SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - Each spring our sports department gets out and highlights all of the talented high school athletes in our region who are lucky enough to get a college scholarship, and our cameras are there for their signings.
Here's a high school signing of a different sort. This signing is not only a commitment to an education, but a commitment to serve our country.
Pictures fill a table set up to honor Sullivan South senior Jacob Tilley. It seems he likes to fly and even jump out of airplanes. It was a flight during a leadership program by ROTC instructor Bill Powley that planted a seed. "He took us out to the airport and took us up, did a couple of stunts. That really piqued my inertest in it. So I joined the ROTC here and ever since had that aspiration," Jacob said.
That aspiration turned into a dream of maybe going to the Air Force Academy after graduation, and now that dream is a reality. A special signing ceremony is held in front of family and friends as Jacob is off to the academy.
His family knew of his dream years ago. "It was a bit of a surprise to me initially but then the more he became involved with ROTC and some other pursuits. I saw that he definitely had a strong interest there," father Steve Tilley said.
Probably the most proud person at the ceremony other than family was that ROTC instructor that took him on that first flight. "Any service academy is a challenge, a lifetime dream and a career come true. The fact that he chose Air Force is just a plus for us. We like the Air Force," ROTC instructor Bill Powley said. Maybe that's because he's an academy graduate himself.
Sixteen applicants went through the office of U.S. Congressman Phil Roe this year, and eight made it. But he's proud of each one. "Absolutely every single young person that was selected was top-notch. As a matter of fact I wish they had 16 spots because everyone we had was an acceptable applicant," Congressman Roe said.
Jacob leaves for the Air Force Academy the end of June, holding on to those dreams of flying for his country.
21 applicants came through the office of Virginia Ninth District Congressman Morgran Giffith. 11 were nominated and so far five have been offered admission.