JACKSONVILLE, N.C. -- Northside High defensive end Donte Moss entered some select company on Friday. In a press conference in his school's cafeteria, surrounded by friends, teachers, teammates, family members and members of the media, Moss accepted an invitation to the 2009 U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
"First off, I want to give all honor to God, of course," said Moss, moments after donning his black East squad U.S. Army All-American jersey. "Most of all, (I want to thank) my supporting cast right here," he said, pointing to his family, "because without them I wouldn't be anything right now. I'd like to thank the teachers and the faculty for coming to support me."
In addition to the many coaches and teammates from Northside who were in attendance, several coaches and cheerleaders from his former high school - Trenton (N.C.) Jones Senior - made their way to the announcement.
Moss fought back emotions as he discussed his transition from Jones Senior to Northside as part of his personal journey to becoming a U.S. Army All-American.
"I would like to thank the people from Jones Senior for coming here," Moss said. "This just goes to show that sometimes when you feel like quitting, if you just keep going just a little bit more, just a little bit more dedication, it will get you a lot of success."
"I feel like I've done what a lot of people said I couldn't do, because a lot of people said that nothing good comes from Jones Senior," Moss added. "Well, I'm here to tell them now - this is good, isn't it? Something good must come from it."
Moss is ranked as the No. 16 overall player in the country and is the nation's No. 1-ranked strong-side defensive end prospect. He is also the No. 1 rated prospect in the state of North Carolina in the Class of 2009.
"He's a good young man and a good player, and he'll continue to represent all of us well in San Antonio, and we'd like to thank the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and everybody here for supporting Donte. We thank his family and friends for showing up," said Northside head coach Bob Eason. "This is a great honor and award. Anytime a 17-year old young man can go out and experience something like this - experience the world - it makes them a better person, and we certainly appreciate it."
Moments after accepting the U.S. Army's invitation, Moss felt vindicated, implying that now he feels like he has somewhat 'made it' as a national football prospect.
"It means that I've made it," Moss said. "I've made it part of the way. I feel like I've made everybody proud. I'm just glad to make my mama proud, my family proud, the students proud and I'm here just to make them look good."
Even with the highly-coveted five-star rating he received earlier this year, earning a spot in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and getting a chance to play for the first time on national television is something that clearly has Moss excited.
"It makes me feel good," he said. "It makes me feel good just to get a little taste of the TV thing. I'm very blessed."
Last month Moss was selected for another honor, as he earned a spot on the North Carolina Shrine Bowl team, where the North Carolina commitment will play with several of his future Tar Heel teammates.
"I believe if you stretch (recruiting) out, then you put more stress on yourself," Moss said about committed early to the Tar Heels. "I went ahead, talked to the (UNC) coaches. I felt at home with them. I said, 'I probably won't get this feeling at any other school, so this is my school.'"
As he prepares for his collegiate career at North Carolina, Moss has been enjoying a dominating season at Northside, where he plays defensive end and running back.
The Monarchs, aided greatly by Moss, recently completed a perfect 11-0 regular season - the school's second straight unbeaten regular season.
"(We have to) take it a day at a time. Take it a day at a time," said Moss about his team's playoff prospects. "First off, I want to finish off (my high school career) on a good note. I really don't have words to describe how I'm thinking about Carolina. That will just take care of itself when I get there."
Considering everything he's been through, from changing schools to dealing with personal setbacks and deaths in his family, Moss is just happy not only for the selection to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, but also for the opportunity to play the sport he loves at such a high level and to be a leader for his teammates.
"Just from losing people close to me to death, to illness, from schoolwork, to just little stuff outside of school that can turn into major stuff. You've just got to find a way to kind of put that aside and know what things are broader," Moss said. "I didn't see myself (as a leader), but I saw how everybody looked up to me, and how I'd be walking around school and they'd be asking me stuff. I really see myself as a leader. That's why I want to do so good."
Catch Moss and all the other U.S. Army All-Americans on Saturday, January 3rd at Noon CST (1:00 Eastern) from San Antonio's Alamo Dome. The eighth annual All-American Bowl will be televised nationally on NBC.