Jasper alumnus a recent grad from Air Force

Courtesy photo
Grant Theil (left), a 2016 Jasper grad, recently graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy, and played NCAA Division I football for the Falcons. Theil goes back to the Air Force in June to begin pilot training.


Sports fans saw ESPN College Football send a May 24 tweet about its Top 10 plays of the year from the 2019 season, and No. 1 involved a familiar name to the community.

No, it wasn’t a highlight from Joe Burrow of the National Champion LSU Tigers making an incredible play during his historic season leading a high octane offense.

Rather, it involved a local name.

Cornerback Milton Bugg III of Air Force picked off Hawaii’s Cole McDonald in the red zone off of a tipped ball by one of his teammates, and he took it to the house.

The teammate who tipped it? Grant Theil, a 2016 Jasper grad who played football, basketball and baseball for the Wildcats. The Falcons routed the Rainbow Warriors, 56-26, in that Oct. 19 game.

“It didn’t go as planned, because I actually dropped an interception,” Theil said. “It was funny after the fact that my teammates, coaches and everyone were showing up on that Sunday watching film and everything, everyone’s kind of making fun of me a little bit just because I ended up dropping an interception.

“But it turned out pretty well for us coming off my foot, and, luckily, I had a teammate right there that grabbed the ball and had some speed that was able to kick it in and able to outrun the rest of the players chasing him,” he continued.

Theil had to adjust to not playing football anymore since 2019 was his senior season. He had dedicated many hours a day to the sport alone, not to mention the academic program he likened to an Ivy League school and all of his military duties.

It was especially tough for him when he was new in fall 2016, but he made it work. He had to make it work.

“Time management is definitely the biggest thing that you’re forced to get good at, because if you don’t, you fail,” Theil said. “There’s no other option.”

Theil earned a bachelor’s degree in management, and graduated from the Air Force Academy on April 18. He became a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, and is thankful for the things Jasper’s teachers and coaches taught him to get him ready for the service.

“The values that we hold at the academy are integrity, service and excellence,” he said. “Everything that I did at Jasper playing sports growing up and going to school and everything, I can say that I learned those growing up before I even got to the academy, which was awesome.”

He came back to Jasper not long after his graduation, and has been laying low, spending time with family and some friends during this period. He is scheduled to head back to the Air Force on June 18.

Theil is currently focused on pilot training and learning what aircraft he will be flying for the Air Force during the next 10 years. Graduates who aren’t pilots are committed to the academy for five years, but those who are, are committed to 10, he said. His focus is going to school and becoming the best pilot he can be.

He brought up a recent conversation he had with a friend who is currently serving in the Army. The two talked about how they wished more students from Jasper High School considered places like the Air Force Academy, Military Academy and the Naval Academy.

“It will set you up for life, really,” Theil said. “I think it gets a bad rep because kids don’t understand exactly what it really is until you start researching it yourself. So, that’s really what I’ve been trying to do is try to stress to the kids in the local area what kind of opportunities and what kind of great education you can get, and the opportunities that present themselves once you graduate from the academies.”

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