PHOTO (Air Force Academy): Falcons linebacker Will Trawick’s eyes close in on Navy quarterback Ryan Goslin.
By TOM SHANAHAN
Air Force opened the season with a dominating 40-7 win over Navy, its rival for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. Typically, a team’s coach makes available a couple of star players early in the week to talk about the win and upcoming opponent.
After an unusually one-sided game, Air Force must have All-American candidates to offer.
Maybe 2020 versions of the late Dee Dowis and Chad Hennings. Dowis ran wild as an option quarterback over the old Western Athletic Conference — especially against Al Luginbill’s San Diego State defenses — en route to finishing sixth in the 1989 Heisman Trophy voting; Hennings, a defensive end, was the 1987 Outland Trophy winner and three-time All-WAC pick that played nine NFL seasons with the Dallas Cowboys.
Nope. No one with that stature.
One guy, senior linebacker Will Trawick, made his first career game and first career start all one in the same. The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder from Willow Park, Texas, finished with five tackles, including a half-sack for three yards.
The other, senior wide receiver, Daniel Morris, didn’t play in a game until his junior year. The 6-2, 220-pounder from St. Peters, Missouri, finished last year with one catch for 10 yards. But in the victory over Navy, he led the Falcons with two career highs, three catches for 29 yards, while connecting with a sophomore quarterback playing his first game, Haaziq Daniels.
Sticking around that long for an opportunity is unusual in this era of the NCAA transfer portal, but it’s routine at the three academies, Air Force, Army and Navy.
“I’ve always have loved football growing up — it’s a fun game, it’s fun to compete,” Trawick said. “Quitting was never on my mind. I loved coming down here (the football facility) and getting after it in the weight room, practice or whatever my role has been on the team. I tried to do the best I can to help the team be as good as it can be prepared for Saturday. It’s fun now to actually compete on Saturdays.”
Morris echoed Trawick. Part of their humility to accept a supporting role has to do with the environment of committing to serve their country upon graduation while also playing Division I football as part of the package.
“What kept me going is the love for the game,” Morris said. “We practice hard and practice a lot and that’s fun. I’d rather practice with this football team than be doing a lot of other things that other people are doing. It’s the guys. We have a great group of guys.
“What’s been cool this year is getting to be a little closer to the underclassmen than normal because we’re all together. We’ve had those turn backs (players that took a semester off or won’t return) and we had to have freshmen sophomores step up. I think they’re starting to see how much fun it truly is here. Practice is tough, but once you get that first game experience there is nothing better. That’s what kept me going.”
Part of Air Force’s recruiting process has been identifying overachievers that will continue to develop. Trawick added part of the program’s history has been a coaching staff that excels at developing players throughout their careers in addition to preparing the team week to week.
Air Force coach Troy Calhoun is an academy grad that played quarterback for the Falcons, so he understands the culture long in place.
“They’re exceptional young men,” Calhoun said. “I think when we identified them in high school, we had a strong sense they will continue to grow and mature to be really, really strong officer candidates. It shows on the football field as football leaders but even beyond that as high-quality young men.”
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