No one who ever saw him play could doubt Jon Lee’s athletic ability.
The former Apalachee High School standout left an impression on the minds of Wildcat fans which will be long remembered.
What Lee has done since graduating from high school is just as remarkable, probably more so. Lee is entering his senior season at the Air Force Academy, is set to be in the starting lineup this fall and has high sights set on one day being a fighter pilot.
As detailed in a recent article, Lee quickly found it would not be a walk in the park at the AFA. The physical and mental demands of being a student-athlete at one of the service academies is intense in all ways. Unless you’ve done it, you really can’t understand just what it’s like.
While most Division I-A college football players say the toll of playing at that level is extremely difficult, for Lee and his Falcon teammates, football is actually a break. The constant training, drilling, tough academic work and overall lack of sleep play into being a student at the AFA. It never ends. It never lets up. From one’s freshman to sophomore to junior years, you are always tested — mentally and physically — in this environment.
At first, Lee wasn’t sure he was going to make it. However, with support from his family and friends, the former AHS star has made it. He is entering his senior season and has overcome nagging football injuries to work himself into the starting lineup.
What’s interesting is that people — even die-hard college football fans — forget that Air Force plays at the highest level of competition. They regularly play Notre Dame and opponents such as Michigan are common.
Through the years, Air Force, like the other academies, have run a version of the option, a scheme which helps negate playing against teams with a long list of five star recruits. You see, you don’t go to Air Force to have a football career. You go to Air Force to train to become an officer. Football is just part of the experience.
When he was considering signing with Air Force, Lee got some sound advice from AHS coach Shane Davis.
“I told him the choice to go there couldn’t be a football choice,” Davis said. “It had to be a life choice.”
In the end, the decision was the right one, both academically and athletically. It has not been easy and Lee would be the first to admit that.
However, the young man has shown his character and is looking forward to life after football. He is as admired at the AFA as he was and is back home.
“He is a tremendous young man,” said Troy Garnhart, assistant athletic director at Air Force.
When I talked with him recently, he was respectful in answering all questions and made it clear he was where he needed to be.
“We look forward to having a strong season and going to a bowl game,” Lee said. “Winning the Commander in Chief trophy is also very important to all us.”
A minimum five-year commitment to the U.S. Air Force awaits Lee after his graduation from the Academy. That won’t be an easy task either, but Lee has shown numerous times in his young life that no challenge is too great.
Chris Bridges is sports editor of the Barrow Journal. You can send comments about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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