Saturday, January 09, 2010

All-American Idol?

I've been watching a lot of football on TV this winter, and a game today caught my attention: the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, a high school all-star game held at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Over the past ten years, the game has given a national audience to future pro stars such as Vince Young, Reggie Bush, Adrian Peterson, and Brady Quinn, and recent college satndouts such as Tim Tebow and Terrelle Pryor. In addition, it's become a tradition for many of the players to make the announcement of which college they'll attend to a national TV audience during the game, and there's another cool tradition as well: Presenting the ball used to score a touchdown to one of the soldiers in the stands. (And closer to home for me, there's also an All-American marching band that's selected for the game, and they perform at halftime.)

They divide the players into East and West squads, and since Texas falls in the West in this game, that's the team I was pulling for, and they were already in the lead by the time I turned on the game. But it was an East player who eventually caught my attention--first, for the reason that he was in the game, and second, for what he did once he got to play.

While most of the players are selected by a traditional process, the broadcast team kept mentioning one guy on the East squad who had actually been chosen to the squad by appearing on a reality show. (We've seen this before, of course; a guy named Jesse Holley won a spot in the Cowboys' training camp--and ultimately on the practice squad--after appearing on a reality show hosted by Cowboys alum Michael Irvin,) That sounded kind of unusual, and I was wondering whether or not to take this kid seriously...and then Cole Marcoux took the field.

Besides the reality show angle, Marcoux has some other interesting elements to his story: He's from a small private school in the Bronx, New York (not exactly a football hotbed), and he wasn't recruited by a Division I school, if for no other reason besides nobody knowing who he is. He's made an oral commitment to Dartmouth, but he thought that maybe a little exposure on national TV might turn some heads (and it didn't hurt that he snagged a mention in the New York Times a few days ago).

Well, Marcoux definitely turned some heads in today's game; in fact, he nearly brought the East back in a game that they trailed 14-0 before he took the field, throwing two touchdown passes in short order (the first one a 50-yarder). All in all, he was 5-of-8 for 99 yards, and his stats would have been even better if another long pass hadn't been dropped by the intended receiver. If anyone doubted his ability because of the American Idol-type manner in which he got on the team, all doubts vanished after today's performance.

So is Marcoux still headed to Dartmouth (where, like all Ivy League schools, they don't offer football scholarships), or will today propel him to a larger stage? Here's his reply:
"I would welcome interest from any D-I schools, but I am really happy with Dartmouth," Marcoux responded. "The Ivy League would be a great spot for me to be successful. But if any other schools come along and they want to recruit me, I would give them my attention, definitely."
Living here in Texas, where high school football is king, it's easy to think you've seen it all. So it was a pleasant surprise to be inspired by a player from the unlikeliest of places and in the unlikeliest of situations.

Best of luck, Cole, wherever this improbable journey may take you, and know that you have a fan here in Texas.

And the proverbial back-monkey is gone: Speaking of football, there's much joy in Cowboys Nation tonight after the 'Boys dispatched the Eagles a third time. December curse? Gone. Playoff drought? Gone. Bring on the Vikings...

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