Hunter Frantz and Chris Jackson signed national letters of intent like thousands of other high school athletes Wednesday.
Few made the same kind of commitment. The football teammates at Putnam City North High School are headed to military service academies. Frantz is going to Army, Jackson to Air Force. On a day when commitments became contracts, they did more than agree to play football for the next four or five years. They also pledged the next decade of their lives to the military. "It’s a very big commitment on their part,” PC North coach Bob Wilson said. "It says a lot to these kids’ character.” On Signing Day 2009, many stories will garner larger headlines and bigger hype. Demontre Hurst changing to Oklahoma. Tracy Moore sticking with Oklahoma State. Reuben Randle picking LSU. But in these tumultuous and uncertain times, no storyline should make us prouder than this one. Frantz and Jackson chose not only to play but also to serve. Athlete or not, tuition is free at the service academies, but the trade-off is a five-year military commitment after graduation. That goes for football players, too. Even really good ones. They can request to pursue careers in professional sports while working as part-time military recruiters, but first, they must serve a minimum of two years in active duty. That’s what Roger Staubach had to do before the Navy allowed him to start his NFL career. Another former Cowboy, Chad Hennings, had a commitment with the Air Force, flying combat missions over Iraq before tackling ball carriers in Irving. The active-duty requirement of the service academies made headlines last spring when the Detroit Lions drafted Army safety Caleb Campbell. Several years ago, West Point adopted a more lenient stance that would’ve allowed Campbell to avoid any active duty.