Playing for the United States against international competition is not often a thought for football players. That is usually reserved for players in Olympic sports such as basketball, baseball and even hockey. But three Tampa Bay area high school players will get the chance to do such a thing in the next two weeks.
Nature Coast’s Louis Miele, Wesley Chapel’s Isaiah Bolden and Wiregrass Ranch’s Jordan Miner will all be representing the United States at International Bowl IX, a collaboration between USA Football and football governing bodies of other countries. The event features a series of practices, scrimmages and games that will be held at the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Miele will play for the under-19 U.S. Select Team that will take on Team Nordic, comprised of players from Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. The game is 8 p.m. Friday.
Bolden and Miner will play for the U19 U.S. national team that will take on Team Canada on Jan. 19 at 8 p.m.
All of the games will be streamed at internationalbowlix.com.
While all three players said it is an honor to be suiting up for their country, there are other reasons why the game is meaningful for them.
For Miele, an honorable mention selection on the Tampa Bay Times’ all-North Suncoast team, it is another opportunity to showcase his talent to colleges in hopes of finding a good fit.
"This will definitely get me some looks from more colleges," said the 6-foot-8, 315-pound offensive lineman, who said he has gotten an offer from Division II Northwestern Oklahoma State and interest from other schools. That is why when he heard about the open tryouts in Orlando, he jumped at the opportunity.
Also, Miele figured, it would be a once-in-a-lifetime chance.
"It’s going to be a great feeling wearing America on your chest and playing against another nation," he said.
Bolden and Miner agree, but the long-time friends have personal reasons why they are excited about playing in this game. They often have faced each other as opposing teammates, so they will finally get a chance to play with each other in their last high school football game.
"That’s my guy," said the defensive back Miner, a Penn State signee who was named the North Suncoast Defensive Player of the Year. "We talk to each other at least once or twice a week. We both got invited and we’re excited to play and get after it."
Bolden, who signed with Florida State, said he couldn’t think of a better place than AT&T Stadium.
"This is a big stage," he said. "Since we’ve always wanted to play with each other this is a good time to have that opportunity."
Notable NFL players who have participated in this game include the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston, Los Angeles Rams’ Todd Gurley as well as Carolina Panthers’ Devin Funchess.
"It is an honor to be selected to play for my country in my last high school game," Miner said. "I never really imagined it. Football isn’t an Olympic sport. I am blessed to be voted in."