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Everybody's (Under Armour) All-American

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By Travis Jenkins

As it turns out, local fans won’t have to wait until Josh Belk is wearing Clemson orange to see him playing on ESPN.

Earlier this week, Belk, the high ranked and much coveted defensive lineman from Lewisville, was selected to play in the ESPN Under Armour All-American Game, one of the top all-star football contests in the country. Belk’s rise has been meteoric, as just two years ago he was a freshman who was just learning the game and had only played in a handful of varsity snaps. In the summer before his sophomore year, though, he thrust himself onto the radar of recruiting analysts and college coaches with some impressive camp performances. Told by a coach the difference between him being all-state and an All-American was about 25 pounds, Belk stopped drinking soft drinks and eating bread, lost weight and got in the best shape of his life. Athletically, his coach Will Mitchell said Belk could simply do things most people his size could not. Based on the latent physical talent alone (without much game film to go by) he earned his first offer from the University of South Carolina Gamecocks after taking part in one of the team’s camps. When word of his offer hit Twitter, he got a phone call as Mitchell drove him and some teammates home from that camp in Columbia. An LSU assistant coach (who’d not actually seen Belk in person) was on the other end with a scholarship offer. More than a dozen others followed and it wasn’t uncommon for Belk to get 10 or more pieces of mail from colleges a day. Rather than take his decision all the way to signing day, and announcing his choice by donning a piece of a particular school’s headgear (which is the preferred method of many players) Belk shut down his recruiting and announced he was committing to the national champion Clemson Tigers in late January.

“I just felt like Clemson was the one,” Belk told the News & Reporter at the time. “I just had a good feeling about them.”

Belk will graduate from Lewisville in December and enroll at Clemson in January.

“He’ll actually go to Orlando for the Under Armour game, come home for just a few days, then go Clemson,” Mitchell said.

Belk said “it was a blessing” to be picked for such a prestigious event.

“I’m just thankful for this moment. It feels good,” Belk said.

In talking to coaches, Belk said there are a number of reasons he was selected for the game. Obviously, being an athletic, 6-foot-3, 280-plus pound lineman with a great work ethic figured into the equation, but Belk said that’s not the only criteria he met.

“They told me they liked my character and how I carry myself,” Belk said. “They also like the speed and quickness I can use against offensive linemen.”

Being picked for a national all-star game is a huge honor, but Belk knows the honor isn’t just for him. At a school like Lewisville, where students, coaches and fans alike bond like a family, Belk said the light from his honor will reflect in a lot of different directions and to a lot of different people who’ve helped him get where he is.

“I feel like this puts the spotlight on Lewisville as a whole. It’s just a blessing to be a part of that,” Belk said.

The Under Armour event is more than just the all-star game itself in early January. Mitchell said it entails a long week of activities.

“This is a big deal. Even the practices for the game are televised. He’ll go on a Monday and play that weekend, but they also have a skills challenge and obstacle course that are televised,” Mitchell said.

That’s a lot of attention for a high school student to soak in. So is hearing your name mentioned on TV during the recruiting process and so is getting personal calls and texts from big-name college coaches. Mitchell said Belk really hasn’t been affected at all.

“Josh has done a great job handling the attention,” Mitchell said.

Belk said he is most looking forward to meeting and spending time with the other players at the game. He hopes he’ll head to Orlando for the game fresh off a state championship win with the Lions.

“And I’ll enjoy the times I get to play. This is a great opportunity,” Belk said.

Belk is the second Chester County player picked for the game. Chester’s Charles Whitlock was picked following his senior year in 2007.