SDSU football team's visit to MCAS Miramar provides perspective, inspiration
By KIRK KENNEY | The San Diego Union-Tribune | Published: August 12, 2017
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Tribune News Service) — San Diego State cornerback Kameron Kelly knew within moments of meeting Lance Cpl. Jaleel Young that they had something in common.
SDSU's midday practice Friday at MCAS Miramar was preceded by the Aztecs seniors going to breakfast in the Officers Club with members of the air station's Falcons football team.
That's where Kelly met Young.
"He's kind of loud and from the get-go I was like, 'He's got to be a cornerback,' " Kelly said with a laugh. "He's over there talking about how he's the fastest on the team. I could just tell he has the mentality of a DB, so we connected right away.
"He said he could probably jam up people a little bit better than me and be a little bit faster than me. I said, 'You just have to put on the pads and come out and see.' "
Said Young: "It was more trash talk than anything. It was a DB thing. It's all out of love."
Young would like to take Kelly up on the invitation. He's a little busy at the moment, though, balancing his commitment to the Marines with a wife and a second child on the way.
Young, 20, looked a little wistful, perhaps recalling an opportunity lost, while gazing out at the field as the Aztecs practiced.
"Oh, yeah, I think about that," said Young, who grew up in St. Louis. "I played in high school. I got to start playing in college but got in trouble, so ... things happen. It is what it is. I'm definitely back on it."
Young said he is making the most of his opportunity with the Marines, with plans to make it a career.
Among the military members watching SDSU's practice, Young was particularly attentive when the Aztecs were on the field.
"I know they're out there working their bodies hard every day, all day," he said. "I definitely respect it."
It's a mutual respect, one that SDSU head coach Rocky Long is eager foster with these types of outings for his players.
Two years ago, the Aztecs visited Pearl Harbor while in Honolulu for the Hawaii Bowl. That was certainly a more somber setting than Friday's visit to Miramar, but both opportunities provided for growth and understanding.
"We go out on the football field and I'm risking, what, maybe breaking an arm?" Kelly said. "They go out to war and risk losing their lives and never coming home to their families again. It just kind of puts life in perspective."
This hit closer to home with some Aztecs players than others.
SDSU sophomore offensive lineman Daishawn Dixon's mother, stepfather and father are in the Air Force.
"Me being a military child, it's cool to see (teammates) interact with all the military guys," said Dixon, who drew some parallels between the football team and the military. "We stand behind each other like the military does. We've got each others' back."
SDSU made the visit into an event, with the school's cheerleaders and Aztec Warrior joining the team. Music was pumped through a sound system and there was an area for children in attendance to play games and get Aztecs paraphernalia. The players signed autographs and posed for pictures before taking the field for a workout and short scrimmage in front of the Marines.
And former Marines.
Larry Turner, the father of SDSU Senior defensive end Dakota Turner, was among those in the crowd. Dakota was born in Camp Lejeune, N.C., and his family traveled around to several places during his father's 22-year career in the Marines. Dakota especially connected with the children seeking autographs.
"(As) a little kid, like these kids over here," said Turner, gesturing toward the children, "I remember trying to get autographs from professional teams that would come on the bases, and looking up to those guys as role models.
"So it's really cool to be in those shoes now and give back."
SDSU players and coaches were welcomed by Col. Jason Woodworth, commanding officer of MCAS Miramar, and Maj. Gen. Mark Wise, Commanding General of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
"It means a lot to us from a community perspective the fact that you cared enough to take time out of your day to come spend it with our Marines," Wise said.
SDSU's 2017 team captains, Kelly, safety Trey Lomax, running back Rashaad Penny and offensive lineman Antonio Rosales, presented autographed footballs to the commanders. In exchange, flight jackets were given to Long and J.D. Wicker, SDSU's director of athletics.
Long took the microphone briefly to say a few words after Woodworth had complimented the Aztecs on their success the past two years.
"It was very nice of the Colonel to say that we've had two championship seasons with 11-3 records," Long said. "But we want to be like the Marines. We want to win them all."
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A video screen grab shows a San Diego State University football players greeting fans at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar during a visit by the team to the base on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017.