This report originally published at defense.gov.
SAN ANTONIO, Jan. 5, 2018 — On a brightly lit football field inside the Alamodome here, a disparate chorus of clamor and musical instruments reverberates throughout the structure as high school football players and band members practice for the performance of their lives, the 2018 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
These young men and women train with soldier mentors, elite members of the Army fit to provide professional guidance and inspiration.
Soldier mentors are a prominent feature of All-American Bowl Game Week, an annual event that highlights the nation’s foremost high school football players and marching band teams.
“We do this every year because it’s a great way to put the Army’s message out,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Brian Waters, a native of Orlando, Florida. “We let the students know that we’re here for them, answer any questions that they have, and lift them up and support them in their future endeavors.”
In addition to attending practices and events throughout the week, the soldier mentors also engage with the players in community service activities for nonprofit organizations and medical centers.
“I’ve seen throughout the years the benefits that the Army gets from these games, as well as for the community of San Antonio,” said Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Lei-Sam, a native of Samoa and the Soldier Mentorship Program manager for the All-American Bowl. “It’s very humbling, and it’s an honor to be here and represent the Army during these games.”
As the noncommissioned officer in charge of the mentorship program, Lei-Sam oversees all of the soldier mentors and their activities with the students. This includes planning events that cultivate deeper relationships between the soldier mentors and the students.
“For this year, I’ve also implemented new things such as the 7-on-7 flag football game, so we can further build camaraderie between [the soldiers] and the high school football players,” Lei-Sam said.
Lei-Sam and Waters both said a major goal of the Soldier Mentorship Program is to bolster the players’ career aspirations. Lei-Sam said he hopes that these football players end up in the National Football League someday, and that as they progress in their careers, the players will see what the Army is about and how soldiers live up to the Army values.
“It’s a privilege to be here with all of these students,” Waters said. “All of them are future collegiate players potentially going into [colleges with high-level football programs], and they’ve all been very supportive of the military.”
Brandon Brady, a varsity football player and student of Bryon P. Steele II High School in Cibolo, Texas, said this experience is a great opportunity to train alongside soldiers.
“[The soldier mentors] are definitely role models to each and every one of us,” he said. “In just seeing their discipline and the way they do things, it’s going to carry over to us in football and in life. It’s amazing to be able to share this moment with them, play against them, and have some fun.”
The 2018 All-American Bowl will take place at the Alamodome tomorrow, at 1 p.m. EST, and will be televised live by NBC.
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