Confidence, motivation, self-discipline and a desire to succeed … these are all qualities honed through military service, but are also qualities of great athletes.
Nearly 100 Fort Hood Soldiers pushed their physical limits to prove they could play college sports during the Athletes of Valor military combine Saturday and Sunday.
“Basically, what we do is we help active duty military members transition out and go play college sports, if they choose to do so,” explained Alex Stone, chief executive officer of Athletes of Valor.
The organization, which was formed in 2016, provides service members with the training and resources to connect with college coaches and schools. Stone said the two-day combine gave troops access to professional and collegiate players and coaches, teaching them tips and drills they can work on while still serving on active duty.
Stone, a former Marine who thought he had given up the college experience when he transitioned from the military, discovered he could help other transitioning service members move on from military to collegiate sports, which is how Athletes of Valor was formed. Stone said the Athletes of Valor combine moves across country, trying to hit as many military bases as possible.
The combine began on Saturday with a football combine in which more than 60 Soldiers participated. The football combine consisted of the bench press, 40 yard dash, an agility drill, three cone shuttle, vertical jump, broad jump and 60 yard shuttle, as well as individual skill drills. They also played some 7-on-7 football, with the Soldiers enjoying a little fun on the gridiron.
“It was challenging, but we all had a good time,” Sgt. Travaughn Gordon, 68th Chemical Company, 22nd Chemical Battalion, 48th Chemical Brigade, said. “There was a lot of cohesion being built out there with new faces of people we’ve never met before.”
Sunday’s combine was focused on basketball, with roughly 30 Soldiers participating. Basketball events included the vertical jump, lane agility drill and full-court sprints, among others. They concluded with four teams taking turns facing one another in a basketball game.
“I played basketball in high school, but playing at this level is new,” Isaiah Cowins, 602nd Support Maintenance Company, 553rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, said. “I really liked the experience.”
At the end of the two-day combine, the military athletes received an Athletes of Valor T-shirt, a full Athletes of Valor profile, ranking and a personal scout who will work with them to bring them up to the collegiate level. Profiles of military athletes can be found at https://www.athletesofvalor.com under “Top Athletes.”
“It’s been great,” Stone said. “There’s been a lot of hype, a lot of energy and everyone is having fun. Overall, it was two really good days.”