SAN ANTONIO - It was the chance of a lifetime for one player. The end of a high school career for another. And an eye-opener for a third.
The U.S. Army All-American Bowl meant many things to many players, but Driphus Jackson of Cedar Hill (Texas) High, DeAnthony Arnett of Saginaw (Mich.) High and Bubba Starling of Gardner (Kan.) Gardner Edgerton High agreed on one thing: Playing in the prestigious all-star game was well worth it.
Jackson, who earned his trip to the game by winning the reality show 'The Ride,' said he learned how far he has to go.
"It was a blessing," he said of the competition. "The whole thing. I learned a lot about myself and playing quarterback and what it means to compete."
Jackson can't wait to start preparing to play at Rice next season.
"I learned I have to take it to another level," he said. "I already worked hard, but now I know I need to double it. That's what it takes to compete against the best and that's what I want to do."
The chance to compete against the best is all that Arnett wanted. Unfortunately, due to Michigan state rules, playing in this games cost Arnett his eligibility for the rest of his high school career.
Arnett, a Tennessee commit who rarely faced elite level football competition in Michigan, said giving up his basketball and track careers was worth it.
"To practice all week with these guys, the best players in the country, really showed me a lot," he said. "It showed me how hard I have to work in practice.
"And what type of intensity I'll be facing at the next level."
Starling, a two-sport star in both football and baseball in Kansas, found out early how much better the competition can be.
"On that one play where I got around the end, I probably could have broke that in high school," he said. "Here the guy was able to catch me from behind."
For a 3-yard loss.
"That's what happens when everyone is big and fast," he said. "Everyone here is just incredible."
The week, however, was more than just competition. Getting to meet other top-tier athletes also was a thrill.
Jackson couldn't believe how much the four West quarterbacks bonded.
"The best thing was making friends," he said. "I tell you what, the best friend I made was Bubba Starling. He was just so down to Earth. I know I'll be talking to him more. I knew J.D. (Walsh) because we're both in Texas and played against each other. And Cody (Kessler) is about the coolest cat you'll ever want to meet."