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January 3, 2012
SAN ANTONIO - It was just 15 minutes into the first East practice at the U.S Army All-American Bowl before Jackson (Tenn.) Jackson Christian receiver Drae Bowles did something on the football field he had never done before.
He worked on the punt coverage team.
"I don't think I have ever been on coverage before in my life," the four-star player said with a laugh. "I guess it is an opportunity to learn?"
Indeed. Welcome to the All-American Bowl, where every player is a star - so every player is treated the same.
Head coach Robert Wiener wasted little time installing special teams, doing so at the first practice of the week. The groups covered a few punts and got to work on a fake to the surprise of the returners.
Bowles was glad to be involved.
"It gave me an opportunity to get on the field," he said. "Coach asked if I ever had done it before and I told him, 'No.'"
Bowles lined up on the end of the line and didn't really know what his actual responsibilities were.
"They told me to hold my block for a couple seconds than run down field and cover the punt," he said. "So that is what I will do."
Fellow East teammate Elijah Shumate was more excited about the chance to play special teams.
The No. 128 player in the Rivals250 volunteered for his job as the gunner.
"The coaches asked if anyone had played special teams," he said. "And I raised my hand."
Shumate told the coaches that he was a gunner in his junior season at Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco and that he liked it.
Neither player viewed their spot on special teams as a demotion. In fact, both said it help them achieve their biggest goal to just play.
"I just want to be out on the field," Shumate said. "I didn't come here to stand around. I want to be out there on every play. I am going to volunteer for every position they will let me play."
Bowles thought it may help him when he heads to Tennessee next year.
"Maybe I will need this stuff in the future," he said. "If it can get me on the field at the next level, that would be good."
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