By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
BALDWYN – Duke Upshaw can’t yet legally drive, but he’ll travel some 850 miles in January to show he is old enough to hang with the best high school football players in the country.
Upshaw, a 15-year-old Baldwyn High School freshman running back and cornerback, has been invited to the 2013 Army National Combine, scheduled for Jan. 3-5, in San Antonio. It’s an honor few freshmen get, as it’s typically reserved for upperclassmen.
“It means a lot. I’m going to keep on working hard, keep my grades up, try to go somewhere,” said Upshaw, whose non-football aspiration is to become a doctor.
Former Baldwyn and Georgia quarterback Blake Barnes went to the combine as a junior.
The combine features 500 of the country’s best high school athletes for an NFL-style combine a day before the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, one of the country’s two premiere all-star events.
Rivals.com and Bowl selection committee members attend the combine. Alumni include Tim Tebow and LeSean McCoy.
“I want to improve on my defensive back skills. Cornerback, I want to improve on that, go against a good challenge,” Upshaw said.
The talented player emerged as an eighth grader for the Bearcats a year ago, leading the team in rushing, had 3.4 tackles per game and averaged nearly 35 yards a kick return with three touchdowns. He missed five games with an ankle injury this season.
He led the Bearcats basketball team to the Class 2A state championship game in March, leading the team in points and rebounding.
Assistant football coaches Neal and Dru Allen will drive Upshaw to San Antonio, but Baldwyn coach Michael Gray said the school is looking for donations to help with expenses. Donations can be made by calling the school at 365-1020 or 365-1030.
“It’s huge. I was excited the day I got it,” Gray said. “I was unaware that Blake went as a junior. It’s a chance to show your skills, what we know, go out and show everybody else, people who think that much of you to invite you.”