As the players representing the AFC and NFC at this year's Pro Bowl leave the field at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., after their final practice session Saturday, 90 players who aspire to be among a future generation of NFL all-stars will take the field.
USA Football's "Team USA vs. The World" game, presented by Riddell, will showcase some of the best players aged 19 and under from nine countries at noon ET on Saturday, Jan. 30. The first game of its kind will be broadcast live and exclusively on NFL Network. Providing game commentary will be Rich Eisen, Deion Sanders and Scott Kennedy, and sideline reporter Stacey Dales will contribute on-field insight.
Team USA is made up of some of the nation's most highly recruited high school seniors who have committed to college football powerhouses, including current BCS national champion Alabama, Florida, LSU, Texas and Miami. In opposition is a roster drawn from four continents that includes an indigenous Australian, a German being hotly pursued by top U.S colleges, an American Samoan whose brother starts in the NFL and some of Canada's top university talent.
The game will provide football fans with a unique spectacle, a sneak preview of college football's incoming freshmen and a rare opportunity to cast an eye over international American football talent from outside the United States' borders.
There are NFL family connections on both teams. Team USA running back Jakhari Gore enjoyed a standout three-year career at Miami Central High School, rushing for more than 3,000 yards and 35 touchdown. He hopes to emulate his cousin, San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore, who also will be in Fort Lauderdale as a member of the NFC Pro Bowl squad. Frank Gore rushed for 1,120 yards and 10 touchdowns in 14 games for the 49ers this season.
World defensive lineman Aiulua Fanene was among the players featured by CBS' "60 Minutes," which reported on the growing number of American Samoans playing in the NFL. His brother, Jonathan Fanene, started 10 games on the defensive line of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009 and also attended Tafuna High School, where Aiulua was named Co-Offensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-Star in 2009.
Miami Christopher Columbus High School head coach Chris Merritt will lead the Team USA challenge, having been a member of his nation's coaching staff that won a gold medal at the first-ever International Federation of American Football (IFAF) Junior World Championship in 2009. The World team is in the hands of Swedish coach Jan Jenmert and a staff drawn from Australia, Canada, Japan, France, Mexico and Oceania.
"These young men were hand-selected to represent our country as elite athletes and exceptional ambassadors," Merritt said. "They have garnered dozens of individual honors at their respective high schools, but those won't help us on Jan. 30. We will prepare diligently for a very talented World team. I look forward to putting our preparation into action at Lockhart Stadium at the end of this month."
Among the likely stars of the World team is Vanier College quarterback Jeremi Doyon-Roch, who completed 33 of 56 passes for 423 yards and four touchdowns in three games as Canada's starter at the IFAF Junior World Championship.
"It is a great honor to be part of this elite team and event, which will showcase some of the best players in the world," Doyon-Roch said. "It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will make good use of, and I know it should be a fast and high-intensity game."