Zach Kline will be headed to the Sunshine State over winter break, but not to take in the sun, surf and sand along Florida beaches.
Instead, the San Ramon Valley High senior and varsity quarterback will be trudging up and down the Tampa Bay Rays' field in St. Petersburg at the Underarmour All-American Game, an invitation-only football game that pits 90 of the country's best high school players against each other on a live ESPN broadcast.
"It's a great opportunity. I'm extremely, extremely ecstatic to go in and represent Cal Berkeley, San Ramon Valley High School, my friends, family and everyone that has supported me over the years," said Zach, who will graduate early to join the Bears' football team in January.
The All-American Game will be held on Thursday, Jan. 5 with teams of 45 going head-to-head on Tropicana Field. Players will also attend a skills challenge and four practices that will determine team captains and starters. Underarmour players were chosen by ESPN recruiters who selected athletes from the ESPN-U 150, a list of the top 150 players in the United States; Zach is currently ranked 58.
"They recruited him as a premiere talent," said Game Director Drew Russell. "If you're a big-time prospect, you're on our radar."
Among San Ramon Valley supporters Zach is known for his strong arm and speed, but San Ramon Valley' s head varsity football coach said Zach's knowledge of the game will set him apart from the other 89 participants.
"I think going into this year he had the tools, meaning a big arm, good feet, a fair understating of what to look for and where the ball should go, and I think as we've gone through this year he's now learning to use those tools," said Mark Kessler. "Going forward in this game, there's a lot of talent on the field and I think Zach will prove that he's someone we should watch as he goes forward through his career."
Still, Russell said players are chosen not only for their athletic ability, but for their accomplishments on and off the field.
"I think he's a special player but I think what makes him great in my eyes is the type of kid he is. He's just out there having fun and doing something he really loves to do --competing with his teammates on Friday night," Kessler said.
In its five-year history, the Underarmour All-American has launched the careers of several college football starters and even a few professionals. Current Heisman Trophy candidate Trent Richardson is a 2009 All-American alum.
"These guys are the future of college football and the NFL," Russell said.
Once on the field, Zach said he will bring leadership to the team and plans on having a good time.
"I'm going to have as much fun as I can and try and be a complete quarterback," he said. "I want to do well, it's a statement to show my talent again and prove that Cal Berkeley is going to have a great recruiting class and have a great team."