Comet athletes elect to continue careers at military academies

Divy Bose | The Chronicle

Two Mason High School seniors have made the decision to not only continue their athletic careers at the collegiate level, but also serve their country. 

Every senior struggles through the decision of what to do after their high school career. Athletes face added pressure of deciding whether or not to continue playing their sport at the next level and deal with the recruitment process.

On February 1st, 2023, Aaron Spears signed with the United States Naval Academy to throw for their division one track and field team. Spears said that his plans of studying and training in the Navy have been a part of his future outlook since the end of his junior year.

“I have always wanted to be part of such a hard-working and amazing program,” Spears said. “To be able to not only grow in my education but in strength is really rewarding.” 

Playing on the Mason football team consecutively through high school has built a foundation of discipline and strength that has prepared players for their future. Spears said that Mason High School Football Coach Brian Castner has influenced the importance of brotherhood and instruction.

“Getting to be a part of a team that prioritizes what I will continue to aspire to do is a privilege,” Spears said. “Having my voice be heard by my teammates that I consider brothers is really rewarding.”

Being a part of the Navy means that training starts right away in order to be well prepared. Spears said that swimming and running seven days a week as well as conditioning in the gym four times a week is the only option in order to improve. 

“I didn’t want to join the Navy at first because of how difficult the conditioning and workouts were,” Spears said. “Being disciplined to myself starting now is going to really pay off in the program itself.” 

Following strict protocols is something Spears already does in his own household, as he comes from a military family. His father enlisted straight out of high school in 1998, serving two years in the military. Spears and his brother were held to high standards growing up, ultimately shaping his character and preparing him for his future in the navy.

“My dad always makes me and my brother follow his famous acronym of A-H-O-P which ultimately molded our morals,” Spears said. “A stands for accountability, H stands for honesty, O stands for ownership, and the P is perseverance.”

Along with the Navy, the United States Military Academy at West Point is an option for students to further their education and serve their country after high school. Senior Caden Davis signed to the Army football team on February 1, 2023. Davis said that the Army stood out amongst his offers that included Navy and Columbia because of its unique culture and atmosphere.

“I have always loved the army, but never saw myself being a part of it let alone the football team until I really looked into it,” Davis said. “It was a no brainer choice for me after one visit and I really saw myself as a part of the team.”

Committing to a routine has also been a priority, considering that for the first six weeks of both the Army and Naval Academy, both Spears and Davis will not have any source of technology. Enrolling in such rigorous and dedicated programs, the typical college lifestyle is thrown away. 

Coming out of college, being buried in debt won’t be an issue for him. Spears said that serving for five years straight will save him thousands of dollars in college expenses.

“Most people don’t realize that going to the Navy or Army is going to college for free,” Spears said. “For any other person even with a full ride, room and board would take a good five to ten years to pay off when I am debt free straight out of college.” 

Spears’ brother’s enrollment in the Navy has led him to be sure of his commitment so early on. Spears said that seeing his brother grow through the program, as well as being an athlete has made him want to do the same.

“I asked him what his reason was for going to the academy since I have so much respect for him,” Spears said. “The switch flipped for me when he told me it was the best decision of his life.”

Being an athlete at the West Point and Naval Academy means that growing and developing in academics as well as in athletics is a part of the role. Spears said that holding himself accountable with not only training, but also fulfilling the well respected reputation of an athlete in the Navy is his focus.

“Athletes have to maintain a healthy balance between rigorous academics and their own sport,” Spears said. “It takes a lot more persistence and time management to succeed in both.”

Maintaining a competitive attitude as an athlete in the Navy and Army is what will also excel in the athletic department. The Navy vs Army game is one of the most historical rivalries to ever go down, dating back to 1890. Davis said that playing football for four years at Mason has consistently made him strive for more, as well as follow up the traditional feud between the Navy and Army.

“I have always been so competitive and ready to fight for a win,” Davis said. “It’ll be so fun to see where Spears ends up since he has been a longtime teammate of mine, but even better to see him now as my rival.”

Graphics by Alisha Verma