Air Force’s coaches are assigned different parts of the country to recruit, but all of them recruit Colorado. For Troy Calhoun’s first few years, that seemed like a waste of resources.
Air Force had only two in-state players on their first- or second-team offense or defense last season: fullback Nathan Walker and linebacker Jamil Cooks, who are both from Colorado Springs. But this year, the Falcons landed a talented and larger-than-normal group of recruits from Colorado.
Quarterback Jaleel Awini, who won the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year award for Rangeview High in Aurora, receiver Christian Gann of Chaparral in Parker, linebacker Connor Healy of Mullen in Denver, tight end Drew Dyer of Regis Jesuit in Aurora, linebacker Ian Imamura of Pueblo West and linebacker Patrick Stevenson of Fountain-Fort Carson are among the in-state players who have stated they have committed to play football at Air Force.
“I think the success they’ve been having – four straight bowl games, and four straight winning seasons – to be honest, they’re the best Colorado team right now,” said Awini, who will go to the prep school this fall.
Wednesday was signing day in college football, and while the Falcons don’t announce the incoming players because of the appointment process for a service academy, one of the interesting trends of the unofficial list of recruits was the heavy dose of Colorado players. Calhoun, without commenting on any specific players, confirmed that becoming a bigger presence in Colorado was a goal, although he said there were more viable candidates than normal in state this year.
“When you look back through the years, whenever we’ve had really good football teams at the Air Force Academy, almost invariably we’ve had a couple Colorado kids that have played significantly or been starters,” Calhoun said. “We’re going to know every kid in the state.”
Awini said he chose Air Force over Indiana, Vanderbilt and Colorado State. The others had options, too. Healy had interest from San Diego State, Wyoming, Colorado State and had started talking to Vanderbilt.
“To be honest, Air Force is probably a better team than most of those others,” Healy said.
Healy’s family had been going to Air Force home games since the family moved to Colorado when Connor was about 5 years old. Others may not have had that longtime connection with Air Force, but the Falcons’ recent success – along with the struggles of Colorado and Colorado State – has made Air Force a more attractive option.
“I don’t know why more kids from Colorado don’t go there,” Gann said.
The Colorado recruits have struck up a friendship, mostly through Facebook. Awini said there has been talk among them of being “hometown heroes” at Air Force, with high hopes of starting a trend for future in-state players.
“Most guys tend to go to CU or CSU,” Awini said. “Connor, Drew, me and some others, we said, 'it would be cool if we did something special'.”
Here is an unofficial list, culled from various sources, of players who have committed to play football at Air Force. Some heights and weights are from Rivals.com and MaxPreps.com:
Player, hometown (high school)
QB Jaleel Awini, Aurora (Rangeview)
DT Chris Boudreaux, Mobile, Ala. (St. Paul’s)
S Aaryn Bouzos, La Mirada, Calif. (La Mirada)
OLB Trevor Caswell, Round Rock, Texas (Stony Point)
TE Nate Dreslinski, Clinton, Mich. (Clinton)
TE Drew Dyer, Aurora (Regis Jesuit)
LS Harrison Elliott, Roswell, Ga. (Roswell)
OL Blake Fussell, Snellville, Ga. (Brookwood)
WR Christian Gann, Parker, Colo. (Chaparral)
QB Dano Graves, Folsom, Calif. (Folsom)
DB Jaylen Harris, Leander, Texas (Vista Ridge)
LB Connor Healy, Denver (Mullen)
WR Marcus Hendricks, Folsom, Calif. (Folsom)
OL Wilson Heres, Roswell, Ga. (Roswell)
OL Jarrett Hudson, Cedar Park, Texas (Cedar Park)
ATH/QB Colton Huntsman, Cypress, Texas (Cypress Woods)
LB Ian Imamura, Pueblo (Pueblo West)
LB Dallis Joiner, Atlanta (Westminster)
RB LaMarce Lafayette, Daingerfield, Texas (Daingerfield)
DB Jon Lindemann, Scottsdale, Ariz. (Saguaro)
DB Jeremy McNeal, La Porte, Texas (La Porte)
TE D.J. Miolen, Gainesville, Ga. (North Hall)
DB Cedric Parker, Chandler, Ariz. (Hamilton)
FB Tripp Patterson, Lenoir, N.C. (Hibriten)
QB Kale Pearson, Tulsa, Okla. (Union)
LB Jordan Pierce, Athens, Ga. (Clarke Central)
DB Ryan Pollard, Arlington, Texas (Martin)
DE Tanner Rice, Coppell, Texas (Coppell)
DB Demarcus Robinson, Cedar Hill, Texas (Cedar Hill)
OL Matt Rochell, McDonough, Ga. (Eagle’s Landing Christian)
QB Kent Rollins, Snellville, Ga. (South Gwinnett)
ATH/QB Teddy Ruben, Scottsdale, Ariz. (Saguaro)
DE James Rushing, Houston (Houston Memorial)
FB Tyrone Sauls, El Cajon, Calif. (Christian)
LB Patrick Stevenson, Colorado Springs (Fountain-Fort Carson)
DE Troy Timmerman, Florence, Ky. (Covington Catholic)
OL Ari Uzo-Okereke, San Juan Capistrano, Calif. (San Juan Hills)
DB Miles Weatheroy, Portland, Ore. (Jesuit)