When Hollidaysburg Area High School's J.T. Ventura suits up for the North squad against the South team in the National Underclassmen Combine [NUC] Senior All-American Game Dec. 22 in Myrtle Beach, S.C., he'll do so knowing that he'll be a part of some very elite football tradition.
Among the game's alumni are Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Ventura was a two-year starter at defensive back for the Golden Tigers. He also saw some playing time at safety.
Ventura is happy about getting the opportunity to play in the high-profile game.
"I'm really excited,'' Ventura said. "It's all the best players in the country, and there will be some really good competition. Johnny Manziel played in this game. There's a lot of talent in this game, and the competition will be beneficial.''
Ventura wants to continue his football career at the college level, and has already secured a scholarship offer from Division I-AA James Madison University. The visibility that he'll get from playing in the NUC Senior All-American Game will be an asset for him.
Ventura's football profile information is on several recruiting websites - notably, Rivals.com and ESPN.com - and he believes that he likely attracted attention from NUC game officials via those websites.
"They contacted me initially, and I sent them one of my [game] highlight tapes,'' said Ventura, who intercepted one pass and broke up eight others during his senior season this past fall. "Then they called me back two weeks ago, and invited me to play in the game.''
Ventura said that he must foot the bill for his own travel expenses to the game, but meals and hotel lodging will be provided for the players.
Hollidaysburg coach John Barton said that Ventura was a diligent athlete during his high school career.
"J.T. was a very hard worker,'' Barton said. "He accepted challenges, and did a great job for us.''