| By Myra Bean
South Panola’s Chris Strong was tired Sunday night after a week spent in San Antonio practicing and playing in the U.S. Army All American Bowl game.
Strong, 6’3", 260-pound senior linebacker, was the only Mississippian of the top 80 players chosen to make the trip.
Olive Branch quarterback Cannon Smith was originally chosen to play but due to police charges in December his name was withdrawn from the roster.
On hand at the festivities last week was top recruiting analyst Tom Lemmings and representatives of .
"Chris Strong would rank as my No. 1 linebacker in the country and that is no small statement with the amount of talent this year," Lemmings said. "He dominates just about every play, and he outruns just about every back he comes up against. A Dick Butkus type of ILB (inside linebacker), he’s been blessed with long arms which he uses to shed blockers. In addition, he is a fierce competitor and warrior."
The Scout.com report said Strong, "is extremely athletic and powerful. He also runs well and could develop into a force in the college game as an excellent pass rusher, especially if he improves his lateral quickness."
Strong registered a 40-yard dash time of 4.65 seconds.
These 80 players got to showcase their talents and atheticism before a national audience of scouts, recruiters and college coaches Saturday afternoon as the West downed the East 24-7.
Strong started and played in the defensive end position for the West team wearing No. 1. The West was quarterbacked by Jimmy Clausen, younger brother of University of Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen.
Strong’s move from linebacker to defensive end was not a hardship for him. The player who was picked to play defensive end got hurt.
"I just had to step up," Strong said. "The team needed a man who knew how to play the position."
Strong said these teams of All-Star players were bigger and faster than teams he has played for and faced the last four years.
Strong’s day started with a 6:30 a.m. wakeup call, followed by breakfast, community service with less fortunate children, two practices a day and meetings until 9 p.m. They had two hours of free time before the 11 p.m. curfew.
Chris’ mother, Brenda, along with South Panola head coach Ricky and Susan Woods and assistant coach Lucian King, were on hand to watch him perform in the game.
Brenda Strong had a good time, according to her son, as she got to walk along the Riverwalk and explore San Antonio. Chris said it was nice in San Antonio and he would like to go back and visit.
Though it was nice, Strong said he has not changed his mind about attending and playing football for Ole Miss.
Strong did not meet any college coaches but he did meet some famous people including former NFL star Deion Sanders, Jacksonville Jaguar quarterback Byron Leftwich and the real Coach Boone from "Remember the Titans."
Players will sign National Letters of Intent to play collegiate football beginning February 7 in which Strong will make it official he will play football for Ole Miss.