STEVENSON, Ala. - There isn't a lot in Stevenson, Ala. The small town of only a couple thousand people rests just over the Tennessee-Alabama state line at the foot of the Cumberland Plateau. The local high school is North Jackson High and among its student body of around 500 students is one very special athlete.
Tana Patrick stands out in any crowd at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds. He has been standing out on the football field since his freshman season at North Jackson earning first team all-state honors since his sophomore year. On Tuesday, Patrick confirmed that he is not just one of the best players in the state but solidified himself as one of the top players in the country by officially accepting a bid to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
With his selection, Patrick joins linebackers such as Brandon Spikes, Dan Conner, Rey Maualuga and Keith Rivers as names that can be listed as U.S. Army All-American Bowl alumni. The honor was one that Patrick was excited to accept.
"I'm excited," Patrick said. "It's an honor to be able to play in this game. I'm just really excited to play in it. It's a big honor just because I'm the first coming from this area and this school so this gives the other guys something to work for."
Despite being one of the most highly touted and highly recruited prospects in the entire nation, Patrick remains humble and exudes the characteristics that the U.S. Army looks for in the roster selections.
"Tana got a lot of verbal offers as a freshman," said Patrick's head coach Shawn Peek. "To be able to get all that attention as a ninth grader and to continue to get better and better is a tribute to him."
Along with his humility, Patrick has been a hard-worker and has earned all the accolades he has received.
"You could tell at an early age that he was blessed with a lot of athletic ability and he's put that together with a good work ethic," said Coach Peek. "He's always been a hard worker and never misses a day in school. You see a lot of bad out of young kids but a story like Tana's is great. He's always the first one here and the last one to leave and you put that together with a lot of athletic ability and you've got a really good player."
A soft-spoken young man, Patrick does not bask in the spotlight. However, there will be plenty of eyes on him on Jan. 3 at 1 PM ET. That is when the game kicks off on its NBC broadcast.
"I'm looking forward to everthing," Patrick said. "The competition, the scenery, being on TV and stuff. I think it will all be a good deal."
Stay tuned to Rivals.com for information on the 2009 U.S. Army All-Americans.