Marshal Klein has been pumping iron a little more vigorously lately as he prepares for the game of a lifetime.
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound defensive end with the St. Paul's Crusaders AA varsity football team is one of four local players who have been selected to take part in the USA-Canada Eastbay Youth Bowl in San Antonio's Alamodome, Jan. 9. The game will be held in conjunction with the U.S. Army All-American Bowl weekend.
Joining Klein are Xavier Prime, a tailback with the Garden City Fighting Gophers junior varsity team; Brendan Jozsa, a guard from the St. Vital Mustangs provincial bantam champions; and Chris Pereira, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound outside linebacker with the Crusaders AA squad.
"You've always got to be big for those guys down south," quipped Klein, taking a break from his workout on Wednesday.
Also heading for San Antonio, as one of the Canadian coaches, is St. Vital Mustangs' pee wee coach Brent Kaneski, who holds a graduate certificate in coaching education from Michigan State University and is currently the only Canadian coach sitting on the American Football Coaches Association's Professional Development committee.
Pereira has had trouble sleeping since he learned he was one of the chosen few. "We're (other Canadian players from other provinces) going to meet in Texas and we'll have four days of training to prepare for the game. This will be a great experience, with a lot of scouts. It'll be a chance to get on their radar, and I can certainly learn a lot from this."
"For the first three days I was speechless when I found out," commented Jozsa, who thought his football was over until spring. "I was already going into hibernation mode."
The U.S. Army All-American Eastbay Youth Bowl is a series of high school football all-star games that bring together the top players in the U.S., in an East vs. West matchup. One game features the top 13-year-olds in the U.S. with a 175-pound limit, another the top 14-year-olds with a 185-pound weight limit, and a third features the top 14-year-olds with no weight limit.
This year a fourth game has been added; the U.S. vs. Canada Youth Bowl which will feature the best 14-year-old talent from both sides of the border.
"It's going to be very tough," commented Prime, who was a Bantam league MVP in 2008 and '09 with the North Winnipeg Nomads before Garden City. "I am expecting guys to be as skilled as I am, and even more." Prime said adapting to the American rules and field size shouldn't be a problem. "Actually I like four-down football better. It'll be a neat experience, and it'll give me a different feel for football."
"It is very intimidating," says Jozsa. "Their field, their rules, their fans. It (football) is way more competitive than it is here."
Klein says the American field will be a real test for him. "The biggest obstacle will be the shorter fields. It'll make so much difference in regards to field positions. For instance, if you get them down to their 20-yard line up here, they still have 90 yards to score a touchdown. Down there, they have only 80 and that makes all the difference between scoring a touchdown or not."
The game will be webcasted live on www.footballuniversity.org and www.allamericangames.tv.