SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- Sean Clifford and Matt Bockhorst have been friends since before their freshmen seasons at St. Xavier.
Clifford, a quarterback, and Bockhorst, an offensive lineman, play “Madden NFL 17” together. They share the same competitive traits that have made them four-year varsity players within the St. Xavier football program. Teammates and classmates have looked up to their leadership.
On Tuesday afternoon, Clifford and Bockhorst officially became Under Armour All-American football players in a ceremony in front of friends, family and classmates at St. Xavier.
“It’s like a proud papa moment,” St. X coach Steve Specht said. “You’ve worked with them for four years and you see how they’ve grown and how they’ve developed. They have done it the right way. They’re excellent students. They get involved in the community.
"As I told the (students in attendance), football is what they do, not who they are. Who they are has helped lead them to this day and they are going to continue to do great things.”
The annual Under Armour All-America Game is scheduled for Jan. 1, 2017 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando and will be televised by ESPN.
Bockhorst (Clemson verbal commit) and Clifford (Penn State) are the first area players to be chosen for the game since New York Jets wide receiver Jalin Marshall (Ohio State/Middletown High School) in 2013.
Both players committed to the game on April 7. But Bockhorst and Clifford said Tuesday’s ceremony turned the special moment into a reality.
Bockhorst and Clifford posed for several photos behind the Under Armour Game backdrop and tried on the ceremonial jerseys surrounded by a podium with the helmets. They had fun recording video promotions together for the game.
Both players spoke in front of dozens of classmates and posed for a group photo afterward.
“This is so special,” Bockhorst said. “Looking back going into my freshman year this was a goal of mine. I am very goal-oriented. I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of my goals. And this was another one I was lucky enough to meet alongside my best friend. So this was super special for me and my journey as a football player.”
Bockhorst tore his anterior cruciate ligament at Nike’s The Opening event in Oregon in July, and will miss this high school season. He was Associated Press Division I first team all-state as a junior.
He won’t play in the Under Armour Game, but is appreciative the staff remained firm to his spot on the team. His parents, Mike and Lora Bockhorst, were seated with him at the ceremony.
"This is an individual award but I think this award is more about the people who have gotten us to this point," Bockhorst said.
Clifford practiced Monday for the first time in three weeks due to a foot injury. He hasn’t played in a game since the season opener against St. John Bosco (Calif.) at Nippert Stadium.
Clifford told WCPO.com he is ready to play Friday night at Indianapolis Cathedral.
St. X coach Steve Specht said he wants to be cautious with Clifford and have him be healthy for the GCL schedule which begins with a home game against Moeller Sept. 23. Specht said it remains to be seen if Clifford or junior Chase Wolf will start against Cathedral.
Bockhorst and Clifford are the most recent All-American football players from St. X and are following in the footsteps of U.S. Army Bowl All-Americans Justin Hilliard (2015/did not play due to injury) and the late Matt James (2010).
Clifford was in the gym when Hilliard, now at Ohio State, was selected to his all-star game. He said Tuesday’s ceremony was very special in front his family and classmates. His parents, John and Kelly, were also in attendance.
“It’s just kind of a dream come true,” Clifford said. “Obviously I have a lot of work to do and we have the season to go and everyone is pretty excited about that. But throw this in there and to get such an honor it’s pretty exciting.”