Published: May 28, 2013
An Air Force athlete who will graduate Wednesday is being courted by professional football teams. But it's not the league, and certainly not the athlete, you might expect.
Basketball center Taylor Broekhuis was surprised by an invitation four weeks ago to participate in a combine in Los Angeles for the Australian Football League. The 6-foot-10, 220-pound Broekhuis was spotted on game tape for his potential to play the ruckman position - a spot that essentially handles jump balls - and was impressive enough to earn interest in the weeks since.
"It's really kind of shocking to me," said Broekhuis, who was one of around 20 athletes brought in for the combine, a group mostly comprising former basketball forwards and centers. "Four or five weeks ago I had never really heard of Australia rules football. Now, who knows, it might be my next paycheck."
Broekhuis, a Colorado Springs Christian School graduate, was known more for his outside touch than his inside brawn at Air Force, but teams clearly saw in him the potential to fit in at a position that is physically demanding.
The next phase in the process remains unclear. Broekhuis is aware that Air Force regulations require academy graduates to serve at least two years before applying for reserve status. He made clear he has no intention of trying to dodge any of his responsibilities.
Incidentally, there are positions for U.S. Air Force officers in Australia.
The entire situation, while still new and a bit bizarre, is certainly something Broekhuis will entertain - and it's definitely legitimate. The league has been in existence since 1897, has 18 teams that draw an average of more than 30,000 spectators per game and players' salaries, while not made public, are believed to average more than $200,000 and run as high as $1 million.
For now, Broekhuis is set for Wednesday's graduation, where he will be joined by the other four seniors from this year's Falcons basketball team. Among them will be Michael Lyons, who is still rehabbing a season-ending knee injury but will be able to walk without crutches in the ceremony.
"It's all starting to set in and we're figuring out how real it is - the accomplishments we've achieved through just four years, everything," Broekhuis said.
Air Force recognized cadet-athletes from the 2012-13 season with honors that were made public Tuesday.
Male athlete of the year: Michael Lyons, basketball
Female athlete of the year: Jen Bremser, track and cross country
Scholar athlete award: Jeremy Drenckhahn, cross country
Athletic leadership award: Kevin Durr, soccer
Athletic excellence award: Cole VonOhlen, wrestling
Athletic achievement award: Cale Simmons, track & field