Former Arizona Cardinals cornerback Jimmy Legree has put a halt on his career as a professional athlete to enlist in the U.S. Army.
Like many boys, Legree knew from a young age that he wanted to serve in the military, but his plans changed when he began his football career at the University of South Carolina.
Legree graduated from the university in 2013 and began playing professional football for the Arizona Cardinals over two seasons in 2014 and 2015, Fox News reported.
The trainee had also been signed briefly in 2014 by the Seattle Seahawks.
“I went a different route by going to college and playing football, but once that window was closed I reverted back to my Plan A, which was joining the military,” Legree said in an interview with the Army.
The 28-year-old Legree began Basic Combat Training in early December at Fort Sill in Oklahoma and is currently assigned to D Battery, 1st Battalion and 19th Field Artillery.
He told KSAZ-TV “I just felt myself getting older and before this opportunity closed, I wanted to take advantage of it, so I just decided to jump up and get on it.”
Most would assume the transition from playing professional football to becoming a soldier would be somewhat difficult, but Legree didn’t appear to have an issue.
“You have your head coaches and that’s similar to drill sergeants who are correcting any mistakes that you make,” he said to the Army.
“In football you wear a helmet and shoulder pads, and here you wear your ACH (Advanced Combat Helmet) and all your equipment.”
Legree’s parents never served in the military, but some of his extended family did. However, that is not where the bulk of his motivation comes from.
His biggest inspiration has been former Cardinals player and Army Ranger Cpl. Pat Tillman.
Legree told the Army that Tillman “is definitely inspiring — his passion for the game and his passion for the country was motivation for me.”
In his interview with KSAZ, he said that he is proud to serve his country, and “every day it is a mental challenge, and every day you have to remind yourself why you joined, why you’re here and get through the day the best way you can.”
His former teammates gave him their full support once he made the decision to enlist, and the recruiters were excited to get him in once they found out he played in the NFL.
The Army reported that Legree was described by Senior Drill Sergeant Jason Aqui as a mature, humble and positive trainee.
Once he graduates from Basic Combat Training on Feb. 21, Legree will be sent to Fort Gordon in Georgia, where he will be training to make a career as a communications specialist.
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