ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Some of the premier college and pro football players in America have put on an Under Armour All-American jersey.
For the first time in the eight-year history of the contest, an Ohio Valley player was able to slip on his jersey for the game, which will be held on Thursday, Jan. 2 in Tampa.
During a 30-minute ceremony at the high school that included his teammates, classmates, coaches and family, St. Clairsville senior Michael Ferns was officially presented his jersey for the game.
ST. C. senior Michael Ferns addresses the audience during Thursday’s assembly at which he received his Under Armour All American jersey for the all-star game he’ll participate in next month in Florida.
"This is really exciting and being able to share it with my teammates and classmates is really special," Ferns said. "Being amongst the big names of past games really means a lot to me."
Ferns will depart for Florida a few days after Christmas for preparations for the game. He returns on Jan. 3 and then begins his first semester at the University of Michigan on Jan. 5 as an early entrant. That will allow him to begin the off-season conditioning program and be eligible to take part in spring drills.
"I've heard from several people how it's really a special weekend down there and I am hoping to make the most out of it," Ferns said. "Being able to represent St. Clairsville, the community and the Ohio Valley really means a lot to me."
There's another jersey presentation in the days leading up the game, which will be broadcast on ESPN. That's when Ferns will officially receive the jersey he'll wear during the contest. He received a commemorative jersey with No. 14.
Each of the players chosen for the game is formally presented their jersey during a ceremony, which includes representatives of the sponsors.
"This is really a cool thing," said St. Clairsville head coach Brett McLean, who is planning on being in attendance for the game. "Now that it's post season and we can really celebrate it is really exciting. This kind of thing may never happen again for me as a coach, so to have a player of his caliber is really a unique thing that we'll cherish and enjoy it. Michael, more than any kid, deserves this because he's lived a clean lifestyle, has a great work ethic and he's a great student, which culminates in this. This is a great day for our team and our school."
Whether or not Ferns, who is also a finalist for the high school Butkus Award, plays in the game remains to be seen. He missed six games during the regular season after suffering a shoulder injury, which still isn't back to 100 percent.
"I'm not completely healthy right now, but we're still talking about 30 days until the game, so what happens between now and then, we will have to see," Ferns said. "I hope to be able to play in the game."
Being able to address his teammates and classmates was one of the exciting parts for Ferns. He's spent the fall semester as a post secondary student at Ohio University Eastern, getting a jumpstart on his collegiate career as he wraps up his high school diploma.
"It was great having everyone here," Ferns said. "We've been on different schedules, so to be able to come back and really see everyone means a lot to me."
Ferns will be returning to St. Clairsville in late May and will walk with his class during commencement.
"Originally, I hadn't planned on being there since I was leaving early, but as our senior year has gone, it's something I definitely want to do," Ferns said. "It means a lot to me because I am cutting short the time we have together and I don't want to miss that last chance where we'll all be together as a class."
Ferns was in attendance at last week's Michigan and Ohio State game. It was the first time he'd attended "The Game."
"Obviously, the outcome wasn't what I would have liked, but seeing the team fight the way they did really meant a lot to me," Ferns said. "It was sort of a down season, but to see them compete at the level they did against the third-ranked team in the nation shows me that the group I am going to be joining shortly is prepared to play at a high level and I am anxious to be a part of it."
Ferns committed to the Wolverines and head coach Brady Hoke before he'd played a game of his junior season. He was the first commitment for the Wolverines recruiting class of 2014.
"It's been a long time, but for the recruiting process to be just about over and getting ready to take on the lifestyle of a college athlete is a step I'm ready for," Ferns said.
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