Tew good to be true
When former Park City High School football coach Brandon Matich assumed control of the program in 2005, Jared Tew didn’t look anything like a Division I running back.
"I was real scrawny," Tew said by phone on Tuesday afternoon, one day after being named to the Mountain West Conference’s (MWC) preseason first team by media. "I had never lifted a weight in my life."
That changed quickly. Matich demanded everyone’s best effort, and his junior speedster set up a second home in the PCHS gym. Little more than a year later, Tew carried 50 extra pounds of muscle onto the field, leading the Miners through an undefeated regular season. His high-school career ended with a state championship loss to Snow Canyon at Rice-Eccles Stadium, but Tew would be back – as a Falcon.
The Air Force Academy’s leading rusher in two consecutive bowl-game appearances has come a long way since failing to draw much interest from his boyhood team, the University of Utah. The Utes offered Tew the chance to be a "preferred walk-on," and he was also lured with scholarships from Utah State and Weber State, but Matich advised him to pay a visit to Air Force before making a final decision.
"I wasn’t really into coming here until I came on my recruiting trip," said Tew, citing a reluctance to adhere to the service commitment of up to five years. Ultimately, the Colorado Springs campus – at above 7,000 feet, one of the few places Tew could literally take his game to greater heights – won him over.
But before Tew could begin his first season of Division I football, he had to endure Basic Cadet Training. The experience was a shock, to say the least. "You’re not the hotshot anymore," Tew said. "I wasn’t really ready for the military lifestyle. I was like, ‘What did I just get myself into?’"
His reward for six weeks of getting dressed down by drill sergeants was a season toiling on the junior varsity team. Quitting was not an option, however, and Tew continued to fulfill the Academy’s weighty academic requirements. In year two, he got his chance.
Tew appeared in 10 games as a sophomore, rushing for 328 yards on just 50 carries and getting his first college start when a teammate sprained his ankle before the Armed Force Bowl. He rushed for 149 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries in a 34-28 loss to hometown Houston, setting a new Air Force record for most rushing yards in a bowl game and putting the Falcons’ opponents on notice.
He retained the starting role for his junior season and responded with 970 yards and nine touchdowns, again culminating with an outstanding performance in the Armed Forces Bowl. His 26 carries for 173 yards and two touchdowns led the Academy to some sweet revenge in a 47-20 win over Houston.
The son of Steve and Sherma Tew, he was awarded an Air Force career path in piloting during his junior year and took part in the Academy’s power flight program for three weeks this summer. He took 10 flights in a one-engine propeller plane before ending the class with his first solo flight. "I really enjoyed that," Tew said. "It made me really happy about my decision."
The academies typically do not allow athletes to play professional sports directly after college (David Robinson, former Navy basketball center, is one notable exception). Should Tew garner interest, he will likely have to take the path of Chad Hall – an Air Force running back and receiver standout who served for two years as a second lieutenant at Hill Air Force Base in Layton. Hall worked out at the University of Utah’s pro day in March and recently earned a three-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Tew returned to Utah in early July on leave, sitting down to lunch with Matich and working out in the weight room with the PCHS football team and new head coach Kai Smalley. "I’m really excited to see what Park City’s going to do this year in that spread offense," said Tew, who also played basketball and ran track for the Miners.
"Park City’s always had a talented group of guys. A lot of Park City kids are willing to work hard."
Tew said he also has a keen interest in Navy recruit Dylan Chynoweth, who forged a similar legacy at running back during his time at PCHS and will play in a triple-option offense similar to the type Matich preached.
"When he plays against Air Force in upcoming seasons, it’s going to be tough," said Tew, who has seen some of Chynoweth’s varsity game tapes. "I’m rooting for him. I’m excited to see what he can do in college. The kid can play."
This season, though, Tew’s Falcons will be looking to avenge a 16-13 overtime loss to Navy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2009. Tew’s Falcons, picked by the media to finish fourth in the MWC this season, will also play at home against conference powerhouses BYU and Utah.
"I can’t wait for BYU and Utah," he said, noting it was tough to lose twice in trips to his home state last season. "It’s awesome to play against those teams I grew up watching."
Of 17 Air Force skill-position players to touch the ball last year, not a single one left for graduation. In a strange twist, however, every single starting offensive lineman is gone.
"I think we’re going to be fine up front," Tew said. "We had a lot of good young guys willing to step up." Just like Tew did.
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