For former Park City High School football star Jared Tew, his time to shine came at exactly the right time.
Tew, a sophomore fullback for the Air Force Academy football team, found out last Monday just two days before the Falcons’ appearance in the Armed Forces Bowl in Houston, Texas against the University of Houston that he would be the starter in that game.
The usual starter, senior Todd Newell, went down with an ankle sprain in a game last month against Texas Christian University (TCU), so Tew knew that there was a chance that he might have to take over some of the rushing duties. But he was overwhelmed that he would be the "the man" in an offense that relies on the run.
"I was pretty excited to actually get to play," Tew said. "I haven’t been able to play a full game since high school."
Before the Armed Forces Bowl, Tew saw limited time this year in nine games, including a regular season matchup with Houston that the Falcons won, but nothing that could compare with taking over the starting job. Newell was the leading rusher for the Falcons, so Tew was aware of the big shoes he would have to fill.
"I was excited to carry on what he had going on," Tew said.
And carry it on he did. Although Air Force lost 34-28 in the bowl game, Tew led the Falcons with 149 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. His accomplishments earned him an Armed Forces bowl game rushing yardage record and Most Valuable Player honors in a media vote.
"I was surprised by how many yards I had," Tew said.
Tew had scored touchdowns against Brigham Young University (BYU) and TCU during the regular season, so he knew he had the potential. He said it was those experiences and the other small chances he got throughout the season that really prepared him for the New Year’s Eve game, as well as intense practices once the Falcons arrived in Houston.
Tew said that it set in what was happening on the first play of the game. He had just made a run up the middle for 35 yards on his first carry and thought, "Wow, this should be a good game."
"I couldn’t believe it was happening," he said. "That I was playing as a starter in a bowl game. It’s been my dream since I was eight."
When Tew’s parents and friends found out they would get to watch him start, they were overwhelmed, but the real celebrating started after Tew’s performance when the rest of Park City saw Tew’s accomplishments on TV and in the newspaper.
"I got a lot of messages," he said. "It was pretty cool."
With Newell graduating, Tew’s performance will certainly help him in his quest to win the starting job next season. He will likely start at fullback in spring football practices, and he is hopeful that if he works hard in the off-season the coaches will look to him to carry the ball next year.
"This game raises my confidence about reaching my goals and becoming the player I want to be in college," he said.
If he does get the starting job, the timing will be perfect. Next fall, the Falcons are slated to play at both BYU and the University of Utah. This means Tew will be able to star in front of family and friends, especially those who can’t make the trip to Colorado Springs for his home games.
"I can’t wait," he said. "I’ve been waiting for these games since I knew I was going to Air Force."
Tew said that when he first arrived at the Academy, it was a bit of an adjustment. Settling into the military lifestyle had its ups and downs, but he said that now he is pretty happy and absolutely loves playing on the football team.
"The football team is all great guys," he said. "It’s nice to have the football connection. It’s just like that family feeling I had in high school. I love my football team."
And it was his high school football coaches who gave him words of support both before and after his bowl debut. A few days before he left for Houston, Park City head football coach Brandon Matich and defensive coordinator Gary Bowers gave Tew a pep talk. After the game, Matich called to congratulate Tew.
"He was pretty proud of me," Tew said.
In fact, Tew’s success is something that Matich can share. It was Matich who really helped Tew to believe he could play in a Division I college football program. He got him started on a regimen in the weight room to get his body ready and started giving him positive feedback that helped Tew’s mind wrap around the idea that he could be a top player.
"I never thought I’d get to a Division I program and be a starter," Tew said.
his senior year of high school, Tew was named the 3A player of the year and Matich convinced him that he should give the Air Force Academy a chance.
"I had no interest," Tew said. "But he wouldn’t leave it alone."
Tew’s pretty confident that he made the right decision now and is excited to see what the next chapter will bring. His quest for success will begin soon. Tew arrived back on campus in Colorado on Sunday and will start off-season drills in a few weeks.
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