The opportunity to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl has been something Red Bank Regional High School senior defensive end Garrett Sickels has dreamt of since he was 11 years old.
On Jan. 5 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, that dream will come true. Sickels officially received his invitation to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Friday during a cermony at Red Bank Regional.
Sickels said his goal of playing in the game for the East squad, which plays against the West, began when he was 11.
“When I first watched the game, I saw how awesome it would be to have this opportunity to represent the East,” Sickels said. “I told my mom and my dad, and at the same time I told them I was going to go to college for free. I said, ‘I’m going to be a high school All-American. I don’t know which one, but I’m going to do it.’ “
Sickels, who has made a non-binding verbal commitment to Penn State, will be the second Shore Conference player to play in the game in the last three seasons. Long Branch’s Miles Shuler, now a sophomore wide receiver at Rutgers, played in the 2011 game and scored on a 22-yard pass.
“He (Shuler) definitely set the bar high,” Sickels said.
Among the other players to play in the game in recent years are Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and Jets quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow. The game, which has been played annually since 2001, will be televised live at 1 p.m. on NBC. Ninety players are selected to participate in the game.
“I remember when I got the (invitation) letter just seeing how everything paid off and that I had done it,” said Sickels, still referring to his dream when he was 11. “Now, I’ve got to keep going forward, keep moving on and keep going after college. I’m very excited for this opportunity.”
During the ceremony, Sickels thanked his parents, his coaches and his teammates. He first asked his teammates to stand up during his speech.
“It is a tremendous honor for himself, his school and his teammates,” Red Bank coach Nick Giglio said. “We’re very proud of him. I know he’s going to represent his school, his team and his community extremely well.”
The game will give the 6-foot-5, 245-poumd Sickels an opportunity to spend time and be on the same team with his good friend and future college teammate Brendan Mahon, an offensive lineman from Randolph. It will also give him an opportunity to see how he stacks against fellow highly rated collegiate recruits.
“I think it’s the midpoint between my last game of my senior year and going into college,” Sickels said. “I think it’s at the point of closure to high school and the beginning of the next chapter. I look forward to playing my very best.”