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January 3, 2002

All-America Bowl Notebook

Army logo blackWhat college coach wouldn't have given his right arm to be a fly on the wall at Wednesday's U.S. Army All-America Bowl Media Day? Throughout the entire two-hour session that included interviews, speakers and loud cheers from both the East and West squad, and under all of that background noise a hum of recruiting talk could be heard from the players.

Comments like - "man they suck" or "why would you want to go there" and "you would be perfect over here" were heard time after time. But that's what happens when you get 74 of the nation's most elite players on hand in one room.

"There's some recruiting going on," said East offensive lineman and Tennessee commitment Heath Benedict. "No, question at all. I'm trying to get (Jim) Unis to take a visit to Tennessee. I think I'm going to wear him down and get him to come by the time we're done here. We've also got Rob Smith and Gerald Riggs working on him, too."

Unis - a Boston College pledge - laughed at that.

"They're working it," Unis said. "Everybody is. Will (Blackmon) and I are working on the others to get them to come to Boston College with us. It's just a neat thing to get to hear everybody talk about how great the schools are.

"But we all know that Boston College is the best."

To that comment, Benedict laughed.

"We'll see what he does when we lock him up in a room with all of us Tennessee guys," he said.

UNIS BEAST OF THE EAST
Ask the East offensive linemen who the best player on the East defense is and you'll get the same answer - Unis of Gloucester, Mass.

"He's nasty," said several of the East linemen. "He almost poked one of our guy's eye in practice. We can't wait to see him in the game. Those West guys don't have a clue what they're up against."

East offensive lineman Shadu Moore also echoed his teammates' view.

"My toughest opponent so far has been Jonathan Lewis because he just so strong he gets you off balance easy," Moore said. "But all the other guys are talking about Unis and how he's just awesome. He's either too quick for everyone or just outworks them."

Unis said all of the talk about him being the best on the East is flattering, but not surprising.

"People just think that guys from Massachusetts can't play football," Unis said. "They say it's a basketball state, or that I'm over-rated. I just go out there on the field and make sure that good things happen.

"I think the game on Saturday will be a good time to send a message that we do play big-time football up here in the Northeast. Us boys from the Northeast know what it takes to get it done."

Even if it means taking an eye out.

SAY MY NAME…
Marvin Byrdsong of Longview, Texas, is a bit miffed. Instead of having his jersey in perfect condition like the other players at the U.S. Army All-America Bowl in San Antonio, a mistake has put a sour taste in his mouth.

"They got my jersey screwed up," Byrdsong, the standout linebacker from Longview, Texas, said at he turned around.

"Look at it. It says B-I-R-D-S-O-N-G. We all know how it's spelled. That makes me mad. I'm going to have to hit somebody out there and tell them how it's really spelled."

Other than the messed up jersey, Byrdsong said he's having a good time in San Antonio.

"This is a once and a lifetime experience," he said. "Half of these guys will be in the NFL someday, and it's neat to see where you stack up."

Byrdsong said he's been nothing but impressed by the defensive standouts that are on the West team.

"Even the guys from California like (Lorenzo)Booker and (Eric) McNeal are good," Byrdsong said. "I've heard a lot of things about Rod (Wright) and Aaron (Harris) and they look great in practice."

BUSTER DONE IT?
The rumor flying around the East squad's hotel is that Daytona (Fla.) Mainland linebacker Buster Davis has committed to Ohio State. Davis on Wednesday said that's not necessarily true - yet.

"I haven't committed yet," Davis said. "But I'm sitting on Ohio State. They're my team. I just love everything about them - the football, the academics, the coaches and the players. I'm still going to take my visits, but Ohio State is my team."

Davis was another one of the players that the East offensive players highlighted as looking good in practice.

"I really am only 5-foot-11," Davis said. "But I think I have the intangibles. I bring other things to the table that the other guy might not have. I have the speed, ability to get to the football. I also have sprit. I'm going to fight until the game is over."

He's also known as the top comedian at the event.

"I've got a pretty good routine," Davis said. "The other guys were up there singing and doing their thing. I just got up on the stage and cracked everybody up."

BEEFEATER
You can now officially call Justin Blalock St. Sirloin. That's the new nickname the West offensive lineman and Texas commitment earned on Tuesday night when he won the steak-eating contest. Blalock downed five 16-ounce steaks in less than 30 minutes.

He also helped the West squad win the team competition as he and three other teammates ate 30 steaks compared to 29 for the East.

RIGGS DONE WITH TRIPS?
The Vol Nation has been sitting on the edge of their seats wondering if five-star running back commitment Gerald Riggs was indeed going to take other visits. Well, straight from Riggs.

"I'm going to visit Knoxville on Jan. 11," Riggs said. "I'm still very committed to Tennessee, but I don't know about the other visits or not. I think a lot of the teams backed away from me when they found out that I was committed so early. I don't get too many calls from the other teams anymore.

"That's Ok. I'm set on Tennessee pretty much. I just want to take my visit and check it out again. I loved every minute of the big win against Michigan. That's the type of offense that I like to see."

So can we expect a similar showing on Saturday against the West?

"Mark it down," Riggs said. "We're coming to play."

When asked who he thought was the best player at the game, Riggs answered with a player that wasn't nominated by anybody else - A.J. Davis out of North Carolina.

"That's the fastest man in this room," Riggs said. "There is nobody that can even touch him, and there are some fast guys here."

DID YOU KNOW?
J.R. Zwierzynski's favorite TV show is Friends… Vince Young's nickname is Fat Man… Tyler Littlehales favorite workout routine is running on high altitude mountain trails… Kai Parham's favorite NFL player is LaVar Arrington… Cyrus Garrett's nickname is Tha Virus… Maurice Stovall's favorite move is "The Goonies."


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