ROEBUCK - Now that they are approaching the swan songs of their high school football careers, a few Upstate players are hoping to close on a high note as they participate in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas.
Former Daniel two-way standout DeAndre Hopkins, Byrnes running back Marcus Lattimore and defensive end Corey Miller as well as Mauldin lineman Taylor Hudson were among the elite players who opened practice with the South Carolina Shrine Bowlers on Monday at Dorman.
All had aspirations of entering the Shrine Bowl on the heels of winning a state championship, but only three players on South Carolina's 40-man roster can flash 2009 state title rings.
Hopkins' Lions fell in the Upper State championship game to eventual Class 3A champion Clinton. Lattimore and Miller's Rebels knocked out Hudson's Mavericks in the second round, before Byrnes fell in the Class 4A, Division I final to Dorman.
Although he did not make it to Columbia this season, Hopkins said he is as thrilled to play for the state, even though it will be in a slightly different way.
"It's going to be great, because I'm not only doing it for me, but for my community and my family," Hopkins said. "It'd kind of be like revenge almost to come out and beat North Carolina."
"It'd be pretty big to win," Miller said. "You've got a lot of people talking about certain expectations we had to live up to, but I don't want to listen to that. I just want to go out there and play. I've got new teammates now, and you've just got to go out and play hard for them like you played for your high school team."
Miller and Lattimore also will participate in the Army All-American game, which is scheduled for Jan. 9. Even after his stellar career at Byrnes, which included winning the Mr. Football Award, Lattimore said he was surprised and humbled by the calls for encores.
"I always thought about it, but I didn't know I would be playing in the Shrine Bowl," Lattimore said. "After junior year, I started getting an idea. I can't wait until Saturday. I'm pumped about it. There is going to be some good competition. I just can't wait to get out there.
Although Saturday's contest is an all-star showcase, Hopkins said the Sandlappers will be playing to win and have told the Tar Heels as much.
"We're just having a lot of fun with it," Hopkins said. "There is a lot of competition out here. You can't get any better than this. It's been going back and forth. We don't want to lose, and they don't want to lose. We think we are the better team. We just want to come out and prove it."