Remember the Alamo?
Sure, Rodney Gallagher probably still will remember it years from now. But it was another part of Gallagher’s trip to San Antonio last week that he is positive he will never forget.
Gallagher, a senior at Laurel Highlands, is a four-star recruit who had a blast in the Lone Star State as he took part in the All-American Bowl (formerly known as the U.S. Army All-American Game), a high school football all-star game that included many of the nation’s top seniors. Gallagher was the only WPIAL or City League player to participate in either of the two major all-star games, the other being the Under Armour All-American Game in Orlando, Fla.
“It was an unreal experience,” said Gallagher, who will play wide receiver at West Virginia University. “For me to be there with the top players in the country, it was my first time doing something like that. That experience and seeing all those types of guys and the best coaches in the country, it’s something I’ll always remember.”
Gallagher, who was measured at 5 feet 10, 170 pounds, spent the better part of the week in San Antonio preparing for the game, which was held Saturday at Alamodome. Gallagher arrived Monday and flew back Sunday to Pittsburgh. The players stayed at the Grand Hyatt, which sits next to San Antonio’s popular River Walk, an area filled with restaurants and stores. Gallagher shared a room with fellow West Virginia recruit Josiah Trotter, a linebacker from St. Joseph’s Prep. Gallagher said the two talk a lot and already are good friends.
Practices were extremely competitive, Gallagher said. The players practiced Tuesday through Friday. Most of the practices were held at Trinity University, with one other one taking place at the Alamodome. It was a great learning experience for Gallagher, who played more quarterback than wide receiver at Laurel Highlands.
“I learned a lot,” he said. “I had a lot of new stuff introduced to me earlier in the week that I got to use. I just really learned the playbook of being a wide receiver. I think I took a big step.”
The players were broken up into two teams, East and West. There were nine wide receivers on the East squad, a group highlighted by Brandon Inniss, a five-star player headed to Ohio State who is ranked by Rivals as the No. 1 wide receiver and No. 11 player nationally. Another was Hykeem Williams, a five-star recruit who had Pitt among his final schools before committing to Florida State.
To say Gallagher was impressed by Inniss would be an understatement.
Said Gallagher, “He’s unreal. That’s the best football player I’ve seen.”
Another player that caught Gallagher’s attention was Aidan Chiles, an Oregon State recruit rated the No. 7 dual-threat quarterback in the country. Gallagher and Chiles played together during the game, which saw players rotate in and out every two drives. One of the other East quarterbacks was UCLA-bound Dante Moore, rated the No. 4 overall player in the country.
Moore was named MVP of the game, which was televised live on NBC. Moore passed for four touchdowns while leading the East team to a 55-17 win. Gallagher finished with two catches for 30 yards.
Gallagher had a large cheering section in San Antonio. Among those to make the trip were Gallagher’s two sisters, his dad, grandmother and Laurel Highlands football coach Rich Kolesar. Gallagher’s dad was there with him the entire time, with most of the others arriving later in the week.
“Having them there was big,” Gallagher said. “I love to have my family around me.”
Ever wonder what kind of swag players get for participating in an event like that? Gallagher and the others made out pretty well. He said he got to keep his jersey, pants and helmet from the game, his practice gear, three full outfits, and three pairs of shoes (sneakers, slides and training shoes).
The trip forced Gallagher to miss two basketball games, but both resulted in lopsided Laurel Highlands wins. He returned to practice Monday. The Mustangs are 9-1 and considered one of the top Class 4A teams in the state.
This is Gallagher’s final season wearing a Laurel Highlands uniform. The next football game he plays will be as a member of the West Virginia Mountaineers. There will be some familiarity early on, with West Virginia’s first three games being against Penn State, Duquesne and Pitt.
West Virginia is scheduled to play two games in Texas next season, but it was a trip there last week that one of the program’s top recruits believes better prepared him for his college career.
“Just this experience in general made me 10 times more excited to start my career at WVU,” Gallagher said. “It really prepared me for a lot of the work I’ll need to do to be ‘that guy’ there.”