Early Friday morning the U.S. Army All-American Bowl selection tour made its latest stop to honor one of the 90 players from across the country selected to play in this year's game.
Kansas City (Mo.) Park Hill High School played host this time as one of its own was officially invited to play in the 2012 contest. In front of a crowd of friends and family, defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins received his jersey during a press conference at the school.
The 6-foot-3, 325-pound defender is certainly familiar with the game as he attended the junior combine in San Antonio a year ago. Pipkins was one of the top prospects at the event and finds himself headed back to Texas a year later. It is an accomplishment of which he is quite proud.
"It's a great honor," Pipkins said. "I feel like I've been working at it for a long time and it's a dream come true. I got to sit in the stands and watch the game last year and I just imagined what it would be like to play in it myself.
"I saw these guys get to play on national TV and they were the best players in the country. I looked up to them and now I'm one of them. That's really cool."
Though he was officially invited during the ceremony on Friday, Pipkins found out over the summer that he would be playing in the game. He was caught completely off-guard by the invitation.
"I was really excited," he said. "I couldn't believe it at first but I just have faith in God and trust Him and He allowed me to get the honor. I saw that hard work pays off."
With the U.S. Army as the title sponsor, more than just a player's athletic prowess is taken into consideration by the selection committee. With the prospects representing the Army, a player's character is also a large part of the process as well.
Pipkins has been described by coaches as being as great a person off the field as a player on it. He knows what it means to be representing the nation's soldiers.
"With the Army sponsoring it, it's a great thing," he said. "It gives us a great opportunity to showcase them because they go above and beyond for our country to keep us safe."
Pipkins is also aware of the game's history that has seen such players as Adrian Peterson, Tim Tebow and Ndamukong Suh participate in it.
"I've watched it in the past and seen all the guys that have gone through there," he said. "It's a good feeling to be included among them now. It's really awesome. If you go in and just blow it off it doesn't mean too much and I want to live up to what they have done before me.
Pipkins is one of three prospects from the state of Missouri playing in this year's game. However, he says he does not know the other two. A Michigan commit, the nation's No. 59 overall prospect is looking forward to meeting some fellow Wolverine pledges while in San Antonio though.
"I haven't had a chance to talk to anybody personally that is playing in the game with me just yet," he said. "I know there are some other Michigan commits in it - James Ross, Kyle Kalis, Royce Jenkins-Stone and Erik Magnuson. I don't know if they're all going to be on my team but I'm looking forward to getting to know them all down there."
Pipkins and the West team take on the East in the 12th annual U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. The game will be nationally televised on NBC.