July 22, 2011
Like any good quarterback who needs the most inexperienced freshman to understand his play assignment, Air Force’s Tim Jefferson is trying to explain aeronautical engineering to a sports writer.
He dumbs it down the best he can, explaining how air flow over and under the wings of an airplane affect the lift, and if the angle of attack gets too high, the plane will stall. Knowing his audience, he didn’t bother getting into the mathematical formulas he had been writing out in preparation for his final.
If it sounds complicated, it is. Jefferson is asked how long it would take for a sports writer’s head to explode taking that class.
“First day,” Jefferson said with a smile. “I kind of felt like that the first day.”
The Mountain West has its media days this week, and each team brings two star players. Jefferson, Air Force’s marquee player and one of the best players in the conference, won’t be there. His classwork is the main reason. His final exam in astronautical engineering – which he is taking during this summer period, after finishing aero engineering – was the same week as media days. Receiver Jonathan Warzeka and defensive end Zach Payne will represent Air Force instead.
Most cadets dread taking the two classes, which are requirements at Air Force.
“It’s indescribable,” Air Force coach and alum Troy Calhoun said, after a long and devious laugh.
Jefferson said he proudly got a “solid B” in aero engineering. Astro engineering was much tougher but Jefferson said halfway through the class – knock on wood - he had a B-plus. Football teammates like long snapper Colton Reid, defensive backs Jon Davis and Anthony Wright and running back Asher Clark were in the class with Jefferson, and Jefferson said they wouldn’t be sad when it was over.
“It’s equation after equation and one plays off another and with that equation you need three more to find one variable,” Jefferson said.
Most senior quarterbacks take pride in organizing team workouts and mastering their team’s offense in the summer. Jefferson got to do that as well. During the first summer period, he said following class he worked out about two hours a day with his teammates who were at the academy. But it’s safe to say most college quarterbacks aren’t spending the majority of their summer days learning the mathematical formulas behind how airplanes or space satellites operate.
Jefferson wants to enter pilot training after he graduates, so the classes are important for his future.
“If you’re a pilot of a single-seat aircraft, you need to know what’s going on with the aircraft at all times,” Jefferson said.
Jefferson said he doesn’t mind spending his summer learning complicated engineering concepts instead of talking football with the media in Las Vegas or running endless 7-on-7 drills. He said he likes being at Air Force, because his personality is suited for the regimented schedule and academic challenges.
“I don’t think I’d want to see what it would be like going to a, quote-unquote, “regular” college, just because the lifestyle would be completely different,” Jefferson said. “Going to a service academy fits me perfectly.”