Prince George's County public high school football coaches will hold their inaugural all-star football game for high school seniors on Dec. 4, but the coaches and players admit the first game is of secondary importance that day.
The game is scheduled to kick off at 4 p.m. at Friendly High School. In the morning, the Ebeneezer AME Church in Allentown will host the 10th annual Pigskin Jamboree. Every senior football player in the area has been invited to the jamboree to discuss his future, both on and off the field, with athletic, academic and financial representatives from 67 colleges from across the country.
"This is so much bigger than any football game," said Parkdale Coach Bob Johnson, who is president of the county's football coaches' association and will coach the North All-Stars in the game. Oxon Hill's Cliff Haskins will coach the South All-Stars.
"Our emphasis is to get kids into college," Johnson said. "It doesn't matter which one. This jamboree is an avenue we have created to give players an opportunity to meet with colleges and discuss their futures."
The coaches suggest each player bring a personal highlight tape, a transcript and parents. Between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. each of the 67 colleges will have a financial aid representative, an academic adviser and a member of the football coaching staff on hand to answer questions about life after high school football.
"It means a lot to me as a senior to be selected to play in the first-ever all-star game, but it means even more to have this opportunity to take my parents and meet college representatives," Parkdale defensive tackle Ugbong Ugbong said. "My goal is to get a college scholarship this weekend."
Among the bigger Division I programs that will be represented are Nebraska, Colorado, North Carolina, Maryland and Marshall, with representatives from local schools such as Howard, Bowie State, Towson, Salisbury State and James Madison also attending.
"The purpose of the jamboree has always been to build a bridge of communication between the high school senior and college recruiters," said Andrew Edwards, the event's founder and coordinator. "A lot of these kids think they can't go to college, but they can. We are giving them a chance to introduce themselves."
Said Johnson: "The level of talent in Prince George's County is tremendous, and this is just a way to showcase and market the talent we have here. But having our all-star game in conjunction with the jamboree is a great way to give our kids exposure and to promote our county's football to colleges across the country."
Edwards's son, Ronald, used the first jamboree to lay the groundwork for a scholarship to North Carolina A&T. The 1989 Crossland graduate went on to a three-year NFL career; he also will speak to jamboree participants.
"An opportunity like this is invaluable for me," said Parkdale running back Jason Crawford, who was selected to the North squad after rushing for 1,310 yards and 14 touchdowns for the 6-4 Panthers. "I'm disappointed that we didn't make the playoffs, but being selected to play in the first-ever all-star game and getting to go to the jamboree is a great way for me to end my high school football career."