Army of one: Rifle’s Damon Wells off the U.S. Army All-American football game |

Army of one: Rifle’s Damon Wells off the U.S. Army All-American football game

Jon Mitchell
Rifle High School football coach Damon Wells, right, talks to his team following the Bears' season-opening victory over Coal Ridge on Aug. 31. Wells was one of 31 people in the nation who was selected by the United States Army to attend the U.S. Army All-American football game, scheduled for Jan. 4 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Darcy Copeland / |

RIFLE — Damon Wells could hardly believe his ears when he heard the news in late October. And almost two months later, he’s still having a hard time believing it.

“I’m still overwhelmed,” the seventh-year coach of the Rifle High School football team said earlier this week. “It’s just such an honor to be able to do something like this.”

And a rare honor, to be sure. Wells was selected to attend the U.S. Army All-American high school football game, scheduled to be played Jan. 4 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Not only will he be only person from Colorado chosen to attend the game, but he’ll be part of a select group of 31 people from around the nation who were hand picked by the Army to take part in the festivities.

“The only thing I could think about when I was told about this was how excited I was about it,” said Wells, whose football team was at the tail end of winning a share of its third consecutive Class 3A Western Slope League championship when he was told the news. “Not a lot of people get this kind of opportunity.”

This will be the 14th season the Army has put on the All-American game, which features blue-chip football talent from across the country. The game has featured Heisman Trophy winners and more than 200 current and former NFL players such as Andrew Luck, Tim Tebow, Jamal Charles and D’Anthony Thomas. Close to 40,000 people attended the 13th edition of the game in January of this year.

Wells is one of just two people from the Army’s local recruiting area — which includes Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska — who were chosen to participate in the festivities. The other is Tyler Zahn from Ralston, Neb., which is just south of Omaha.

Debbie Cannon, who is based out of Denver and serves as the area’s media liaison for the Army, said that the selection process isn’t limited to just football coaches. Also included are company CEOs, school administrators and even doctors, as long as they’re considered an educator through their jobs. Those who attend must first be nominated by someone in the Army to earn consideration for attending, and their applications are reviewed among the hundreds that come in each year.

“I’ve been here for 10 years, and there’s been some years we’ve had one and other years we haven’t had any,” said Cannon, speaking of the three-state area. “And then I look at this [national] list, and we see a CEO here, an assistant principal here, a doctor here. And then we see Damon Wells, and we’re like ‘Woohoo!’”

Wells was nominated by Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Tricario, who worked at the Army’s recruiting office in Glenwood Springs.

Wells just finished his seventh full season as coach of the Bears, compiling a 38-9 coaching record in the past four seasons. The Bears won the WSL championship outright in 2011 and 2012, reaching the state championship game in 2012 before finishing the season with a 13-1 record. What’s more, Wells’ teams have done well in the classroom, with close to half of the players on this year’s roster boasting grade point averages of 3.0 or better.

The honor is about more than just football, however. People who are selected also get to tour military bases in the area and get a firsthand look at how the military looks now. Many of the nominees are retired military or are familiar with it. Such is the case with Wells, whose father served in the Navy for 27 years.

There are also learning seminars that are included, and they span until Jan. 7. Wells will also get to skydive with the Golden Knights Parachute Team while he’s there.

But it’s the opportunity to rise and learn that has Wells excited more than anything.

“This isn’t just about football,” Wells said. “It’s an opportunity to gain some leadership skills and growth. Plus, it’s a chance for us to give more recruiting opportunities to our kids. I can’t wait.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User