IRVING,TEXAS - Roanoke Rapids senior football standout J.J. Patterson didn't know what to expect when he hit the field at Cowboys Stadium Thursday in the O-D All-American Bowl, featuring some of the top high school football players in the nation.
Patterson started at right guard on the offensive line for the East squad.
"I was nervous for the first few plays," Patterson said. "I didn't know what to expect. Kareem Martin (2010 Roanoke Rapids graduate) played in the game when he was a senior. Before I left for Texas he told me everybody there would be as good as me. After the first few plays I settled in."
Though Patterson's team lost, 21-14, the experience was a good one for the future University of North Carolina lineman.
The four-year starter arrived in Irving on Dec. 26.
The players went through two-a-day training sessions to prepare for the game, as well as going through clinics to learn the art of their positions.
"We had breakfast at 9 a.m., followed by two practices," Patterson said.
The two-time Northern Carolina 2-A Conference Lineman of the Year played tackle and defensive tackle at Roanoke Rapids, but was considered one of the top guard prospects in the nation. As expected, Patterson played guard, but was also inserted into the starting lineup.
"That was exciting," Patterson said. "To get a chance to start in a game with the best players in the country was cool. The competition was really good. I thought I played well. I think the experience will only help me in the long run when I get to Carolina."
Patterson will join his former high school teammate Martin, who currently starts on the defensive line for the Tar Heels.
Patterson was one of only two players from the Tar Heel state to play in the game. The other was wide receiver Jody Fuller from Sun Valley High School, near Charlotte, a University of South Carolina commit.
Most of the players at the game have already committed to play major college football at BCS Conference schools.
2011 Heisman winner Cam Newton, currently the quarterback of the Carolina Panthers, is one of many NFL players who played in the O-D All-AmericanBowl.
Patterson's next step will be reporting to UNC in the summer to prepare for the 2012 season. Though not officially a Tar Heel until he signs in February, Patterson has never wavered on his committment to North Carolina.