SAN ANTONIO (Army News Service, Jan. 5, 2011) -- The West topped the East in the Player Hero Challenge, a fun-filled battle of sit-ups, push-ups and speed-eating by high school football stars teamed with Soldiers on Wednesday night at Sunset Station's Lone Star Pavilion.

The Player Hero Challenge is one several pre-game festivities that give players in the 2012 U.S. Army All-American Bowl a chance to get better acquainted with outstanding Soldiers they are partnered with for a busy week in the Alamo City.

With such a competitive group, no gathering would be complete without some type of bragging rights. And with Soldiers and football players, what better tests than sit-ups, push-ups and a chow down -- followed by more food, music and camaraderie.

"This is a great opportunity for our young football players in the nation to learn about our Soldiers and how exceptional our Soldiers are," said Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, commanding general of U.S. Army Accessions Command. "And you know out here in this competition a football player thinks, 'Well, I'm fit and I'm the guy,' and then they get to see these Soldiers doing these remarkable push-ups, sit-ups and getting after it … just kind of builds them together as teammates and they both do something together that's hard and it causes them to pull together as a team."

Nobody knows who shared the tallest tale from the football or battle fields, but score was kept on stage, where a few players and Soldiers exhibited their superior physical fitness.

In sit-ups, wide receivers Duron Neal of De Smet Jesuit High School in St. Louis, Mo., and Dominique Wheeler of Crockett High in Austin, Texas, represented the West players. They teamed with two Soldiers to compile 202 sit-ups in a cumulative time of four minutes.

East defensive back Tracy Howard of Miramar (Fla.) High and running back Brian Kimbrow of East High School in Memphis, Tenn., combined with two Soldiers for 185 sit-ups.

In push-ups, West cornerback Ishmael Adams of Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, Calif., and defensive back LaDarrell McNeil of Wilmer-Hutchins High School in Dallas, teamed with two Soldiers for 224 in a cumulative four minutes.

East defensive back Travis Blanks of North Florida Christian High School in Tallahassee, Fla., and linebacker Keith Brown of Miami Norland Senior High combined with two Soldiers for 220 push-ups.

The East prevailed in the food-eating relay in which each player had to clean his plate and swallow before the Soldier or player adjacent to him could begin his assault. Raucous players and Soldiers clamored atop photographers and videographers to witness the guts-busting display of eatery.
After the competition, players and Soldiers dined together, before boarding buses to a riverboat ride.

"This is to let them know they've got a fan in the stands on Saturday," Freakley said.

The players were thankful for the Soldiers' support on and off the field.

"This is a lot of fun just to be out here with all these other players from the East and the West and be out here with these Soldiers who fight for our country -- to come out here and just have a good time," said West wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham of Hillcrest High School in Springfield, Mo.

"Being here has just been fun for all of us. I mean, just to come out here and see what all the talent is and to see what type of player that everybody is, and to see what school that everybody commits to, and then just to come out and have a good time during the game on Saturday," said Green-Beckmam.

The Soldiers, who will escort players onto the football field Jan. 7, were honored to oblige.

"It's great getting together with these outstanding high school kids," said Sgt. 1st Class Cecil Lane, who was paired with Green-Beckham. "We all wish them the best of luck."

Page last updated Thu January 5th, 2012 at 00:00