Battlefields and Ball Fields

When high school football players from around the country compete in San Antonio’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl tomorrow they will be encouraged by coaches, parents and friends. They will also be encouraged by a soldier from the U.S. Army.

“We just link up with them,” said Master Sgt. Carlos Valarezo. “They like to hear our story.”

Valarezo is from the Pensacola area. In his own high school days, he played football for Tate.

This week, Valarezo has been paired up with a defensive lineman from Clarksville, NJ. The two swap war stories—from the battlefield and the ball field—leading up to the Saturday game at the Alamodome.

“He’ll ask me about life in the military, a majority of the time about combat—‘how’s this, how’s that?’” Valarezo said. “[We] keep it open, whatever he wants to talk about—I tell my little story, what path I took.”

A big part of the pre-bowl game relationship is encouragement.

“Bottom line: stay strong, never quit,” Valarezo said.

Prior to the big game, the soldier plans to arm his high school buddy with words of wisdom. Then he’ll take his place in the stands to enjoy the game.

“I feel like I should be suiting up,” the soldier laughed. “But my time has passed.”

Beyond the Army Bowl game, the soldier-mentors also offer their high school players some long-range advice.

“If ball doesn’t cut it for them, any military—especially army—will be there for him,” Valarezo explained.

The U.S. Army All American Bowl will be played tomorrow, Jan. 5, at noon. The game will be broadcast on NBC.