With 49 seconds to go in the game, Manny Johnson ran 16 yards for a game winning touchdown to give the East a 21-14 win in the Football University Youth All-American Bowl at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
"I started dancing, and I was about to start crying on the field," the running back said about his last-minute score.
The performance earned the seventh-grader from Mooresville Middle School the most valuable player award.
Johnson's mother, Emma Ingram, said it was a wonderful experience to watch her son play at the highest level in youth football.
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"I was really proud of him, and I didn't care if they won or lost that game," she said. "I was just proud as a parent that he made it that far."
Johnson said he had a great time participating in the bowl.
"It was kind of like the NFL - we had a lot of player meetings and coaches meetings," the 12-year-old said. "It was good for me because I was with the best players in the country in my age group."
Used to being the fastest and strongest player around, Johnson said that was humbled by seeing guys who were faster and even better than him.
His middle school football coach - Jeff Burchett - said that this is important for Johnson, who he said could be one of the best running backs to have come through Mooresville Middle.
"That gives him room for improvement, that gives you a goal you can strive for," Burchett said. "Down the road he could be one of the best in the state - if not the country."
Johnson, who was named one of the East's captains, hopes to go to the eighth grade and high school All-American bowls and to one day earn a college scholarship.
Even though Johnson is still young, interest in him is high.
The 5-9, 167-pound athlete has been invited to participate in Clemson's football camp this summer. Johnson said he has also been approached by scouts from N.C. State, Michigan and California at different games he's played in.
Johnson explained that education was something stressed to him and the other participants by coaches and athletes who they interacted with in San Antonio.
"Most of them were saying 'school is first and second is football,'" he said.
But his mother said she's been telling him to focus in school all of his life.
"He needs to stay on top of his books - that's what we keep stressing to him because there's a little quote that goes: 'NFL means Not For Long,'" Ingram said.
Burchett said Johnson is a strong back who runs hard but who also has the agility needed to be a good running back.
"He's really a man among boys out there at the middle school level," Burchett said.
Jeff Wright, defensive coach for Mooresville Middle, said what separates Johnson from other players is his competitive drive.
"I like that about him," Wright said. "That's rare in a seventh-grader."
Wright, who teaches Johnson in two subjects, said Johnson would sometimes approach him about playing on the defensive side of the game when they needed of help.
"That really impressed me because one of the things coach Burchett and I try to stress 'the team first' - do whatever it takes to help your team win," Wright said. "Manny certainly does that."
In addition to playing running back, Johnson, who has only been playing football for four years, said he can play any position in the offensive line, linebacker, defensive end and cornerback as well as kicker and punter.
Johnson also has taken another role on the field - that of a leader.
"When you're blessed with the skills that you have, players tend to look up to you, and he's handled that role well," Burchett said.
In addition to playing football, Johnson plays basketball - although he didn't try out for his middle school team this year - as well as baseball and hopes to start running track this spring.
Burchett said that Johnson was undefeated in wrestling on his way to a conference championship during his first year in the sport.
"His abilities are infinite," Burchett said. "He can excel at pretty much anything he puts his mind to."