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Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl Features Metro Atlanta High School Players

by Ben Ennis

Playing The Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl in Atlanta has been a great opportunity for former Atlanta Metro and Georgia regional high school players to return and showcase their talent and growth as athletes in the premiere post season HBCU Bowl game.  This year a total of 11 players from Georgia participated in the bowl with North Carolina A&T carrying eight players on their roster and Alcorn State with three players.  When asked about the football talent in the Atlanta metro, Head Football Coach Sam Washington said he wishes he could have more football players from this area.  “Its so many football players around here it’s crazy,” Washington said.  “I wish we could get a few more but we have been successful getting two or three per year and we hope to continue to do so.”  

When speaking of success, Georgia players on the Aggies team are primarily on the defensive side of the ball with three starters.  Washington  feels that the Aggies have a good defense because they recruit their athletes for a vertical style defense that’s athletic, can change direction and run to the football.  At the conclusion of this year’s bowl, Nose Guard Julian McKnight from Conyers, GA. had three solo tackles and assisted on five tackles.  Defensive End Darryl Johnson, Kingsland, GA. had two solo tackles and one assisted tackle.  Strong Outside Linebacker Antoine Wilder, Riverdale, GA. had three solo tackles and two assisted tackles.  McKnight and Johnson were participants in the first inaugural Air Force Celebration Bowl which is reflective of how Coach Washington feels that the program should bring in young players and grow them through the Aggies’ football program.   Washington said, “Player development is crucial.  If you look at our roster, we have very few transfer as compared to others, we believe in bringing them in as freshmen and keeping them four or five years.”

Alcorn State had three Georgia players on this year’s roster.  The Braves star running De’Shawn Waller is an Atlanta native who was named the SWAC Newcomer of the Year, rushed for 1,048 yards and 12 touchdowns during the regular season and and 177 yards and three touchdowns in the SWAC Championship.  And Waller proved the hype about him was real as he led all players in rushing yards carrying for 167 yards on 19 attempts and broke off one run for 54 yards when the final stats were tallied at this year’s bowl.  When Waller was asked about playing in his hometown, he said, “Being home either if I won or lost, I had my family on my side. At the end of the day I know I made my mom and dad proud no matter what I did on the field.”    Waller’s teammates from Georgia defensive tackle Darrian Meminger, Sparta, GA. had one solo tackle and  linebacker Mikael Webb had one assisted tackle during the game.

When Coach Washington was asked about what it means to participate in a national televised game for the recruiting process, his response was, “Whenever you win on a national stage like this, it only help increase interest from young kids coming your direction.  We are hoping that this opportunity and platform will increase our recruiting efforts.  A summary of Georgia high school players indicate the recruiting  efforts has been steady to date.

2015NC A&T8Alcorn State210
2016NC Central6Grambling1016
2017NC A&T6Grambling915
2018NC A&T8alcorn state311

Photos by Ben Ennis