The senior lineman is one of 100 players selected nationally to appear in the Jan. 6 game in San Antonio
By Dan McWilliams
Knoxville Catholic High School standout senior lineman Cade Mays has been selected to play for the East team in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Mays, who stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 318 pounds, was recognized by game officials and Army personnel in an all-school assembly Oct. 5 in the KCHS gym.
“Thank you for joining us for this historic announcement at Knoxville Catholic High School,” KCHS President Dickie Sompayrac said in welcoming the gathering. “Today truly is a proud day.”
Mays committed to the University of Tennessee football team in July 2015 but announced Nov. 7 that he had decommitted from the Vols.
The Army All-American Bowl game will be played Saturday, Jan. 6, at the Alamodome in San Antonio. It will air at 1 p.m. on NBC.
Mays is one of 100 players in the annual game, which has been played since 2001. Heisman Trophy winners and more than 400 NFL players, including Andrew Luck and Eric Berry, are among the game’s alumni.
“The Army All-American Bowl is a unique celebration of American youth and the American soldier,” said Lee Rosenberg, event coordinator for the All-American Bowl Selection Tour. “Not just anyone can be a soldier. Not just anyone can be a U.S. Army All-American. To come here takes leadership potential, teamwork, adaptability, and versatility to tackle any challenge. It is these strengths, along with dedication, determination, and innovation, which allows [the players] to succeed and excel in school, in training, and in life. It is the embodiment of these strengths that earn our All-American Bowl players and marching- band members the right to wear the colors of the U.S. Army.”
Staff Sgt. Rigoberto Portillo led a round of applause for the KCHS football team and officially welcomed Mays to the All-American Bowl.
“U.S. Army All-Americans are dedicated and motivated and know how to be a member of a team as well as a leader,” Sgt. Portillo said.
Mays took the microphone and thanked his parents, Kevin and Melinda Mays, brother and KCHS teammate Cooper Mays, and youngest brother Camp, as well as Fighting Irish head coach Steve Matthews and offensive line coach Justin Anderson. He said he “would like to thank God for all of his blessings and the great opportunities He’s given me. I would also like to thank the U.S. Army All-American Game and all the veterans past and present who sacrificed everything so kids like me can play the great sport of football without a worry in the world.
“Mom and Dad, thank you all so much for always supporting me, loving me, and looking out for me. God couldn’t have ever blessed me with better parents. Cooper, Camp—you all are my best friends in the whole world. It’s hard to believe that all this started playing football in the yard with Mom and Dad refereeing us, and now we’re here.
“I would like to thank my coaching staff. You all have had such a great influence in my life, not only as a player but as a person. Coach Matthews, thank you for your support, for putting up with what goes on in recruiting. You’ve been the best head coach I could have asked for. Coach Anderson, thank you for pushing me and having patience with me. I know I haven’t always been the easiest player to coach. And as for my teammates, I consider you all a family. This presentation is just as much yours as it is mine. It’s been a pleasure spending four years playing with you guys, and I love you all. Without the support you all have given me, none of this would be possible.”
Mays also thanked the KCHS faculty and his fellow students.
“Mr. Sompayrac and faculty, I will forever be thankful for you all and all you have done for me,” he said. “I have grown spiritually, mentally, and physically in these last four years. None of this would be possible without everybody in this gym, so thank you all and God bless.”
Sgt. Portillo presented a plaque to Mr. Matthews and invited him to attend the U.S. Army Coaches Academy during bowl week. Mr. Rosenberg presented a Dream Champion Award to Kevin and Melinda Mays.
Afterward, Cade Mays said “that was the most unbelievable feeling, having my whole school here. Their support was awesome. Thanks to my principal, Mr. Sompayrac. That was a great experience for me. It’s been great. I never thought that I would be in this position. It’s just a blessing from God.”
He said he had been nervous about the KCHS ceremony before the whole student body for some time.
“I’ve been nervous all day,” he said. “Actually for the past week I’ve been nervous. It’s a surreal feeling. I thank them for coming out.”
Mays said he looks forward to playing with the best players in the country in the All-American Bowl.
“I’m excited. I love competition,” he said. “I’m excited to go down there Jan. 6 and compete.”
The bowl appearance for Mays has been years in the making.
“I actually got a call my sophomore year, and they asked me if I wanted to participate in the game, and I committed on the spot, so it’s been a long time coming,” he said.
The game is special because of “the veterans — they give everything for me, so I can give back to them by just playing in a football game, which is barely anything, but anything I can do to give back, plus the competition,” he said.