Josh Patton remembers the day he gave up playing collegiate sports.
The former Blackman High two-sport standout was a sophomore in the Naval Academy at the time.
He had signed with Navy to play football. It took the former TSSAA standout wrestler about a year to realize he might see time on the wrestling mat faster then on the football field due to Navy’s bulky football roster.
Then came the knee injury. And soon came the decision. It was time to say goodbye to college sports.
“It was miserable and rough,” recalls Patton, who was The Daily News Journal’s 2009 Male Athlete of the Year. “That was probably the hardest year in my life. Sports had been my life ever since I can remember. Not having that was like losing my identity a little bit. That was really tough.”
That though forced him to sink into his academic work and dig deep into his faith.
“It was kind of an eye-opener,” he said. “I asked myself why had I really been doing it? Had I been doing it for Christ the entire time, it wouldn’t have been so tough to give up. That was a big eye-opener for me. I had put too much stock in myself and not him.”
Fast forward to about four years later.
Patton is a graduate of the Naval Academy. He’s about to begin training on a Boeing P8, an airplane the size of a 737 used to hunt down submarines and ships, Patton said. He will be in the Navy for at least eight years to fulfill his commitment to the academy.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Patton said. “When you get toward the end of flight school you get more confident. Things get more natural. Part of me will miss flight school because you’re only job is to fly. But once you are on a fleet you will have other jobs. But it will be a good feeling.”
Patton said he’s prepared to protect his country and his family, which includes wife JennaRae Patton and 2-month-old daughter Claire.
“I can’t believe I get to do this job,” he said. “It’s just a great honor. It’s an exciting thing.
“You know, people say thank you for your sacrifice. But it’s not a sacrifice to me. It’s a cool thing that the Navy is paying me to do.”
Tom Kreager is a high school sports writer for The Daily News Journal. Contact him at 615-278-5168 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kreager.