Military News

Soldiers enjoying time as mentors for athletes before big game

Three Joint Base Lewis-McChord Green Berets who credibly could compete for the title of World’s Most Interesting Man are in Texas this week hoping to leave a lasting impression on some of the country’s most-accomplished high school athletes.

The soldiers admit they can’t teach much about football to the star players invited to the All-American Bowl, but they’d like to pass on a few lessons that could help the athletes off the field.

“Dedication, work ethic, just showing we’re one in the same in everything we do, that it pays off to be dedicated and hard-working,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jason Boyd of JBLM’s 1st Special Forces Group.

Boyd and two teammates from the 1st Group are among 23 soldiers the Army selected to send to the annual high school football all-star game in San Antonio. The soldiers, players and another group of high school musicians will spend the next few days together attending workout sessions and a mix of social events before Saturday’s nationally televised game.

So far, the soldiers say they’ve been inspired by driven teenagers who have big plans for their futures.

“They’re a lot of fun,” said Sgt. 1st Class Sara Schultz, the fourth soldier from Washington who’s participating in the bowl. She’s an Army Reserve career counselor based in Bothell. “They’re very respectful, they’re very good at what they do. It’s refreshing because these kids know what they want to do.”

Founded in 2001, the All-American Bowl pits star athletes from the West against their East Coast peers. It gets national attention in the sporting press with five-star recruits facing off against each other before they hit the field for college teams. Seattle Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse, a Lakes High School alumnus, played in the game in 2008.

This year, offensive lineman Henry Roberts of Bellevue High School is the only athlete from Washington in the game.

Some of the soldiers attending the game as Army mentors have football backgrounds, but they said they could not have kept up with the talent they’re seeing in San Antonio this week.

“These guys are top tier. I was just average,” said Sgt. 1st Class William Shearer, 31, of the 1st Group. He grew up in a football house. He was a player and his dad was a coach.

The Special Forces soldiers visiting with players have unusual military résumés. Shearer, for instance, is fluent in Chinese. He deploys frequently to Asia. He also received a Purple Heart after being wounded in Afghanistan.

He was happy to talk about his experiences with athletes at a dinner.

“I want to hear their stories and they want to hear mine,” said Shearer, a JBLM Green Beret.

Staff Sgt. Jesse Heeney, another Green Beret, has fought in Afghanistan and the Philippines since joining the Army in 2007. He recently received a national military volunteer award recognizing the time he spent recording videos of soldiers reading books to their children in Afghanistan so Army kids at home could hear bedtime stories from their parents.

Boyd, the warrant officer, has deployed several times to Afghanistan and the Philippines, too. He’s an 18-year Army veteran who won a pushup contest in front of the athletes Tuesday night.

“They were pretty impressed that I’m 36 and still doing this,” he said, laughing.