Military precision

Rebels’ Jordan, Smith choose Air Force, VMI

Maryville High senior Reed Walker signs a National Letter of Intent to play college baseball at Volunteer State Community College on National Signing Day on Wednesday. Accompanying Walker are, standing, left to right, Maryville baseball coach Jim Gaylor, grandparents Xian and Cricket Walker, father Rick, grandmother Phyllis Lawson, stepfather Joe Anderson and grandfather Bill Lawson. Seated with Walker is mom Mary Jane Anderson.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

Maryville High senior Reed Walker signs a National Letter of Intent to play college baseball at Volunteer State Community College on National Signing Day on Wednesday. Accompanying Walker are, standing, left to right, Maryville baseball coach Jim Gaylor, grandparents Xian and Cricket Walker, father Rick, grandmother Phyllis Lawson, stepfather Joe Anderson and grandfather Bill Lawson. Seated with Walker is mom Mary Jane Anderson.

Maryville High School senior Chris Jordan signs a National Letter of Intent with the United States Air Force Academy on National Signing Day on Wednesday. Accompanying Jordan are, seated, mom Amy and, standing, left to right, Air Force liaison Col. Rick Coleman, father Tim Jordan and grandmother Vivienne Cassinger.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

Maryville High School senior Chris Jordan signs a National Letter of Intent with the United States Air Force Academy on National Signing Day on Wednesday. Accompanying Jordan are, seated, mom Amy and, standing, left to right, Air Force liaison Col. Rick Coleman, father Tim Jordan and grandmother Vivienne Cassinger.

Maryville High seniors Justin Smith, left, and Chris Jordan sign National Letters of Intent with Virginia Military Institute and the United States Air Force Academy on Wednesday.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

Maryville High seniors Justin Smith, left, and Chris Jordan sign National Letters of Intent with Virginia Military Institute and the United States Air Force Academy on Wednesday.

It’s different when it’s a military school.

The football is no less serious at the United States Air Force Academy. The Falcons play Division I. Last season, the Air Force schedule included games at Utah, San Diego State, Colorado State and Brigham Young University.

Chris Jordan is well aware of the commitment he made when he signed a National Letter of Intent with the Falcons on National Signing Day on Wednesday morning at Maryville High School.

Jordan was joined in the school’s Ruby Tuesday Room by Rebel teammate Justin Smith, who signed a letter of intent with Virginia Military Institute, and Rebel baseball player Reed Walker, who signed with Volunteer State.

It’s different for Jordan, though. Smith and Walker, a talented infielder who hopes to sign with a Division I program after junior college, have the option of military service after college, with Smith’s decision to attend VMI making such a move an easier fit.

For Jordan, it’s not an option. Planning to enter the academy’s pre-med program, the All-State wideout knows when he arrives in Colorado Springs, Colo., this summer, his life belongs to the Air Force for at least the next 10 years.

It’s why he chose the academy, over such lofty options as Ivy League star Harvard and others, in the first place, Jordan said.

“You’re giving some stuff up in the college life,” he said, “but the discipline is reward in its own right.”

Jordan said he’s counting on the academy’s ability to teach him how to be an adult, how to grow up.

Maryville couldn’t be sending better representatives to VMI and the Air Force Academy, Rebel coach George Quarles said. Smith and Jordan are two of Maryville’s brightest students. Any college would take them. That both chose schools with military themes says much about their respective characters, Quarles said.

“It’s tough for an 18-year-old to make that decision,” he said.

Smith was named the state’s Mr. Football after helping the Rebels extend the school’s winning streak to a state record 74 games this past season. En route, Smith, a super-quick, 6-foot, 236-pound defensive, collected 85 tackles, 13 sacks and 12 tackles for loss.

“I think (the Falcons) are definitely getting a steal,” Quarles said.

Maryville defensive coordinator Jim Gaylor concurs.

“He’s a player; that’s the main thing,” he said. “If he continues to work how he did here, they’ll find a place for him. They’ve signed somebody they can count on.”

Smith said he weighed other options before finally settling on VMI. He visited VMI’s Lexington, Va., campus, which included a one-on-one with Keydet coach Sparky Woods. Later in the recruiting period, Woods visited Smith in Maryville.

“That made me feel good,” Smith said. “That two-minute talk basically changed everything.”

Other schools put forth offers. The Keydets were offering a chance to play right away, Smith said. VMI is one of the country’s most respected academic institutions. When it came time to finally make a decision, Smith said he sought the advice of his father, Jeff, who’d played his college football at Tennessee.

“He said he would support me whatever I do, and that was the plan all along,” Smith said. “He said, ‘Enjoy it while it’s here ‘cause it’s over quick.’”

Jordan was nothing short of electric this season as Maryville’s premier deep threat. The 5-foot-10, 160-pound speedster caught 41 passes for better than 700 yards and eight touchdowns as the Rebels finished Class 4A runners-up, a 10-7 loss to Hillsboro in the state championship game halting a run of four consecutive titles. In addition to his receiving duties, Jordan returned 12 punts for 157 yards and a score, adding another 11 returns for 335 yards and a touchdown bringing back kickoffs.

The Falcons are getting a real gem.

“He went to camp out there last summer, and they loved him,” Quarles said. “They told me he’s one they’re going to offer. He’ll step up and find a way to fit in out there. It’s a good fit for him all the way around.”

The football options were always there for Jordan. There were other places to play. The Air Force Academy best combined a rigorous academic life with football at its highest level, with the classroom part always coming first.

“If I could play football too, that would be a bonus,” Jordan said.

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