“I was very surprised,” Mayes said. “And I was up a long time that night doing research about the school and its football program.”
Mayes, a strong academic performer at Fairfield High School, was hoping to earn a full scholarship to play college football but never imagined he would get an offer from one of America’s famed military academies.
Three days later, another phone call came with another military academy football coach making a scholarship offer, this one from the U.S. Naval Academy.
Offers to a single military academy are rare, with two invites being even more so.
Entrance requirements are rigorous and include high grade-point averages and a personal recommendation from an applicant’s Congressional representative. All West Point students must also enlist to serve five years in the U.S. Army after graduation from West Point.
The number of invites to qualified high school seniors locally varies widely from year to year and among high schools, but there are usually only a few candidates in the area each school year. And any acceptance to a military academy is celebrated by school officials when it happens.
“We’re so excited for Jaydan to be able to continue his academic and athletic career at West Point,” said Aaron Blankenship, athletic director of Fairfield Schools.
Mayes, he said, has been one of the most impressive and versatile athletes in the district having also played basketball, soccer and run track.
“Jaydan’s story is so special for us, as we’ve watched him grow up under the stadium lights and now to see him as a young man, choosing to serve his country at such a prestigious institution, it makes so many of us proud that he’s a Fairfield Indian,” said Blankenship.
Not as proud though as his mother, Kelli Hutchings, who raised him.
“I’m just beyond words. I’m a single parent and we always had a deal about him playing sports. I told him ‘you give me the grades and you can play what you want,’” said Hutchings, who works as a medical assistant.
Mayes, who after his Army service would like to pursue a career as a lawyer, said his rare opportunity “is very exciting.”
His advice for other teens: “Make sure what you are doing now is about your future. Work hard now and then dream big.”