COVINGTON -- Former Covington resident Sgt. John Evans went from the battlefields of the Iraq War to the battlefield of the gridiron as a soldier-hero for the 12th presentation of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, which will be played on Saturday.
Even though the soldiers and the players they are mentoring are kept busy, the two groups have been getting together taking a break from their scheduled routines.
"(Wednesday) evening we did a push-up and sit-up competition and an eating competition. It was quite interesting to get these student-athletes and soldiers up there going head-to head seeing who could do more push-ups," Evans said. "I'm sure I got whooped by two of them. I held my own but I still got whooped by these kids half my age."
Evans, who is one of approximately 55 other soldier-heros representing the U.S. Army at the game, had to go through a gruelling process before making the final group. Along with 24 other candidates in his brigade, Evans had to go through a series of interviews. However, the first prerequisite before making the cut was that he had to have earned the Army Commendation Medal with Valor.
While in the Sauder City conflict in 2008, Evans, who was a heavy machine gunner for Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 6th infantry regiment, was injured and that ultimately was how he was nominated to represent his unit and the military.
Aside from eating and enjoying bouts of competitions with the student-athletes, Evans and the other soldier-heroes are there to encourage the players for what happens after the game. While many of the players have committed to play college football, there are many that are still deciding what to do and if military life may be a good alternative.
"I'm always extremely excited and proud to give back to the military," Evans said. "The military has done so much for me, including helping me get my daughter. I jumped on the opportunity to give back."
Some Georgia players include Tyren Jones and Brandon Kublanow of Walton High School, Tray Matthews of Newnan High School, Johnathon McCrary of Cedar Grove High School, Johnny O'Neal of West Laurens High School and Demarcus Robinson of Peach County High School.
The soldier-heroes will be on the sideline during the game making noise and keeping the players motivated. But prior to kickoff, Evans and the others will be parading on the field as other soldiers repel from the ceiling of the 300-foot Alamodome in San Antonio.
"It'll be an interesting spectacle," Evans said. "The game will be aired at 1 p.m. on NBC. It should be a pretty good event to see. It has the best high school players across the nation. It'll be a pretty impressive game to watch."