With the academic year finished and summer set to begin, Air Force’s football team is entering an often overlooked but critical time.
Unlike at most Division I schools, where football players spend their summers on campus working out, many of Air Force’s players will be spread out across the globe for at least part of their summers. That means players will have to find ways to work out – often in less-than-ideal environments and often without the help or company of teammates. Whether they do or not will have a significant impact on the 2008 season.
The key players on last season’s team all were committed during the offseason, and that was a major reason for the Falcons’ success.
Quarterback Shaun Carney, running back/receiver/returner Chad Hall, guard Caleb Morris and outside linebacker Julian Madrid all went through Academy Flight Screening (AFS), a rigorous program used to evaluate the likelihood that cadets will have success in Specialized Undergraduate Pilot or Navigator Training after graduation. But all managed to push themselves in workouts during their limited free time. Here’s what I wrote last year in a story about roommates Madrid and Hall:
The program includes 17 flights (about 90 minutes apiece) and many additional hours of studying military-style flight procedures in a classroom setting. It demands six-day weeks with each day starting at 4:45 a.m. and many not ending until the late afternoon.
That exhausting schedule offered the players the perfect excuse for skipping offseason workouts. But they did not use it as such.
Since late May, roommates Hall and Madrid have spent four to five hours working out six days a week. Even after 12-hour marathon sessions at the airfield, the pair made it to the gym, track or field to prepare for their senior seasons.
“We never cut a workout short,” Hall said. “We always did extra – whether it was running or lifting. It’s not fun to do after a long day, but that’s our job.”
I also spent some time at Langley AFB last summer with safety Bobby Giannini, who used a parched stretch of grass between dorms to do his conditioning and speed work.
So here’s the point: Those guys all found ways to get their workouts done during the offseason, they often sacrificed going out or having fun, and they came to preseason bigger, faster and stronger. This year’s group will need similar dedication.
Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said he talked to his players about that commitment and other offseason obligations about a week-and-a-half ago before they started final exams. “We talked about, number one, you go to the academy, so integrity’s paramount,” he said. “We talked about conduct during the summer when they’re on Ops Air Force or wherever they are, and about the unique self-discipline that’s necessary to continue to develop physically.”