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December 31, 2002It's a Texas tradition. For the past two years, many of the top prospects in the nation have made the trip to Texas for the U.S. Army All-America Bowl. The third edition of the game is set for 6 p.m. cst on Sunday at the Alamo Dome in San Antonio and Rivals100.com will have full coverage of the game, events and practices leading up to the broadcast on ESPN2.
But let's take a trip down memory lane and look back at the first two games and then take a peak at some of the showstoppers that'll be there this year.
The first game was in 2000 and was played at Highland Park in Dallas. The game, which was broadcast on Fox Sports Net, featured many players that are household names now.
Rivals100 had Kevin Jones ranked as the nation's No. 1 player and for many that blustery Saturday afternoon was the first time that fans got a chance to see KJ in action, and he didn't disappoint.
Jones showed his speed and running ability by barreling over, around and through defenders. It was clear by seeing him that he was going to be a star at Virginia Tech, and he is.
The game's most valuable player award went to Dominic Robinson, who is now at Florida State. Prime Time 2, a nickname that he gave himself, intercepted a Brett Basanez (Northwestern) pass and returned it 90 yards, along with two pass break ups and four tackles.
Miami bound Leon Williams was named the game's defensive most valuable player, along with earning rave reviews from the other players as the most physically put together player on the field. The game's offensive MVP was Brent Rawls, who is now a backup quarterback at Oklahoma.
But the game was not all cheers and high fives. That's because one of Rivals100.com's favorites from 2001 blew his ACL out in the game. Remember when Kevin Simon of Concord (Calif.) De La Salle got on the field for only a few plays and then limped to the sideline with a blown out knee.
It was just a sign of more bad news for the Tennessee bound linebacker. Earlier this season when he had the starting job to himself at Tennessee, he suffered another season-ending injury.
The first game also featured what probably should have been known as the LSU possie. The West roster was littered with LSU commitments - including offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth and receiver Michael Clayton.
Through their recruiting abilities, they helped convince offensive lineman Ben Wilkerson and defensive tackle Marquise Hill to join them on the Tiger commitment list.
The 2002 game was highlighted by two future stars at Florida State and Texas.
The nation's No. 1 player in 2002 - Vince Young (right) of Houston Madison - sparked the West squad from his quarterback spot with amazing passing and running ability, showing why they people at Texas are expecting big things from him in the future.
For his efforts in the game, Young was named the MVP and he was clearly what everybody talked about before, during and then after the game.
He's going to be fun to watch in college.
Teaming up with Young was running back and future FSU star Lorenzo Booker. The nation's top running back for 2002, scored two touchdowns and rushed for 66 yards on 12 carries.
On the defensive side of the ball there was no question what player stood out the most. Oregon bound Haloti Ngata of Salt Lake City was impossible to block, recording seven tackles and a forced fumble.
The game also helped introduce the nation to T.A. McClendon, the touchdown machine that rivaled Maurice Clarrett as the nation's top running back as a true freshman.
To get a glimpse of some the stars from 2002's game, check out this Rivals100 photo gallery.
Now it's back to the present and the 2003 edition of the game.
The event on Sunday will feature 39 of the current Rivals100 and for the first time in the three years of the game the East looks to have more firepower with 20 top 100 players on its roster, compared to 19 on the West.
But then again, maybe the East doesn't after all.
After digging deeper, you'll discover that three of the nation's top five players - athlete Steve Smith of Woodland Hills, Calif., athlete Whitney Lewis of Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonavnture and quarterback Kyle Wright of Danville, Calif. - are on the West roster.
The East's top dogs are receiver Andre Caldwell of Tampa Jefferson and defensive back Prescott Burgess of Warren, Ohio.
The West will also have the services of the top player in Texas - tight end Tony Hills of Alief Elsik - and the East will counter the top player in New Jersey - Greg Olsen of Wayne Hills, N.J.
All in all, only two of the nation's top 10 players will not be playing in the All-America Bowl, which means once again there should be plenty of fireworks on Sunday.
Besides, it's a Texas tradition.