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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Salem's Barker heads to Down Under Bowl

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Steven (Luke) Barker, a senior at Salem High School, has been invited to participate in the 2003 Down Under Bowl.

He is the 17-year-old son of Steve Barker and Rhonda Koelling and is valedictorian of his senior class.

Barker started his sports career at an early age playing in the summer baseball and the mighty mite football programs. In high school he has played football, basketball, golf and ran cross country, and track.

Barker said he is honored to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The Down Under Bowl is an annual event held each June and July in Australia where American state all-star football teams play each other and American cheerleaders and dance/drill team members perform in various cities throughout Australia and New Zealand.

There have been teams from Arkansas representing the state for the past six years. Four of these six have come back as Arkansas Down Under Bowl champions and wear the ring to prove it. It is estimated there are about 2,300 graduating senior football players in the state of Arkansas, but only a few are invited to participate in the Down Under Bowl.

Players must meet these criteria: 1. be of high character. 2. graduating senior football player. 3. All State, All District or come highly recommended by a coach.

International Sports Specialists Inc. encourages each participant's community and school to get behind the players and support them in any way possible. The overall cost for each player is around $4,000.

ISSI was founded in February 1989 based upon the dream of a New Zealander, who fell in love with athletics, especially American football as a young man growing up in his native country of New Zealand. His desire over the years has been to promote football, not only to the people of New Zealand, but also to Australia where he lived for many years.

Over the past 11 years, ISSI has had the opportunity to share the land down under with over 16,000 athletes from across the United States.

From its first Down Under Bowl in 1989, when four states produced a team, to 2000 when ISSI sent 48 teams from 50 different states to participate in the Down Under Bowl, the goal has been the same -- to use the common language of sports to bridge the continents.

Over the years ISSI, the coaches and athletes have afforded to peoples of Australia and New Zealand hundreds of football clinics and instructional workshops to assist them in building their football programs. In turn, many wonderful acquaintances and experiences for U.S. athletes have been made with the Australians and the New Zealanders. 1999 saw inaugural games which included ice hockey, soccer, girls volleyball, golf, cross country and free style wrestling.

ISSI's goal is to continue to provide athletes who excel in their sports the opportunity to experience the culture, beauty and grandeur of the land down under all within the framework of spirited and intense competition in sports.

Each athlete must be nominated by a coach from his or her school or be in a pre- or post-season honors list in order to participate in the Down Under Bowl.

Prior standouts of the Down Under Bowl include Jake "The Snake" Plummer, quarterback the Phoenix Cardinals; Darrell Russell, defensive lineman of the Oakland Raiders; and Ahman Green, running back for the Seattle Seahawks. Many top universities also have Down Under Bowl alumni.

For more information call Barker at 870-895-2513.

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