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October 19, 2012

Apple knows Army Bowl honor a team effort

MORE: U.S. Army All-American Bowl roster

Ever since cornerback Eli Apple of Voorhees (N.J.) Eastern realized that he had a future in football, he set two goals for himself. One of these was to become an Ohio State Buckeye, which he accomplished with his commitment back in February, and the second was to become an Army All-American, which became official earlier today when he received his game jersey.

"I remember watching the game for the first time in the seventh grade, which was in 2007, and I remember thinking how cool it would be to get to play in something like that," said Apple. "I have caught it every year since that and I was able to watch the game live from the sidelines last year."

When the invite for the Army All-American Bowl came his way, Apple was honored for a number of reasons.

"It's not anything that I could have planned to happen, but I am just extremely happy and humbled that it has," said Apple. "This is one of the best honors someone can have at the high school level. It really means something to be able to represent not just the Army, but all the brave men and women of our Armed Forces around the world. That alone makes it incredibly special."

Receiving his jersey earlier today was a very special moment for Apple, who realized that it would not have been possible if it wasn't for a number of people.

"The whole thing is unbelievable," said Apple. "To reach this moment is a symbol of a lot of hard work and sacrifice. I have a lot of people to thank with everyone at Eastern High School, like head coach Dan Spittal, cornerback coach Jason Hill and the entire coaching staff, all of my teammates, past and present, and the school's administration, Mr. Phil Smart, our A.D., Mr. Robert Tull, our principal, and my guidance counselor, Mrs. Wasiwakowski. I would also like to thank everyone at Ohio State. From when it all started with Coach Darrell Hazell, Coach Jim Tressel and Coach Taver Johnson, onto everyone there now with Coach Greg Gillum, Coach Mark Pantoni, Coach Luke Fickell, Coach Kerry Coombs and especially Coach Urban Meyer."

Apple obviously did not want to forget the people closest to him.

"One group of people that I can't ever thank enough for everything is my mother and father, Annie and Tim Apple, along with my entire family especially my little sister, Jordan Apple," he said.

Now with his game jersey in his possession, Apple can turn his attention to the actual game in January.

"I just want to continue to grow as a player and learn a lot from the experience," said Apple. "I have a long way to go in order for me to be able to be a Buckeye that can contribute. Getting to practice and playing with the best high school players in the country for a week one last time will help in that process as I will be headed to Ohio State after the game to start classes on that Monday, January 7th."

While Apple will soon start his Ohio State career, the Army All-American Bowl will also give him another opportunity to play with a few future teammates.

"A bunch of us went through the summer together," said Apple. "We went to the Rivals100 Challenge, The Opening and Gridiron Kings, so there is a strong bond. We got to come together at the Nebraska game a few weeks ago and it felt like family. Getting to experience this with the guys is going to be great."

During his senior season Apple has paid close attention to the Buckeyes.

"I am just thankful to be able to call myself a Buckeye," said Apple. "It's an honor and I just want to be able to earn my way onto the team through hard work and taking nothing for granted. I'm excited for the success the 2012 Buckeyes are having and for everyone involved, from the players and coaches, to the entire Buckeye nation."

Before he makes his way to the Army All-American Bowl and then Columbus, Ohio, Apple still has some unfinished business in New Jersey.

"My senior year has been good," he said. "We have a good football team and are currently in position to make the playoffs and make a run at the state title. I couldn't ask for anything more as there are a lot of guys on this team that are all in and working hard to get us as far as we can take it. It has been a great year with a bunch of great guys, some of whom I've been playing with since the sixth grade."

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