The move Jake Ksiazek made within Air Force’s defense was no more than a couple of yards. But in football terms, it might as well be across the world.
Good thing the senior outside linebacker-turned-defensive lineman is accustomed to such a move.
For the first six years of his life, Ksiazek lived with his family in Saudi Arabia – where his father, Richard, worked for an oil company.
They moved to Arizona for his elementary school years, then returned to Saudi Arabia for middle school. Then, it was back to Arizona for high school.
“I think it’s given me global perspective,” said Ksiazek, who has applied for a pilot training slot. “I definitely do want to go overseas again. I’m very open to that.”
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This year, the journey he has taken involved only sliding to the interior of the defense from an edge spot within the front seven.
In 2017, Ksiazek played in five games at outside linebacker as a sophomore – making a stop at Michigan and a tackle-for-loss at Boise State. But his junior year was beset by injuries and Lakota Wills and Grant Donaldson – players one year younger – established themselves at the position.
In moving to the defensive line, he took up a spot that has seen a carousel of players this season after losing starter Micah Capra from a year ago. Jared Bair had the spot in August before an injury. Then, Kaleb Nunez took it and was injured. Jordan Jackson started there against San Jose State, with Michael Purcell playing Jackson’s defensive end position.
The downside was abandoning a position he had spent three years learning. The upside was he no longer had to watch his weight.
“I gained about 15 pounds when I got the call over the summer,” he said.
Ksiazek made his first career start against Navy and made a pair of solo tackles.
Coach Troy Calhoun said Ksiazek’s skills as a pass rusher initially made him a candidate for the position switch, while the power he’s added has allowed him to see an expanded role.
Such a switch isn’t uncommon for Air Force. At Navy, the Falcons started several players who have seen position changes in their career. Safety Jeremy Fejedelem was once a starter at cornerback. Receiver Ben Waters has spent full seasons on defense. Donaldson started at the spur linebacker position after previously playing at the bandit.
“We are forever, ‘Can this guy play here?’” Calhoun explained. “We always try to look at from a player’s perspective in that regard, and it helps our team, too.”
Ksiazek had no problem being flexible through the transition. After all, in his formative years as a football fan spent in the Middle East he had to wake up at odd hours to catch a game on television, was presented only the option of playing flag football and spent much of his time playing soccer, where he served as the goalie.
“I wanted to get on the field and help the team as much as I could,” he said, “so I was glad they were at least looking at ways to get me involved.”
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