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Air Force junior inside linebacker Demonte Meeks catches a break in between drills Saturday during Air Force football practice.

Two high school classes propelled Demonte Meeks to the Air Force Academy.

He failed them both.

It was F’s he received in geometry and calculus that made him recalibrate his academic path and strictly adhere to study skills he had learned in a specialized program he took from seventh grade through graduation.

“I don’t like C’s and D’s and F’s,” said Meeks, a starting inside linebacker on the football team. “At that point, it was on me.”

The corrections he made carried him to the Air Force prep school and now into his junior year at the academy. He was even going to major in physics until taking a detour toward civil engineering.

“Those skills make life a lot easier in college,” said Meeks, who said his interest in water, soil and bridges helped lead him into his current major. “I got here and just took off running.”

In football, Meeks has been running with the first-team defense since starting the final two games of the season last year. The native of Maple Heights, Ohio, made eight tackles in those two games with 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery.

Looking back, he felt indecisive in that first taste of extended game action. While study skills may help his grasp information in a book, on the football field he describes himself as a slow learner who needs hands-on experience.

But he helps himself where he can. A program contributor called him a “dynamo” in the weight room who has “muscles in his ears.”

Meeks squats 530 pounds and cleans 330 – “Great players are made in the weight room,” he noted. At 6-foot-1, 228 pounds, he will be among the biggest players to play the position for the Falcons.

“You’ll just never, ever enjoy coaching a guy more than Demonte Meeks,” coach Troy Calhoun said. “Outstanding student. He burns. Just one thing, on the inside he’s got juice; he’s got energy. Slow-burn guys are hard to coach. Guys who have drive and desire and have an itch… I’ll say this, I’ve never once gone to Demonte and his response was, ‘Maybe later,’ or, ‘Let me take a look at it.’ His thought is, ‘Let’s do it right now.’

“You can always tell guys that are dependable because they’re probably also guards on your punt team. And he was that for us.”

Meeks spent part of his summer participating in Air Force Operations – a brief internship, of sorts, that takes allows cadets to shadow active-duty personnel in their career fields – at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.

There, Meeks saw the details of the base’s power production, oil operations and worked with heavy machinery like bulldozers and back hoes.

More so, he talked with administrative staff and airmen who explained how their tasks impacted the mission on the base.

That’s where Meeks feels he is in football. The past two years were spent learning the basics of his job. “I have to see it over and over again and get yelled at. It’s repetition for me.”

Now, he’s able to see the bigger picture of the defense’s goals.

“This year I know what I’m doing,” he said. “Because I know what I’m doing I can watch my assignment and do the extra stuff.”

In school and in the weight room, Meeks has a history of thriving when he does the “extra stuff.” Now, if Meeks shooting a gap and making a tackle for a loss in Saturday’s scrimmage is any indication, Air Force football stands to benefit from that next step in his progression.

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