ATLANTA - The seven Army Core Values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor integrity, and personal courage, all go into what the United States Army tries to build in each individual responsible for defending the country.
It makes perfect sense that one of the best defenders in the country, Douglass defensive lineman Garrison Smith, exemplifies each one of these traits that goes into their LDRSHIP acronym.
Wednesday morning the U.S. Army All-American Bowl announced Smith was accepting his nomination to play in the 2010 edition of the prestigious game, set to be played at noon CST on Jan. 9th at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. With his classmates, coaches, and parents present, Smith was the pride of the Douglass Astros football program.
It was a moment that was special to him, not only because of the game, but also because of the legacy of his program.
"It is a great honor to be selected to play in this great game," Smith said.
"With the history of all of these great players who went on to play in the NFL, it just feels good to be a part of something special. It means a lot to be the first Douglass player selected. It is such great blessing.
"There has been many, many great athletes to come before me, Jamal Lewis, Batman Carroll, James Davis, Greg Smith, they all paid their dues and helped put Douglass on the map, so it is just a great honor to be able to follow in their footsteps and be the next guy to come out of this great school here at Douglass High."
For his coach, Kenneth Barrow, these last few years have been very special seeing his talented defensive lineman's success both on and off the field.
"It has been a pleasure to coach a young man who not only has the talent, but also great character, great demeanor and is a student athlete," Barrow said. "And it has been a great opportunity for me to coach a person who has all of those qualities."
His father, Greg Smith, was sitting to his left at the presentation, with an ear to ear smile only a proud parent could have.
"I think it is a great feeling to see Garrison get picked to be an Army All-American," his father said. "He has worked really hard the last couple of years, and it is finally paying off."
Just like the armed forces protecting freedom across the world, Smith sees himself with a similar mentality protecting his team's end zone on the gridiron. After making the decision to play in the Army All-American game, Smith will now try and show those same qualities that have made him one of the best in the country.
"I pattern my mindset on the field like a soldier on the battlefield, so this was the only game for me really," Smith said.
"There were other games that wanted me, but this was the one I felt was right. With the great prestige and the soldiers out there fighting for us, I just wanted to be able to honor them with my play on the field."
According to his father, Garrison has always displayed a unique personality as well.
"Garrison is an outstanding individual, and out of four kids, his personality easily makes him stand out in the house," his father said. "There is never a boring moment with Garrison because you just do not know what he is going to say next."
But in January, the soldiers watching should see some traits that they also use in the heat of the action to emerge victorious.
"I think when the whistle blows it just brings out a different Garrison, kind of like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," Smith's father said. "Just like the soldiers in the Army, he turns it on when the battle is being waged."
Last year, the Astros staff set loose Smith on offenses, resulting in 108 tackles, 27 for loss, and 14 sacks. Now the coaches have asked Smith to take one for the team and play nose guard, which may limit his big plays but also helps him get accustomed to the type of assignment football he will likely play at the next level.
Barrow just chalks it up to the selflessness and team first attitude that Smith exudes every day.
"Garrison just wants to play and win, and he plays offense line and multiple positions on defense to try and give his team the best chance on the field," Barrow said. "That is just the type of kid he is, he will play wherever we ask him to."
Smith appreciates the accolades and being compared to the heroes present in the Army, but he said that in his mind what he does not compare to the bravery shown by the soldiers sacrificing their lives for the freedom we have today.
"What they do is on a whole another level than what I do, so that is why I have so much respect for them," he said. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to be able to play for them, so it is a great feeling."
The Rivals100 prospect is hoping to showcase is that the Peach State has some of the best young football players in the entire country.
"To represent Georgia in this game, I am just trying to let everyone know there are great athletes in this state who play their heart out, do what it takes to excel in the classroom, and just try to be successful young men," Smith said.
The journey looks to just be beginning for the promising defensive tackle. With some analysts predicting Smith as having the talent to play on Sundays, the 6-foot-4, 260-pound senior says he is just hoping to be ready to make an impact next fall, where he will suit up for the University of Georgia.
"I am working hard to get where I need to be, and am taking it one day at a time," he said. "It is going to be a big transition from high school to college as far as the competition level, but I am going to do whatever it takes to be successful."
As a proud Christian, Smith has strived to remain loyal to his faith, something his father says was never forced upon his son at anytime growing up. It is just another reason why he is proud to see his son succeed in life.
"I think it is amazing to see his faith grow so strong because we never pushed anything on him or tried to force him to go to church. He just wants to do great things in his life. He has seen a lot, and he has experience a lot because we have shown him the right and the wrong, and he just chose the right path," Smith said.