For most of the players, Friday's annual Interhigh East-West All-Star Game at RFK Stadium will serve as an opportunity to play in front of family and friends before beginning their college football careers. It also will be a chance to fulfill boyhood dreams of playing on the same field as the Washington Redskins.
But for Howard Harris, the game means much more. It means a chance to impress some recruiter/coach that he has the ability to play college ball.
Harris, a 5-foot-7, 160-pound linebacker from Spingarn High School who will be playing for the East squad, has not received a scolarship offer. Despite his lack of size, Harris led the Green Wave with 125 tackles last season and was selected all-Interhigh East. The task of proving himself is nothing new to Harris.
"My first year as a freshman on the jayvee team at Spingarn, I was only 5-4 and weighed 120 pounds," said Harris. "Everybody told me I was too small to play. But I used their doubts to motivate myself. I made the team and I played a lot.
"The next year I grew an inch and picked up five pounds, so they moved me to center. Guys I played against would line up in front of me and laugh when they saw how small I was. But once I took it to them a couple of times, they wiped the smile from their face."
Spingarn Coach Kenneth Howell was one of the doubters.
"At first I had some reservations about whether or not Howard could handle high school football at his size," recalled Howell. "But he was so aggressive and he hit so hard that he made an impression on me. He's got heart and size doesn't mean anything to him."
"I think I began to realize the importance of college in my 11th grade year," Harris said. "Understanding my family's financial situation made me put more time into sharpening my athletic abilities on the football field because I knew my parents couldn't afford to send me. So I figured the best way to get there was to earn a football scholarship.
"I know that at my size I can't play linebacker in college. But I really think that I can play safety or cornerback."
In the past, several players made such impressive showings in the all-star game that they were signed to scholarships.
"I remember coming to the games when I was younger and seeing players who were not that well-known outplaying some of the all-Met players. Then I remember reading in the paper that this player or that player was signed after the game. That's why this game means so much to me," Harris said.
"Some of those players who have already signed don't really have anything to prove. They have the size, ability and recognition. They won't be as hungry as me."
And what will happen if no one thinks Harris is worth a scholarship? What are his options?
"I think I'll enroll at UDC and try out as a walk-on," he answered. "If that doesn't work out, I may just go into the service and get some kind of trade. But I'm not thinking about that right now. I really feel that someone is going to overlook my size and give me a chance to play college ball."