For Graham Shuler, this is about as good as it gets.
Just four days removed from seeing his high school football career at Brentwood Academy end, Shuler was honored Tuesday afternoon with an official invitation to play in the 12th annual U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January.
“This is a truly great honor, and it ranks right there with any I’ve ever received,” Shuler, an all-state offensive/defensive lineman whose team suffered a disappointing 37-34 loss last Friday at Memphis Christian Brothers in the DII playoffs, said.
Shuler, who has committed to Stanford, received his official selection to the East-West game during a press conference at Brentwood Academy with Army representatives present.
He will play for the East team in the game to be telecast live on NBC-TV at noon (CST), Jan. 7 at the San Antonio Alamodome. There will be 90 of the top players in the country competing.
Players like Adrian Peterson, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Ndamukong Suh, Andrew Luck, Marcus Lattimore, Reggie Bush and many more launched their college and pro careers in this game.
In all, 179 players who have participated in Army All-American Bowl games eventually have been drafted by the NFL. That includes 30 pro bowl selections, five rookies of the year, two Heisman Trophy winners (Bush and Tebow) and one NFL MVP (Peterson).
“I’ll play in the offensive line, center or maybe tackle,” the mammoth 6-foot-5, 270-pound Shuler, who likely will wear the No. 78 he wore at BA, said.
“I’m ecstatic, getting an invitation like this. It’s a blessing, getting to play on such a high level with some of the best high school players in the country. One of them will be my future teammate at Stanford, Alex Carter from Virginia, a running back and defensive back.”
Shuler received his invitation three weeks ago and was informed by BA Coach Ralph Potter.
“When I first got here, the biggest guys on the team were Graham and Woody [Baron],” Potter said. “Anybody who picked on the little guys, they knew where to go, they went straight to Graham and Woody who got things straightened out.
“Graham has been a wonderful credit to our school and our team, and I’m happy for him to receive this invitation, especially coming from the U.S. Army, which keeps our country safe.”
Asked if he was disappointed he was getting to get to Stanford just after Luck (a leading Heisman Trophy candidate) leaves, Shuler laughed and said, “Yeah, I would have loved to have played with him. I’ve met Andrew, and he’s a great leader, a great person.”
Auburn is making a late push to wrest Shuler away from his commitment to Stanford. His father, Rob Shuler, played right tackle for Auburn and blocked for 1985 Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson before finishing in 1986.
“I want Graham to be his own man and play for whatever school he wants,’’ Rob Shuler said after the ceremony. “Whatever decision he makes will be great, I’ll be fine with.”
Said Graham Shuler: “I’m 100 percent committed to Stanford. If any admission or entry issues to Stanford were to arise, I might reassess, but otherwise, Stanford is where I’m going.”
First, though, he has to make a stop in Texas.