As diverse as the country it represents, the U. S. Under-19 National Team is comprised of 10 college football conferences.
Of those, nine of the 45 players who comprise the U.S. Under-19 National Team – 20 percent of the roster – will accept scholarships from Big Ten universities during Wednesday’s USA Football National Signing Day Breakfast in Austin, Texas.
USA Football board member and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany is smiling somewhere.
Team USA will face an IFAF World Team Tuesday at 8 p.m. CT (9 p.m. ET) at the 2013 International Bowl in Austin, Texas.
Future Big Ten athletes who will wear a Team USA uniform in Tuesday’s International Bowl: linebacker Ben Gedeon (Michigan), offensive lineman Colin Goebel (Iowa), tight end Khalid Hill (Michigan), defensive lineman Paul James (Illinois), cornerback Jourdan Lewis (Michigan), offensive lineman Matthew Miller (Wisconsin), offensive tackle Donovan Munger (Ohio State), running back Terrell Newby (Nebraska) and wide receiver Derrick Willies (Iowa).
“We’re becoming very close in a short time,” Illinois-bound Paul James of Miami Norland High School said. “There’s a lot of competition in the Big Ten. It’s physical. Soon we’ll be rivals, but this (playing for Team USA) is all about friendship and being one team.”
“It’s been fun playing together,” said Miller, a future Iowa Hawkeye. “We respect each other and our programs, which everyone in the Big Ten does. We’ll be rivals later – they’ll be plenty of time for that.”
Munger, a soon-to-sign Buckeye from Shaker Heights, Ohio, and Wolverine commit Gedeon of Hudson, Ohio, live 19 miles apart. The Cleveland-area residents will soon take part in one of college football’s greatest rivalries.
“I am going to try and talk him into being a Buckeye before Wednesday,” Munger said with a laugh. “In all seriousness, he made a decision on what he feels will make him most successful, but I think he could be a Buckeye.”
Responded Gedeon: “The two of us are not only representing the USA but Northeast Ohio. I think we are getting it done pretty well.”
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COOL POOL Between Friday’s two Team USA practices, most players took advantage of some down time by walking in the outdoor swimming pool at the team’s hotel. With overnight lows in the upper 30s to low 40s, the brisk water temperature was ideal for its therapeutic purpose.
“The benefit is that it helps freshen up the legs,” said Team USA head trainer Dave Weikel of Indianapolis-based St. Vincent Sports Performance. “The cold water helps get the lactic acid worked out a little bit and allows guys to go through some motion without carrying as much weight and stress on their body. Cold tubs are not fun, but they’re very effective.”
“It was very cold,” James said. “I’m from Miami and am not used to that, but my legs feel a lot fresher – it got me ready for our next practice.”
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NATIONAL TEAM TREE Two members of Team USA played high school football for coaches who led USA Football’s first U.S. Under-19 National Team, which earned the gold medal at the 2009 IFAF Under-19 World Championship in Canton, Ohio.
Offensive lineman Jake Campos played for Gary Swenson at West Des Moines (Iowa) Valley High School, and running back Terrell Newby played for Ed Croson at West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade High School. Swenson was Team USA’s offensive coordinator four years ago while Croson was an offensive line coach.
“Coach Swenson has had a huge role in my development as a player,” said the 6-7,250-pound Campos, who will accept a scholarship from Iowa State on Wednesday. “He’s a great coach and offensive coordinator overall. The plays he chooses, somehow, he’ll call it and you may think, ‘That’s not going to work,’ and we run it and no matter what, it’s usually the right play call.”
“Coach Croson knows a lot about football, I respect him,” the Nebraska-bound Newby said. “He’s a real good dude. He cares about his kids. He is a heck of a guy.
“It wouldn’t surprise anyone that he coached Team USA.”
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LINEMAN CHALLENGE At the conclusion of Team USA’s sixth practice in three days Saturday, head coach Aaron Brady injected some levity by summoning three offensive lineman and three defensive linemen to run 30-yard fly patterns with offensive line coach Joe Dale Cary serving as quarterback.
Whichever group caught the most passes would be spared from doing 25 pushups.
After all six caught their pass, a one-on-one showdown was called to determine a winning side. Brady had 285-pound offensive lineman Octavious Jackson play receiver and 310-pound defensive lineman Ben Hughes play cornerback.
Cary’s pass, lofted high and far, was batted away at the last moment by Hughes, forcing Team USA’s offense to get down and give Brady 25.
Hughes stated the following when asked what he was thinking when Cary’s pass was floating downward: “I’m about to smack this ball out of the dang air!” he said. “I already knew it was going to happen.”