus.
"I will take an unofficial visit to NC State probably after Thanksgiving," he said. "They recently offered me and I have family in that state. I will take my first official to Michigan on Dec. 3, Georgia Tech on Dec. 10 and Maryland on Dec. 17. I'd like to be able to make a decision after that but there are other schools like Purdue, Louisville and Arkansas that are also high on my list. If I'm not ready to decide, I will take some more officials in January and figure things out then."
Rumors have been flying that Michigan is Countess' leader since a mid-season offer came from Rich Rodriguez and his staff. Any truth to that?
"I am very interested in Michigan and always have been so the offer was great," he said. "But until I take my visits, I can't say who I like the best. I have family near NC State, Michigan is a great program, Georgia Tech has my friend and former teammate Louis Young down there and Maryland was my first offer and have always been straight with me. And like I said, other schools are also in the mix and recruiting me hard. I'll figure it out eventually."
In the meantime, Countess took a moment on Tuesday to bask in the glow of all his hard work on Wednesday as he put on that Army jersey.
"I've felt a little different since I was selected," he admitted. "I have more confidence but also more to work towards to prove I deserve this. This is just further motivation for me and I'm excited about San Antonio."