By J.D. LeipoldDecember 12, 2011
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 13, 2011) -- The Army's 2011 Non-commissioned Officer of the Year and the top-ranked high school football player from California, both fierce competitors, shared a few moments with the Army's top-uniformed officer and the undersecretary of the Army at the Pentagon, Dec. 12.
Sgt. Guy Mellor, a cannon crew member assigned to 1st Battalion, 145th Field Artillery, Utah Army National Guard, and Shaq Thompson of Sacramento, Calif., the state's top high school football player, were in town promoting the annual Army All-American Bowl slated for Jan. 7 in San Antonio.
Similar to the NFL's Pro Bowl, the Army All-American Bowl pits the best senior high school football players from east of the Mississippi against the best from west of the great river.
Before taking a tour of the Pentagon and participating in a wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., the two visited with Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, where they talked soldiering and football.
Mellor, a six-year veteran, went up against 24 fellow noncommissioned officers in a week-long Army Best Warrior Competition earlier in the year at Fort Lee, Va., where he pushed himself physically and mentally.
Powering through a tough, rugged physical fitness test, grinding through an exam on general military topics and performing better in weapons qualifications, battle drills and warrior tasks, he finished at the top.
The challenge was nothing new to the 24-year-old, who also won the Soldier of the Year competition in 2009. His eyes are now on earning his Ranger tab at the 61-day course at Fort Benning, Ga.
Soldiering has been a tradition in the Mellor family -- his dad was a Soldier and his brother is also in the Army. He intends to make the Army a career as well "because the opportunities are endless, and if you put yourself out there, shoot for the stars, make a plan, work hard at that plan, you'll achieve success."
Having only spent a day with Thompson, he sees the same drive he has in himself.
"It's been a great experience getting to know him," Mellor said. "He's an outstanding high school athlete and he definitely has the drive to do his best -- I see that in him."
Thompson, 18, and among the six finalists for the 2012 Army Player of the Year Award, said football and position is a tradition as much as soldiering is a tradition in Mellor's family. While Thompson plays free safety, his brother, Syd'Quan, plays cornerback for the Denver Broncos and is currently rehabbing a torn Achilles tendon.
"What I love most about football is making the hit, delivering the pain," he said, adding that not many opponents hold their ground against him. "They try to run away from me."
Like his brother, Thompson wants to play professional ball, but in getting there he intends to major in sports marketing, though he's unsure of what school's scholarship he'll take. The All-American players will declare the school they intend to play for between quarters and at half-time of the bowl game.
Aside from family tradition, this Soldier and football player both agree that if at the end of the day you're not sore from training or playing, then you're just not pushing yourself hard enough.
Notable NFL players who made their national debut at the Army All-American Bowl include Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos, Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings and Mark Sanchez of the N.Y. Jets.
The Army All-American Bowl will be aired on NBC from the Alamodome in San Antonio, at 1 p.m. (CT).