CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Even before Chad Voytik enters his first day as a student at the University of Pittsburgh in the fall, he has already joined an exclusive fraternity.
Representatives of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl were at Cleveland High School Wednesday afternoon to present the senior quarterback with his No. 12 jersey that he will wear in San Antonio, Texas on January 7. Voytik, 6-foot and 200 pounds and ranked as the Rivals' No. 13 quarterback nationally, is the all-time leading passer in terms of yardage in Cleveland history, with over 5,000 yards.
"Chad is a talented athlete whose leadership and teamwork qualities have made him standout at Cleveland High School," John Myers, Director of Strategic Communications, Marketing and Outreach, U.S. Army Accessions Command in a press release. "Only the strongest wear the Army colors, and Chad possesses similar mental, emotional and physical strengths to Army Strong Soldiers. We are proud to honor all of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl players and congratulate each of them on their selection."
Voytik is one of five players from the state of Tennessee that was chosen for the game, joining receiver Drae Bowles from Jackson Christian, running backs Brian Kimbrow of Memphis East and Jovon Robinson of Wooddale and lineman Graham Shuler of Brentwood Academy.
"It's cool that we have so many from Tennessee," Voytik said. "We're not really known as a big football state, so to have that number is something special that we can remember."
Marissa McPhail, one of the three selection tour representatives on hand for Wednesday's ceremony, said that a lot of factors go into the decision of who is chosen for the game.
"I would say that about 70 percent of the process is determined based on performance on the field," McPhail said. "All of the players we choose have impeccable character and are excited to be a part of this game.
"It's huge for an athlete to be selected."
The committee leans heavily on the Rivals recruiting service -- one of the game's sponsors -- as far as determining who plays in the game.
"If top-notch colleges want an athlete, we want them in the game," McPhail joked.
Only 90 players from across the country are selected. Regional representatives travel from October until December. McPhail, who is from California, joined the Southeastern tour when her previous tour in the Midwest ended early. She noted that in addition to the player selection, 125 band members are chosen that will perform at halftime of the game in the Alamodome.
"The biggest part of the process is the player's character on and off the field," McPhail said. "The Army is our title sponsor. They uphold high standards, and that carries over to the selections for the game. We want players that are active in their community and who excel in academics and character."
For more than 11 years, the Army All-American Bowl has been the nation's premier high school football game, serving as the preeminent launching pad for America's future college and NFL stars. Adrian Peterson, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Lattimore and Andrew Luck all made their national debuts as U.S. Army All-Americans in the nationally-televised contest. Last year's game drew a crowd of 37,893 and was the most-watched sporting event on television over the weekend, excluding the NFL playoffs.
"I'm just honored to be able to celebrate this and give something back to those that are giving their lives for our country," Voytik said. "It's taken a lot of constant preparation to be at the top of my game, and this is a chance to show it off. It's why I went to the camps I went to -- you have to put in the work and this is a small reward."