September 3, 2013 Updated: September 4, 2013 at 10:05 am
Sophomore Jaleel Awini finds himself holding the starting quarterback spot after beginning the season as the backup.
So in many ways it's 2008 all over again.
That was the year that Awini took over for Rangeview High School in Aurora and guided the Raiders to a 4-2 finish after they had started 0-4.
"He took on the challenge and learned quickly," said David Gonzales, Awini's high school coach. "We knew he was going to be something special."
Awini and Rangeview improved to 6-4 his junior year and went 11-1 when he was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Colorado as a senior.
Air Force can only hope Awini follows a similar projection this time around, now that he has been given the reins of the program after a knee injury to Kale Pearson.
He certainly isn't lacking in supporters, from Gonzales and those at Rangeview reminded of his excellence through a photo in the weight room through his Air Force teammates, plenty are cheering on the Falcons sophomore.
"Jaleel has a cannon," Air Force senior guard Moshood Adeniji said. "He can really let the thing fly. I never thought of Kale as being limited with his arm . but sometimes you'll watch Jaleel throw and be like, 'Man, that's a rocket right there.'"
Senior Ty MacArthur said the team is devastated for Pearson, but trying to find the positive in the situation.
"It's not something you'd like to see, obviously," MacArthur said. "You feel bad, but it's exciting to get a new young kid in there."
Awini was not made available to media this week, as coach Troy Calhoun reversed his policy on allowing select freshmen and sophomores to speak at a Tuesday press conference. Calhoun cited academic reasons for the sudden switch.
Awini's teammates spoke plenty about him, though, referring to his laid-back style and a sense of humor that linebacker Spencer Proctor likened to that of the movie "Superbad."
Gonzales knows all about how effectively Awini can make the switch from backup to starter. He was excited about him from the moment he first saw him as a freshman with "an unbelievable arm and great mechanics," and was never disappointed.
More on Awini
- Son of Muntari and Ramatu Awini, who immigrated to Aurora from Ghana. According to Jon Sobolewski, who coached Awini in three sports at Rangeview, Jaleel's father was a diplomat and a great soccer player in Ghana.
- His two sisters were born in Ghana, while Jaleel was the only child in his family born in the United States.
- Earned his conference's sixth man award as a senior in basketball.
- Fan of the Broncos and Nuggets.
- Majoring in management.