Saginaw (Mich.) wide receiver DeAnthony Arnett was aiming for a selection to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, but when that invitation came the 6-0, 170-pound receiver had a tough decision to make. In the end, however, the right choice presented itself.
Michigan High School Athletic Association rules stipulate that any student-athlete who participates in an all-star game forfeits eligibility for the remainder of their high school career. For Arnett, a three-year starter at point guard for Saginaw's basketball team, that was a choice he wished he did not have to make.
"It's a big decision," Arnett acknowledged. "I'm the starting point guard on the team, but this is a big opportunity for me and I felt there was no way I could pass it up. After a while the decision got easier and I'm definitely going to play in this game. I'll never get this opportunity again in life.
"What more can you say about the game - it's the biggest high school All-American game in the country and has been forever. How can you really turn it down? That's really the point it got to for me."
Saginaw High regularly fields one of the top basketball programs in the state of Michigan, and Arnett is coming off a junior campaign in which he averaged 15 points and eight assists a game. His absence this winter will be a big blow for the Trojans, but Arnett's future is in the game of football and his decision to play in the Army Bowl reflects that.
Arnett was presented with his Army All-American Bowl jersey and an invitation to play in the Jan. 8, 2011 game during a ceremony at his school on Friday. Although he had to make a choice that had repercussions for friends, coaches and teammates, he was excited for the opportunity to play on the biggest stage in prep football.
"I definitely needed to be in this game if I want to be great and get ready for college," Arnett said. "I'm looking at it as this is where it starts right here. I'm going to get a chance to display my talents on national television and I just think this could be the beginning to show everybody that I can be great."
Saginaw High ended its season last weekend with a disappointing 1-8 record, but Arnett was still able to post impressive individual numbers. Despite playing exclusively at quarterback in his team's final game of the season, he recorded 42 receptions for 782 yards and eight touchdowns on the year. He also notched three return touchdowns, three passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns.
One of the most exciting aspects about Arnett's upcoming Army Bowl experience will be the opportunity to line up alongside and across from some of the country's best athletes.
"I'm so excited to get a chance to play with some of these top-notch quarterbacks and to meet new people," he said. "You don't know how many future NFL players are in this game out of the 90 that are playing, and we can all look back and say we played in the Army All-American Game."
Brimming with confidence, Arnett is not concerned with facing some of the nation's top cornerbacks. He has tested himself against the best throughout his high school career, and feels opposing defenders are the ones who need to worry.
"Personally, I don't care too much about the corners," Arnett said. "I'm pretty sure they know what they're getting themselves into when they know I'm coming."
College coaches will know what direction Arnett is headed before he suits up for the East squad in the Army Bowl. The four-star receiver has already taken one official visit and has two more planned before sitting down and making a final decision.
"The decision will be made in November," Arnett said. "Cal was the first visit. I've got a USC visit coming up this weekend and my third visit will be a big surprise to everybody it will catch a lot of people's attention. I think it will stand right there and it will just be those three visits."
Michigan State and Tennessee are also still under consideration while previous contenders Iowa, Miami and Oklahoma are no longer in the picture.
The state of Michigan has sent a couple top prospects to the state of California in recent years, including former Army Bowl participant Nick Perry, who currently starts for USC. Arnett has made one visit to the Golden State already this fall with another coming up this weekend and is strongly considering a move to the West Coast.
"Cal is definitely a beautiful place and I had an excellent visit," Arnett said. "At USC, just look at Robert Woods and what he is accomplishing out there. He looks awesome and I definitely feel I have those same types of abilities."
The Army Bowl will give whichever school is able to secure Arnett's pledge next month the ability to preview their incoming talent and the Saginaw native anticipates the opportunity to set the stage for his college career.