Not too long ago, a high school football All-American selection from Gwinnett County was a pretty rare occurrence.
I remember the hype when running back Caleb King, first of Parkview and then Greater Atlanta Christian, was selected for the 2007 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He was just the second Gwinnett product in the history of the storied game -- joining Wesleyan's Eric Broe, a 2001 selection -- to earn that honor.
King's selection at the time was an anomaly, but it's quickly become more commonplace as Gwinnett prep football players have emerged more prominently on the national scene.
Norcross' Brice Butler (U.S. Army game) and Buford's Omar Hunter (Under Armour All-American Game) both were selected for the two major all-star games in 2008, starting a run of nine Gwinnett players since King who have been selected to either the U.S. Army or Under Armour games. The high point came in 2010, when North Gwinnett's Ja'Wuan James, Norcross' Adrian Hubbard and Buford's Kolton Houston all were picked for the Under Armour game.
Earlier this year, Buford had two Under Armour participants in the 2012 game --Vadal Alexander and Reid Ferguson.
The 2013 Under Armour game, planned the first week of January (date is TBA because of TV) in Orlando, will have a strong Gwinnett feel to it, too. The county will match its all-time best once again, as Central Gwinnett linebacker Trey Johnson, Norcross running back Alvin Kamara and Grayson defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche have all accepted invitations to the Under Armour showcase. The coaching staff also will feature two locals, Central's Todd Wofford and Grayson's Mickey Conn.
Johnson, Kamara and Nkemdiche are part of a loaded class of rising senior football players in Gwinnett that will set a number of new standards over the next year or so. Gwinnett already has its first consensus No. 1 national prospect in Nkemdiche. It's almost certain that the county will boast an all-time high for a single year in BCS college signees with a current junior group that also includes guys like Mill Creek's Kelsey Griffin, Grayson's Wayne Gallman, Archer's Antonio Riles, South Gwinnett's Reggie Carter, Buford's Josh Cardiello, North's Devondre Seymour and many more.
Both Johnson and Kamara have been invited to The Opening, an invitation-only, Nike Football event at its headquarters in Oregon that had its first Gwinnett participants last summer in Buford's Vadal Alexander and Dillon Lee. It features NFL players and coaches running the athletes through a series of skills tests, training and competitions that allow guys like Johnson and Kamara to compete against the nation's best players.
And that's just the offseason news.
In a few months, we'll get to see these guys back on the football field again. I can't wait.
Will Hammock can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock. For Hammock's blog, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willsworld.