During the 2009 IFAF Under-19 World Championship in Canton, Ohio, more than 10,000 fans packed Fawcett Stadium to watch Team USA defeat France, 78-0, in the opening round.
Another 12,000 saw the Americans dispose of Mexico, 55-0, in the semifinals.
Ben Gedeon was 14 years old and cheered for Team USA in person at both games.
On Tuesday night, he’ll play for Team USA while 14-year-olds cheer for him.
“I just remember how cool it was to see these guys – like (offensive lineman) Brian Winters, who played for my high school – representing their country, and I remember watching (current Ohio State linebacker) Storm Klein play and now I’m doing it,” the 6-3, 215-pound linebacker said.
Gedeon, who will graduate from Hudson High School this summer (35 miles north of Canton), was an eighth grader in 2009 and closely followed fellow Explorer Brian Winters.
Winters played for the 2009 U.S. team before commencing his college career at Kent State. The 2009 U.S. team went on to route Team Canada, 41-3, in its third and final game for the world championship’s gold medal.
Winters is projected to be a third- or fourth-round pick in this April’s NFL Draft.
“He came to our season opener this year, and I got to talk to him after the game,” Gedeon said of Winters. “He’s a hard worker – he’s a beast.”
What advice would the University of Michigan-bound Gedeon give to eighth graders in the stands at Tuesday night’s International Bowl?
“Always work hard, stay grounded, stay humble.”
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CAPTAIN CALL Team USA head coach Aaron Brady announced the squad’s captains on Saturday night during a team dinner.
Voted upon by their teammates, the U.S. captains are: quarterback Shane Cockerille (Maryland commit), offensive lineman Aubry Beal (Air Force), linebacker Cory Jasudowich (Connecticut) and defensive lineman Jacob Hyde (Kentucky). Defensive end Wyatt Teller (Virginia Tech) will serve as the team’s flag bearer during Tuesday night’s pregame introductions.
Beal, who will attend the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs this fall, is no stranger to national pride. His father, David, served the U.S. Army for 13 years. Beal was born in Germany as his family lived there while his father served overseas.
“I didn’t realize that I had made this much of an impression on these guys, so it’s a real honor to be voted a captain of a team with this high caliber of talent,” Beal said.
Beal’s coach from DeSoto (Texas) High school near Dallas, is Claude Mathis. Mathis is Team USA’s running backs coach.
“He has leadership skills,” Mathis said. “He doesn’t brag or boast. He shows his play on the football field, and he’s really fun to be around.”
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CAPTAINS CONTINUED Cory Jasudowich and Jacob Hyde both played on last summer’s U.S. Under-19 National Team in Austin, which earned a silver medal, losing to Canada in the gold medal game, 23-17.
Jasudowich is the first player to be named a Team USA captain twice, having also carried that mantle this summer.
“It is an honor to be a team captain, especially with ‘Kentucky,’” Jasudowich said, referring to Hyde, a Kentucky commit, by his nickname. “We want to win. I know what it feels like to win, and I know what it feels like to lose (referring to this summer’s loss to Canada). If we hold that trophy in the air Tuesday, it’s going to be a good feeling.”
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PROUD PARENTS Parents and family members of Team USA players have attended the team’s weekend practice sessions at Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex in Austin.
Terry Calloway, the father of defensive back Tere Calloway (Seattle Prep), who is verbally committed to Nevada, rode on three planes from Seattle to reach Austin on Saturday afternoon.
“I’m just overwhelmed, knowing how long he’s been playing – since little league football,” the elder Calloway said. “To see him on a stage like this, for a parent, it’s incredible.
“He’s just excited and happy to be here. He’s very blessed to get this opportunity. Football is what he likes to do, and USA Football’s program is awesome. It’s just an incredible program.”
Laura Kurzu, the mother of offensive lineman and Oklahoma State commit Jack Kurzu, landed in Austin on Saturday morning from St. Louis.
“(I feel) just incredible pride,” she said from the stands overlooking Team USA’s Sunday afternoon practice. “I think all of the young men out here – every single one of them – has so much talent and they’ve worked so hard to get to where they are. So, just to sit here and bask, really, in the sunshine, and watch all of this happen is really gratifying.”
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SUPER SUNDAY All the players and coaches taking part in International Bowl games this week watched the Super Bowl from an Austin Dave and Busters restaurant. The U.S. Under-19 team was decidedly pro-Baltimore Ravens, who beat the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31.
Brady, who coaches at Washington (D.C.) Gonzaga Prep, but grew up in Pennsylvania, didn’t have a rooting interest in this one. A former standout linebacker and safety at Rutgers, Brady tends to cheer more for players he knows than individual teams.
“The best Super Bowl for me was when my former college roommate, Sean O’Hara, won with the Giants over the Patriots to ruin New England’s undefeated season,” Brady said, referring to Super Bowl XLII, a 17-14 New York victory.