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December 31, 2008SAN ANTONIO - It is evident that a number of the West players came to the Alamo City just looking to have a good time. Not Christine Michael. He has been practicing with a sense of purpose as he gets ready for Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
The 5-foot-11, 202-pounder from Beaumont (Texas) West Brook has three running backs ranked above him in the Rivals100, including Cierre Wood, one of his West teammates this week.
"The three running backs ranked above me have done some other things, like getting out to camps. I really didn't do that," Michael said. "So I didn't get my name out there as well as they did."
Lack of exposure is not a problem for Michael this week, as he finds himself on the largest stage possible for a high school football player.
"While I am here, I am going to let it be known that I am the best running back out here and that is pretty much what I've been doing," he said. "I have always been a competitive kid."
Michael has impressed analysts, coaches and even his teammates through the first three days of practice.
"Christine is real active," defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson said. "We have a real hard time containing him in practice, and for the most part we've just been doing walkthroughs. I can't wait to see what he is like in the game. I am glad he is on my team."
Michael was expected to wait until the game to announce his college decision. But he let the cat out of the bag shortly after arriving at the team hotel Sunday.
"Now I am just letting it be known that I am going to [Texas] A&M," Michael said. "I am still going to announce it on TV, but it is already out there now.
"They have great academics [at Texas A&M] and the people there are real friendly. I really like their coaching staff. They accept me and care about me not only as a football player, but also as a person."
Michael rushed for 1,412 yards and 25 touchdowns in nine games as a senior.
"He is going to get some clock [playing time] freshman year," Richardson said.
After competing in the U.S. Army Skills Challenge on Wednesday morning, the West had lunch and then ran through their first scrimmage in the Alamodome.
The defense dominated early on, highlighted by a Vontaze Burfict interception return for a touchdown. The USC-bound linebacker also recorded a sack.
About midway through the scrum, quarterback Tyrik Rollison started to find his groove and wide receiver Greg Timmons was his favorite target. He hooked up with the future Longhorn for three touchdowns and also found Adam Hall for a score.
Wide receiver Patrick Patterson had the day's other touchdown reception. He beat cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick on a fade route to the right side of the end zone and hauled in the pass from quarterback A.J. McCarron.
Rollison did throw one interception. Safety Kevin Brent, who is committed to Oklahoma, picked off a pass intended for tight end Chris Coyle.
Near the end of the scrimmage, wide receivers Kendall Kelly and Patterson collided with each other. Both were banged up, but not injured seriously.
West coach Bill Redell told the team that he was pleased with their effort. He was especially happy with the performance of the wide receivers. At one point late in the scrimmage, Redell called Timmons over just to congratulate him on a great practice.
The players are already looking forward to their next opportunity to play on the Alamodome turf.
"I can't wait to see these stands filled," safety Patrick Hall said.
When asked which player has impressed him the most, Redell pointed out Richardson.
Richardson was originally slated to line up at tight end this week but he was told just prior to the first practice that he would be playing on the defensive line instead.
The five-star prospect from St. Louis has enjoyed playing defense while making every attempt to become a two-way standout for the West squad.
Those attempts have been unsuccessful.
"At his high school, Sheldon played a little bit of everything so when we ask for a wide receiver, he jumps out there. He doesn't quite get that we just want him on the defensive line," West defensive coordinator Jim Benkert said. "You have a guy that is 6-foot-4, 270 pounds that could play almost any position on the field."
"They did say that if we are winning late in the game and they score, (the coaches) are going to let me return a kick," Richardson said.
Richardson was selected as a team captain earlier this week along with Michael, Burfict and D.J. Fluker.
"Sheldon has a great personality; he is a very likeable kid," Benkert said. "And he is a dynamic football player. As a defensive lineman, he just explodes on his first step. I am hoping we see that in the game on Saturday."
Richardson has been verbally committed to Missouri since June 2007. He did some shopping around but is now solid with his pledge to the Tigers.