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By Anna Sarkissian
If the game’s commanding title is anything to go by – Team USA vs. The World – the Jan. 30 football match will be a grand opportunity for two Stingers who are heading to Florida to represent Canada.
Versatile linebacker/defensive back Christian Walcott found out through a Facebook message that he was chosen for the 19-and-under team.
“Initially I was skeptical about it. I wasn’t sure if it was real or not,” he says.
The second year international business student is thrilled to be playing on the world stage at Lockhart Stadium during Pro Bowl Week.
“I usually get nervous before a game and this is no different. I’m more nervous about this because it’s something out of the ordinary,” he says.
To prepare, he is lifting weights, doing agility drills and training in the dome at Loyola.
Forty-three players from eight countries and four continents will face USA Football’s junior national team in Fort Lauderdale. The world team will assemble for eight practices before the final showdown, which will feature commentary from top announcers Rich Eisen and Deion Sanders. NFL players will also be dropping in.
Getting used to new teammates and new coaches shouldn’t be a problem for Walcott.
“At the end of the day, it’s still football,” he says with confidence.
Lucky for Walcott, he’ll have his coach by his side. Stingers defensive coordinator Warren Craney was also handpicked for the game.
With so little time to prepare, the practices will be critical.
“The challenges are big, but the bottom line is organization. Everything has to be completely planned to the second,” Craney says.
He has experience coaching Team Quebec and Team Canada and was guest coach at the University of Nebraska and University of Michigan football schools.
Though this is a high-stakes game with the best American players, Craney hopes the pressure to perform doesn’t overcome the athletes.
“Of course we want to win and we’re going there prepared to win,” he says. “But the expectation is for the kids to have the time of their life.”
Team USA vs. The World airs on the NFL Network at noon on Jan. 30.