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January 5, 2012
SAN ANTONIO - After two heavy days of practice to start the week, the players at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl were treated to an off day on Wednesday. Though they did not have to go through workouts, there were still several events lined up for them.
In the afternoon, the players were able to meet with several wounded veterans and Wednesday evening brought the Player Hero Challenge.
Each member of the roster was paired up with a member of the United States Army and they had a chance to get to know each other throughout the evening. It gave the players some insight into the sacrifices the service men and women go through each and every day.
While the players and soldiers enjoyed getting to know each other it was obvious that both enjoyed the next portion of the evening even more.
Two players from each team were paired up with two soldiers to compete in a contest to see who could the do the most sit-ups and push-ups in one minute.
The West took an early lead in the sit-up competition when Durron Neal completed 44 reps while Tracy Howard only managed 36. The next two up bested their earlier counterparts though. Brian Kimbrow did an amazing 46 while Ishmael Adams did 52 to give the West a 202-185 victory.
In fact, Adams was able to do more sit-ups than two of the four soldiers competing in the event. He attributes to a strict workout regimen.
"I just happen to work on my core a lot," Adams said. "My uncle really ingrains that in me. Your core helps everything - your speed and everything. I think this shows that I actually do work on everything.
"My abs and my thighs are just killing me right now. I got banged on my head a few times with me and another player bumping heads. I'm glad that they do it the way they do and it was fun."
After falling behind on the first leg of the push-up race when Travis Blanks did 44 while Dominique Wheeler managed only 37, the West roared back thanks to an incredible 54 by LaDarrell McNeil in the second leg. Big linebacker Keith Brown was not far behind with 51 for the East but the soldiers for the West helped seal the victory.
Heading into the eating relay the West held a 4-0 lead in the race for the "Ugly Pig" trophy. However, the eight-man race was worth five points and thus decided the ultimate victor on the evening.
With linemen from both teams devouring hot dogs and chicken wings in record time it came down to the anchor spots. In the end Graham Shuler was able to down his hot dog just in time to give the East the victory.
"It was a lot of pressure," Shuler said of being in the final position. "I was looking down the line earlier begging Chris Muller to come do it for me because I know he can probably eat more than I can. They told me to stay with it and I did and we got it done."
The organizers of the event pointed out to both teams prior to the contest that the winner of the Ugly Pig award has gone on to also win the game more times than not.
"It was the Ugly Pig so we won the Ugly Pig Award which was a big honor for us I guess, as long as we beat the West," Shuler said.
"People have been talking all week so it's one of those where we can do it for fun out here. It's a great environment."
Adams is not ready to anoint the East as winners of the game though. In fact he does not even understand how they were able to win the award.
"We won two things out of three, so I'm satisfied with what we did," he said. "I'm confused on why they get the big prize when we most of the things but it's fine with me. It's all fun and games.
"As far as playing we won both of the athletic competitions. If we're eating on the field then I guess they are going win but, other than that, it looks like we're going to take this one."