Arion Worthman grew up brushing his teeth every day with Michigan football stickers staring back at him from his bathroom mirror.
On the floor was a Michigan run. The shower closed with a Wolverines curtain. The light switch cover? Maize and blue.
And in the Air Force quarterback’s room, located in central Illinois in the heart of Big Ten country, sat a thick book cataloging the history of Michigan football.
Next week, Worthman will have an opportunity to etch his name in future editions of that book, as Air Force kicks off a season of potentially memorable travel experiences with a trip to the “Big House” in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“I grew up envisioning myself playing in those Big Ten environments,” Worthman said. “To get to do so is a little surreal.”
The travel highlights don’t stop there. Air Force also visits Navy, a shiny new stadium at Colorado State and the iconic blue turf at Boise State. Even a trip to Nevada will be the first since Mackay Stadium underwent a $14 million facelift.
“Hell of a senior season ahead of us,” linebacker Grant Ross said. “That is pretty cool. … Each stadium that we go to, we go to win.”
These games can help in recruiting, particularly one against an opponent like No. 8 Michigan.
The Falcons visited Michigan State two years ago. Faced Notre Dame at home in 2013, and traveled to Michigan in 2012.
Those haven’t gone unnoticed.
“That was definitely a selling point to come here and have the opportunity to compete against some of those teams,” Worthman said. “My No. 1 goal is to stay healthy so I can see all these stadiums.”
Coach Troy Calhoun, never one to get swept into the excitement of something like travel, noted that it can be an advantage to be able to play in areas where recruiting is most heavy. So perhaps its no surprise that the team has played in Georgia, Texas and Michigan in recent years.
“Any person that you recruit, their families want to be able to follow games,” Calhoun said. “So, sure. Television helps that way too, in terms of exposure”
Travel in general is a highlight of the college football experience for kicker Luke Strebel. This is common everywhere, but tends to be even more pronounced at a service academy as travel also means a break from the rigors of cadet life.
“Travel’s probably my favorite part of the season,” Strebel said. “You get to travel with the team, stay in hotels. That whole traveling atmosphere is just fun. It’s just being with the guys and a lot of time to focus on your craft, which a lot of times at home you might not have as much time to do.”
Air Force fans needn’t worry about Worthman feeling nostalgic when surrounded by the kind of Michigan merchandise he once hoarded.
All those decorations went in the trash after his sophomore year in high school, and the sentiment with them them.
“My dad was like, ‘You know what, let’s take this Michigan crap down,’” Worthman said. “'They’re not recruiting my son.’ We painted it a color that turned out to be Air Force blue.
Air Force’s road trips include some iconic, and new, destinations.
Sept. 16 – at No. 8 Michigan
In 2012, Air Force lost 31-25 at the Big House in front of 112,522 – the largest crowd to ever witness a Falcons games.
Sept. 30 – at New Mexico
The past five games in this series have been high scoring (averaging 73.2 points) and close, with an average winning margin of six points.
Oct. 7 – at Navy
The Falcons will seek just their second victory at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium since 1997 as they look to retain the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.
Oct. 20 – at Nevada
Mackay Stadium received $14 million in renovations since Air Force last visited in 2013, including new locker rooms.
Oct. 28 – at Colorado State
The Falcons will get their first look at CSU’s $220-million on-campus stadium that opened in August.
Nov. 18 – at Boise State
The blue turf is among the top tourist attractions in Idaho and makes the Broncos easily identifiable to television audiences.