Kenneth Beard wanted to play college football and get a top-notch education.
Joining the military was never going to be part of that equation – at least not until the Air Force Academy started recruiting him.
By committing to the Falcons on Jan. 4, Beard signed up to do all three. He will be the first Cane Ridge High graduate to attend a U.S. service academy in the Antioch school’s 13-year history.
“I just couldn’t turn it down,” said Beard, who goes by K.C. “Everything (at Air Force) just sounded so good to me…it’s a great opportunity that I’m lucky to have. I worked so hard in the classroom and on the field.”
Cane Ridge coach Eddie Woods called the decision “life-changing” for Beard and his post-football career. All Air Force graduates must serve at least five years on active duty and three on inactive reserve.
“(Graduating) from an academy can really get you some opportunities later on in life,” Woods said. “This football thing is going to end quicker than they think. We always preach that to the guys.”
Beard was primarily a cornerback at Cane Ridge but also saw time at safety and wide receiver. He finished with 43 total tackles, nine passes defended and five interceptions in 27 career games.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder had an initial offer list that included Coastal Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, Princeton and Yale. Even as some schools backed off, Air Force and assistant coach Jordan Eason stayed in regular communication with Beard.
“It was a long recruiting process,” Beard said. “I wanted to go where I felt like I was wanted most and what could benefit me and my future the most.”
Beard credited the National Players Academy for helping him refine his game through training and 7-on-7 drills over the last two years. He gained a better understanding of how to use defensive techniques and coverages to his advantage.
“Sophomore year, I was just going off what I knew,” Beard said. “Having an expert train you opens your eyes and changes how you look at the game.”
On the academic side, Beard is thinking about studying engineering at Air Force. He has been involved with the Cane Ridge Academy of Architecture & Construction and said he enjoys “designing and building things.”
Woods has witnessed that academic drive firsthand. Beard carried one of the highest GPAs on the Cane Ridge team.
“He definitely leads by example as far as his character and approach to school and football,” Woods said. “He’s a well-rounded kid and a well-rounded student athlete.”
According to the Air Force website, a cadet's day starts as early as 6:30 a.m. and goes until as late as 11 p.m. with athletic practices, classes and military training filling the time. Beard said he’s looking forward to the challenge.
“Even though everything is going to be hard and rigorous, I just have to think about the outcome and how it’s going to benefit me,” he said. “I just have to have fun with it.”