CEDAR PARK, Texas - As a guy that plays along the offensive line - and on the interior of the line where he's even more hidden - Dominic Espinosa is used to playing behind the scenes where his talents don't always go recognized.
On Tuesday afternoon, in front of a Cedar Park field house packed with teammates, family and friends, Espinosa earned some much-deserved recognition. The 6-4, 295-pound center prospect was selected as one of 90 players to play in the 2009 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
"It's a great honor. Not too many kids get this opportunity to say they're an All-American," said Espinosa. "I guess you could say I've dreamed about it. I'm really excited to go down there and play in the game.
"I've watched it before and I was down there at the combine last year so I was able to watch the game live. It's a very prestigious game and it's a big honor."
Espinosa, the anchor of a very talented Cedar Park offensive line, committed to the Texas Longhorns back in February. With the Army All-American Bowl being played at the Alamodome in San Antonio, just a short drive down Interstate 35, Espinosa will have a chance to play in front of his family and if history is an indicator, a good number of Longhorn fans.
"With me being a UT commit, hopefully there will be some Texas fans in attendance to watch the game. That will be a plus," Espinosa said. "And I'll definitely have some family and friends there. So those are some plusses to being close to San Antonio."
A player that can crush defenders on the field with his tenacious play and natural strength, Espinosa is the polar opposite away from the gridiron. He's a young man who is quick to flash a smile and always handles himself with class, facts that aren't lost on Cedar Park head coach Chris Ross.
"Seeing Dom on the football field, you see he's an excellent football player. He plays every play like it's the last, and what you see on the field, that's how he practices, that's how he studies, that's the commitment he has for his teammates, our coaches and our program," said coach Ross. "The thing that The University of Texas is going to get is a kid that's committed to something besides himself. In this day and age, that's tough. He's the ultimate team player and he's an outstanding football player.
Playing in District 16-5A, a league that boasts several talented defensive linemen, Espinosa is no stranger to matching up with athletes that will eventually take their talents to the collegiate level. At the Army Bowl, Espinosa will officially get a chance to test his skills against the nation's best, and he's anxious to see how he stacks up.
"That's going to be awesome, playing against some of the elite players," said Espinosa. "Playing in our district, we play some of the best d-linemen that are out there. There are some really top guys that we play against. That kind of gives me a taste of what I'll see in the game, what I'll see in college. But I'm excited to see what it's like down there."
Espinosa and his family moved to Texas from California early in Espinosa's high school career. The change of scenery worked out in UT's favor, with Espinosa getting a close-up look at the Longhorns as Texas put together one of the college football's most successful runs in the last five years. Along the way, Espinosa made several stops by the UT campus for camps, unofficial visits and junior days and he was even trained by a former Longhorn offensive lineman. Those factors helped lead him to make an early commitment, and he's never once wavered on his decision.
Now, with his high school season heading down the home stretch, Espinosa's focus is on leading Cedar Park to what could be a successful playoff run, and from there he'll turn his attention to finishing out his high school playing career in San Antonio on January 9.
"We couldn't be any more proud of Dominic for many other reasons in addition to this. But this is just a great example of what kind of kid he is, the kind of work that he's put in to get to where he is today," said Art Espinosa, Dominic's father. "When good things happen to a young man like him, it's just a wonderful thing.
"We always tell our kids to just go out there and always do the best you can. This is proof that when you do, good things can happen. I'm really happy for Dominic."
The 2009 U.S. Army All-American Bowl will be played at 1 p.m. Eastern on January 9 and aired live on NBC.