ST. LOUIS - Without Ronnie Wingo Jr.'s past, he wouldn't have become an All-American in the future.
Wingo, one of the nation's top high school football players from St. Louis University High School, was officially named to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Wednesday at a news conference at his high school in front of around 100 friends, family members and teammates.
Sitting in the front row were his youth coaches Martise Scott and Curtis Cornell. They played a major role in helping him become what he is today and both saw even back then he had the ability to be something special some day.
The only thing is that they had a hard time of convincing Wingo he could playing on Saturdays and maybe even Sundays down the road. So both kept pushing him and pushing him until he started to see the light.
"Those guys all kept after me, and I owe so much to them," Wingo said. "There's been a lot of people that have helped mold me into the type of person I am today. But it's people like coach Scott and Cornell that believed in me and supported me way back when I was little that have really meant a lot to me. My family is the most important thing to me, and coach Scott and coach Cornell are like family to me for all the things they helped me become."
What he has become is one of the nation's top high school football players.
Wingo, who is 6 feet 2 and 212 pounds, is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 2 athlete in the nation and the No. 71 player overall.
On the season, Wingo has 1,250 rushing yards with 12 touchdowns. He's also caught 17 passes for 370 yards and five scores. He also is now playing more and more on defense and has become a bigger threat in special teams. Just last week, he had a 99-yard return in a 38-24 win over Mehlville.
"The last four years have been a joy and everything he has gotten as an athlete, he has deserved," SLU coach Gary Kornfeld said. "They'll get a very special player in San Antonio. I've always said Ronnie is the most dangerous high school player I've ever seen in space. The size and speed he brings hasn't been seen here in a long, long time."
Wingo will represent the West squad in the game. He said it's an amazing honor to be selected and play in the same game that has featured other star players like Reggie Bush, Adrian Peterson, Tommie Harris and countless others.
"It's a big honor and means I get to play against the best of the best in January," Wingo said. "I don't know how to explain it. There are over a million high school players and people think I'm one of the top 90? That's hard to put into words. I just feel incredibly honored right now. They originally told me back in the summer, so we knew this day would be here eventually, but it's still amazing to think about it all happening now."
Wingo was also ready to use his moment in the spotlight to prove to others around the country that St. Louis football could do just as much as places like Texas and California.
"I'm really looking forward to showcasing everything I can do," Wingo said. "There's always been the stigma that the Midwest doesn't produce top talent. I want to help show that it's not true. You can find great players around the country. I want to help put St. Louis football on the map for everyone watching."
He'll get a great chance to do that along with two other St. Louis players - Sheldon Richardson and Kraig Appleton - who will join him for the Jan. 3 game that will be played in the Alamodome. NBC will televise the game at noon.
Ronnie Wingo Sr. said can't wait to get to San Antonio and see how his son stacks up.
"We're going to be around some of the best players in the country," Wingo said. "It'll be fun to be down there with Sheldon Richardson and his family. They're real good friends of ours and it'll be nice being down there with them. It's a great opportunity for two friends to showcase their talent on national TV. It's a great honor."
Wingo currently has official visits lined up to Illinois on Dec. 5 and Missouri on Dec. 12. Other schools like Alabama, Arkansas and Kansas continue to fight hard for a visit and if things work out there might be a chance Wingo could announce his decision live during the game.