- Gerry Hamilton, ESPN Staff Writer
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Paramus, N.J. -- Five-star cornerback Jabrill Peppers and teammate Juwann Bushell-Beatty (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic) were presented with their honorary Under Armour All-America Game jerseys Wednesday.
Peppers and Bushell-Beatty, both Michigan commits, are among the 90 players selected to compete in the event on Jan. 2 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.
"I just want to thank my Dad for putting me into this game. This game has changed my life. Just being able to do what you love and allow that to pay for your college, that's just lovely," Peppers said. “… It’s truly and honor to play against some of the top players in the country. “
Paramus Catholic head coach Chris Partridge says he is just as proud of what his star players have achieved both on and off the field.
“The thing about these two (Bushell-Beatty and Peppers) is you can see why they are chosen as they are physical specimens…and if you watch them play the game, you see how fast they are, how physical of big or explosive they are; but in reality what they have done both on off the field is why they are sitting up here and why I’m so proud of them.”
For Bushell-Beatty, an ESPN 300 offensive tackle, sees the game as another opportunity football has given him.
“I mean, a lot of opportunities have been opened by playing football that are great. Just this whole thing is really a blessing because not many people get to experience this,” Bushell-Beatty said. “From not playing football at all four years ago, and being where I am today is a great blessing. … Every last one of [my coaches] from the smallest part to the biggest part, they have had an effect on how I’ve gotten here.”
Peppers said the legacy of the game made his selection more memorable.
"It’s definitely a tremendous honor, just to be able to say I got to play in the same game as a lot of first round picks,” Peppers said. “You know Julio Jones, guys like that who played in this game and went on to have fantastic careers in college and be first round picks in the league. That’s what I plan to do, so it’s definitely a tremendous honor, it humbles me, I still have a long way to go and I just have to get better and better as everything continues to go along,”
And Peppers will get to show what he can do against the nation’s best.
“I just want to play. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to be in the Under Armour All-America Game. I've only been to Florida one time and just to go down there and play against the best guys throughout the country, do something I love to do, and just be able to prove myself before I prove myself in college … there is no better feeling and not a better experience than I can imagine right now.”
The 6-foot-7, 330-pound Bushell-Beatty echoed those sentiments and the fact of have Paramus Catholic teammates together at the game.
"I'm excited to just get the chance to go against some of the top recruits out there and have the opportunity to go down to Orlando with my teammate, 'Brill,” he said. “This whole thing is just a great opportunity. I just want to get out there, get a chance to play, get the chance to meet everybody and have a great time.”
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Peppers is the No. 2-ranked prospect in the ESPN 300, and the No. 1 cornerback in the class. Bushell-Beatty is the No. 124-ranked prospect and the No. 10 tackle in the class. Both chose the Wolverines over a litany of big-name offers.