Garrett Brown was in the locker room preparing for a high school basketball game when his coach informed him a college scout was in the building.
“He told me, ‘There’s an Air Force coach here, you better play good,’ ” Brown said.
The coach in the building that night in Marietta, Georgia, wasn’t an Air Force basketball coach, but former Falcons football assistant Charlton Warren.
Brown, now a standout Air Force receiver, remembers scoring 25 points that night. He thinks he put a bit more emphasis on defense that night, since Warren was the defensive backs coach.
— Garrett Brown
Brown’s story isn’t unique. Many of the best players at Air Force under Calhoun entered the academy as multi-sport athletes. Jon Davis and Connor Dietz played basketball while Tim Jefferson, Garrett Griffin and cornerback Gavin McHenry were track and field athletes. Also, Weston Steelhammer, a baseball player, may yet play both sports at the academy.
“It’s the beauty of playing a bunch of sports when you’re young,” Calhoun said. “All the things that happen, the different environments in which you play, the teamwork and the different skills are awesome.”
Calhoun longs for days of athletes like Jim Brown, Donovan McNabb, Jackie Robinson and even John Elway, who stood out in far more than the sport that made them household names.
Had Brown specialized in a sport as a youth it would have been football. As a point guard he had college potential and had opportunities to play year-round but his older brother played football and he wanted to be like him, so he kept right on doing both.
“I would have been bored,” Brown said of the prospect of playing just one sport as a teen.
For Griffin, who played basketball and football in high school in addition to being a state champion in track and a state qualifier in the 110-meter high hurdles, a diverse athletic portfolio was a choice.
Growing up 40 miles south of Kansas City, he saw friends decide to specialize as the city — and the athletic opportunities it provided — crept closer to his hometown of Louisburg, Kansas.
“My dad was a coach and he always told me that the first thing you get looked at when you’re being recruited is if you compete or not,” Griffin said. “I think any coach would tell you they’d rather have someone who can compete all year round rather than specialize in one sport. They kind of feed off each other.”
Like his receiving partner Brown, Jalen Robinette grew up starring in basketball as well as football. And like Brown, Robinette was recruited by Air Force football on the basketball court in high school.
It was running backs coach Ben Miller who saw Robinette play an off-guard position at Bexley, Ohio.
“On the court when you’re continuously playing you’re able to show off your athleticism a lot more,” Robinette said. “Seeing me run and jump and everything, I think that’s what really caught his eye. I don’t know, I think playing basketball my whole life I just think was good for coordination and situational awareness with making plays, going up and getting balls.”
So, when Robinette jumps over a defender to catch a pass like he did last week against New Mexico, or when Brown changes directions on a punt return like a guard making a crossover move, remember these were skills Air Force identified before recruiting these players.
They were just showing up on different fields of play.