By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
MONROVIA – Ellis McCarthy can count himself among the elite high school football players in the country.
It’s not as if the 6-foot-5, 311-pound defensive lineman hasn’t played like one of the best, but that status became official during a press conference Monday morning when McCarthy was officially invited to play in January’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas.
In front of family, friends, teammates and Monrovia football coach Ryan Maddox, McCarthy was presented with an All-American jersey during the U.S. Army’s Selection Tour that culminates with the game televised live on NBC.
The selection tour, which travels to more than 180 high schools to officially announce each All-American athlete, continues today at noon at Muir High School, where four-star recruit Kevon Seymour will receive his jersey
It’s believed to be the first time the San Gabriel Valley has produced two U.S. Army All-Americans the same year. The U.S. Army All-American Bowl has produced 49 NFL first rounders, including seven Super Bowl champions, 30 Pro Bowl selections and five Rookies of the Year. It’s also produced a Heisman Trophy winner in Florida’s Tim Tebow.
McCarthy’s handled the attention like a veteran, remaining humble throughout the whirlwind process, and it’s that demeanor that makes him arguably the most coveted recruit in the nation.
“That’s what everybody says, and it’s nice to see that,” Maddox said. “From the coaches to the media to everybody that talks to Ellis, he remains humble. It speaks of his family upbringing and the great job his parents have done raising him.
“It’s good to see, because it can quickly go the other way with a lot of kids. They don’t know how to handle newfound success and fame, and it kind of goes to their head, but Ellis has managed to keep an even keel, and he hasn’t changed as a person.”
Maddox also was invited to San Antonio, where he’ll take part in the U.S. Army Coaches Academy, designed for 100 of the nation’s top high school coaches and featuring NFL and NCAA clinicians.
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McCarthy did his best to not crack a smile, but it was hard to avoid with his teammates cheering him on as he thanked his parents, coaches, friends and teammates for their support.
This won’t be McCarthy’s first trip to San Antonio. The reigning Star-News Defensive Player of the Year took part in the prestigious U.S. Army National Combine, which features 500 of the nation’s top underclassmen.
McCarthy, who’s drawn comparisons from recruiting analysts to Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions, is the No. 2 overall rated player in the state and ranks second at his position in the nation. He’s the No. 7 overall recruit in the nation, according to MaxPreps recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. He has offers from virtually every Pac-12 school as well as Florida, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Georgia.
McCarthy’s narrowed the list to his top three choices, with Oregon ahead of USC and Cal. He made his first official visit over the weekend to Oregon, where the Ducks clobbered Arizona State 41-27 on national television. He’s taken unofficial trips to UCLA and USC and will make official visits to Florida, Washington, USC and Cal at some point during and after the season.
McCarthy, however, seemingly is keeping teams on their toes through various tactics.
For starters, McCarthy lists the University of Florida as his college choice, but McCarthy on Monday said, “I like them, but it’s far.”
He wore a USC sweatshirt just a few months ago during PrepXtra Live’s premiere, and he wore an Oregon sweatshirt during Monday’s press conference that was also attended by Florida defensive line coach Bryant Young.
“I just like wearing the sweaters because they look good,” McCarthy said.
Last season, McCarthy led Monrovia to the school’s first CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division championship in its 10th finals appearance. McCarthy’s on-field success has drawn attention from coaches all over the country, who in turn have taken notice of other top Wildcats football players. That McCarthy will take part in arguably the most prestigious senior bowl game perhaps was a foregone conclusion.
“This is the biggest announcement in Monrovia High School history,” Monrovia principal Darvin Jackson said before catching himself. “I should say one of the biggest announcements in Monrovia High School history.”
Monrovia alumnus Thomas Sargent, along with Christopher Sims, was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics last week.
“It speaks to the school’s motto,” Jackson said. ” `Home of scholars and champions.’ ”