BELOIT - West Branch senior Connor Sharp is flying off to play football for the Air Force Academy.
Sharp made his decision on Jan. 30 after receiving a call from recruiting coach Matt Weikert and signed his official letter of intent on Wednesday.
"My dad was a pilot in the Air Force for 10 years," Sharp said. "It's a good education. one of the best in the country. It's in a beautiful place and I get to play football."
Sharp received a full scholarship from Air Force. He also received an offer from Youngstown State.
"It was just a nicer place to be than Youngstown and I liked the idea of going out to the Academy," Sharp said. "It's a better chance. If you go to the academy, you can pretty much get a job anywhere in the country."
"Anytime you get a Division I scholarship it's a big accomplishment," West Branch football coach D.J. Dota said. "But I think with any of the military schools it's a bit more special, especially when you want to go there which is something I know he wanted to do. It's no an easy task. I don't know if you'll have the normal life that any other college students will have but it's something he wants to do and it's pretty special for him to be able to go do."
Sharp, a second-team Division III All-Ohioan, guided West Branch to its first Northeastern Buckeye Conference title in 11 years. He helped pave the way up front for Brenden Wells, who set school career records for most yards rushing (3,747) and most touchdowns (44).
Sharp is undecided in his major, but said after graduation at the academy he plans to attend pilot training school. The flight training last about a year and then he will be required to serve a five-year commitment after he graduates.
"The five-year commitment doesn't bother me at all," Sharp said. "By the time I'm 45, I could be retired. I feel like it's a good opportunity. If I want to make a career out of it I can or of not I could go out and get a job somewhere."
The 6-foot-4, 279-pound offensive and defensive lineman will find himself at center or guard when fall rolls around.
"There's no doubt that I feel like he's a guy that he can play at that level," Dota said. " I think he will be very successful there. I haven't been able to coach too many Division I linemen, but there's no doubt he should be playing at that level."
"Air Force runs a realty tricky offense (the triple option), you have to be smart to know their offense and be good in their program," Sharp said. "I think that I'm' smart enough to do and they like tough and hard nosed kids and I feel like I'm one of those kids."
Sharp is also a heavyweight on the Warriors' wrestling team and came in third in the Division II state tournament last season. This year, he's already knocked off the top-ranked wrestler, Billy Miller, and has taken three out of four matches against him in his career.
"I've gotten a lot better and I think I'm going to outlast him and be able to beat him this year," Sharp said.
Miller lost to Sharp in the state consolation match last year.
Before he gets to Colorado Springs, Sharp will be playing in the annual North-South game on April 27 at Welcome Stadium in Dayton.
"I think it's pretty cool," Sharp said. "We have practices down in Dayton. They're going to be on Sundays coming up soon."
Sharp's parents have been fully supportive of his decision to attend the Air Force Academy and that his father's (Rodger Sharp) career in the Air Force included three tours over seas and a tour in South America.
"They told me that it's going to be hard and if I want to do it I can't black out of it because its a huge scholarship I'm getting," Sharp said. "I'm not going to get the chance to do it again, so I want to do the best that I can."
Dota added that Sharp's competitiveness and captaincy this season served a large role in the Warriors ability to rush the football this year.
"Number one I think he really likes to compete, he doesn't like to lose and that's an important part in competing," Dota said. "I think that when he goes there that he's going to blossom because he's going to be at that level. He's a very smart kid, and I think he really understands football and that's only going to help him."
Minerva senior Jake Riley committed to the Air Force Academy during the summer.
Sharp said he had not been in contact with Riley and having another member of the Northeastern Buckeye Conference at the Academy didn't factor into his decision.
Riley, who was recruited as a linebacker, missed half of his senior due to injury but still completed 63 of 124 passes for 970 yards and nine touchdowns and ran for 649 yards and 11 touchdowns on 113 carries (5.8). On defense, he recorded 39 tackles, including 17 solos.