All They Can Be: Tift football players visit West Point

From left: Archer Hathaway, Boone Utley, Cade Anders and J.D. Bengston headed for the United State Military Academy Friday afternoon, where they were to attend football camp.

TIFTON — Four Tift County High School football players prepared Friday morning for the trip of a lifetime. The group, consisting of Cade Anders, J.D. Bengston, Archer Hathaway, Boone Utley and Tift head coach Ashley Anders, were headed for West Point and the United States Military Academy (Army) in New York.

The players were invited to a team camp Saturday on campus. It will be a short trip. Players and coach were to fly out of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport at 5 p.m. Friday and land in Philadelphia for a connecting flight before arriving at their destination. The camp lasts from 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday and almost immediately after, they fly home.

It was to be the first ever plane ride for Hathaway, who has had quite an adventurous last few months. His father, Adam Hathaway, was named superintendent of Tift County schools in March and the family moved to Tifton from Schley County.

Going to this camp, Hathaway said, is “a good opportunity.” He, like many Blue Devils players (and all on this trip) are being pursued to play football by colleges all around the United States. Hathaway said he is still weighing options for his future, but would like to enroll early and start college, and football, in the spring.

A 6’6”, 325-pound offensive lineman, Hathaway said he’s enjoyed the move to Tift County, but is still adjusting to its size (Schley County’s total population might fill one side of Brodie Field). He might play basketball this fall, he said.

Utley also said the Army camp was “a good opportunity.” He thanked his family and coaches for getting him to this point of his life.

Hathaway and Utley are seniors. The other two Blue Devils that flew to New York, Anders and Bengston, are juniors.

Cade Anders, sporting an Army shirt for the occasion, said this camp is a chance to “get better and get noticed.” He’s awed by the prestige of playing at West Point.

The other junior, Bengston, already has big plans for his future; he’s considering getting into medicine. And, as it turns out, this particular trip is a dream come true.

“I’m really excited,” said Bengston. He labeled Army and service academies as “My dream school.”

“This is a huge opportunity. I’m glad I get to go with my friends.”

Football season is around the corner. All four players were ready to don full pads and match with an opponent in a different uniform.

According to statistics provided by the United States Military Academy, nearly 9,000 men started application files for one of its recent classes of students. Of those, 918 were admitted, or roughly 10 percent.

If all four are appointed — “admitted,” in West Point lingo — it would undoubtedly be a jaw-dropping number, something more akin to the chances of a pee wee football team defeating the Clemson Tigers.

Athletic skill is quite important for the United States Military Academy. So are grades. Army’s website said the average SAT score for appointment is 1340 and the average ACT score is 29.

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