DESOTO, Texas -- At the end of their Under Armour All-American jersey presentation Thursday morning, DeSoto High's Bryson Echols and Curtis Riser took numerous pictures with friends; hugged family members and DeSoto faculty; and answered questions for multiple reporters on DeSoto's school newspaper staff.
Thursday morning, the two University of Texas commits received the classic, rock-star treatment. On Jan. 5, the love will continue, as they will be among the elite high school football players in the country at the UA All-America Game. The two ESPNU 150 players were honored as a part of the American Family Insurance jersey presentation tour at the DHS auditorium.
Echols, a 5-foot-9, 165-pound defensive back, and Riser, a 6-foot-4, 290-pound offensive lineman, will join 80-plus players from all over the country at the Under Armour All-America Game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. Also joining them will be DeSoto coach Claude Mathis, who will be on the sidelines.
"Under Armour has been in my life for over five years, and these guys will be my No. 4 and No. 5 guys," said Mathis, who will coach in his second UA game. "They're very blessed to be selected in playing this game. This game is one of the best games I've ever been a part of. To be on the sidelines with them one last time will be memorable for me."
More than just a cornerback
Echols, No. 79 in the ESPNU 150, has built a reputation for being a shutdown cornerback. He has been influential in helping DeSoto turn around a defense that had troubles in the secondary last season.
As good a defensive back Echols is, Mathis appreciates all that the four-star player does. Echols is the team's kicker, he lines up all over the secondary and he can line up at receiver.
"Bryson brings a lot to the table, especially on special teams," Mathis said. "If somebody breaks on the return, he's right there to make the tackle. Overall, he does a lot that a lot of people don't see. He means the world to us."
Echols is hoping to show his versatility at the UA game. With 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash, Echols can be used in multiple spots on both sides of the ball.
"I'm ready to play," Echols said. "It's an honor to be playing, and I appreciate the opportunity to be out there. Now, I've got to go out there and show what I can do."
The newest ESPNU 150 player
The updated ESPNU 150 player rankings were released last week. Prior to Thursday, Riser didn't know he had made the cut.
Ranked No. 150, Riser had to overcome an injury-riddled junior year to get to where he currently is. Mathis, who calls the four-star lineman the leader of the offensive line, said Riser didn't get to compete in last summer's Under Armour camp, but he showed his worth at a skills camp in Houston at the end of the summer.
The UA Game invitation served as icing on the cake for Riser's overall diligence and work ethic entering his senior season.
"This means the world to him," Mathis said of the player rankings. "You could tell Curtis wanted [to be ranked in the ESPNU 150] so bad, and when he finally got healthy and drove down to Houston, that's when I knew how much it meant to him. He performed well then, and he's been able to accomplish so much."
Riser added: "I didn't know about it, but now that I do, I'm pretty excited. I've been working hard for this. It feels good that all the work has paid off."
Together one last time
The 2012 class holds a special place in Mathis' heart. This year's seniors were freshmen when Mathis was named the DeSoto head coach.
As much as Riser and Echols want to do well in Florida, Mathis wants to see them shine even more. Additionally, Riser and Echols hope they are on the same UA team coached by Mathis once the rosters are set.
"With Curtis, he's going to be my teammate in the future, so it feels good to know he'll be my teammate here," Echols said. "With Coach [Mathis], you never know when it's going to end in the regular season. It's always good to have that last coaching experience with him."
Riser feels the game can be a dress rehearsal for what to expect next season at Texas. This will give them an opportunity to play against the best players and be coached against the best coaches.
"We want to show everyone how hard we work at DeSoto," Riser said. "We'll do that ... but first, we've got to worry about winning a state championship at DeSoto."
Damon Sayles covers recruiting in the Midlands for ESPN Recruiting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.