Receiving an offer to play football at Air Force was the easy part for Bullard High’s Connor Vikupitz. Trying to gain admission into the academy as an officer candidate proved much more taxing.
But by the time National Signing Day arrived Wednesday, Vikupitz was able to smile and celebrate as he was reminded that his long application process finally was over.
Two weeks earlier, Vikupitz learned he had been accepted.
“So stressful,” said Vikupitz, who took part in Bullard’s afternoon signing ceremony that included running back Charles Williams and soccer midfielder Franchelle Cabral, both of whom are headed to UNLV, and Humboldt State-bound defensive backs C-Jay Smith and Nick Cole.
Vikupitz, like all entrants to the nation’s service academies, did not go through the regular NCAA letter-of-intent procedure, instead enduring what he called a “just a long process.”
He’s as smart and as disciplined of a football player as there can be. He’s exactly what someone from the Air Force Academy would want.
Bullard High coach Don Arax on Air Force-bound offensive lineman Connor Vikupitz
First, Vikupitz had to write three essays – all basically describing why he’d be a good fit for the academy.
Then, there was getting three letters of recommendation. Not that finding someone to vouch for Vikupitz was difficult. In addition to having been a standout offensive lineman for the Knights, the 6-foot-3, 250-pounder is a shoo-in valedictorian with a 4.32 GPA.
“He’s as smart and as disciplined of a football player as there can be,” Bullard coach Don Arax said. “He’s exactly what someone from the Air Force Academy would want.”
It’s a fantastic career if he chooses to stay in the Air Force for his entire life. It’s just a great opportunity.
Vikupitz’s father, John, on his son’s admission to the academy, which requires a nine-year commitment
Still, Vikupitz had to complete the rigorous process. There was a physical fitness test that needed to be passed. And doctor’s visits for physicals and other exams. Then, he needed to receive a nomination from a congressman, senator or the vice president. To get that nomination, Vikupitz had to write three more essays and submit three other letters of recommendation.
Vikupitz went through U.S. Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, to seek his nomination, which was not guaranteed. For 30 minutes, Vikupitz was interviewed in front of a panel of eight people from Costa’s office and answered questions about his life, work ethic and future.
Vikupitz doesn’t know exactly what he wants to pursue. He is interested in studying engineering and had an opportunity to go to Cornell of the Ivy League or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
But playing football at the highest level possible remained as important to Vikupitz as earning a good education.
It’s definitely a prestigious program, both academically and football-wise. They just played in the Mountain West championship this past year, so I’m looking forward to being part of another winning team.
Bullard High’s Connor Vikupitz on his decision to pursue and ultimately gain acceptance to Air Force Academy
“Very excited about going to Air Force,” Vikupitz said. “It’s definitely a prestigious program, both academically and football-wise.
“They just played in the Mountain West championship this past year, so I’m looking forward to being part of another winning team.”
By receiving admission into the academy, Vikupitz will be obligated to remain in the service for five years after graduation. Though some might be shy about committing nine years to military life, Vikupitz and his parents viewed it as a luxury.
“I think it’s a positive,” said his father, John. “He knows he’s guaranteed a job after he graduates. It’s a fantastic career if he chooses to stay in the Air Force for his entire life. It’s just a great opportunity.”
For now, Vikupitz has more pressing matters he’d like to chase in the coming years.
“Never got offered by Fresno State,” Vikupitz said. “I kind of wanted to leave Fresno, anyway.
“But those dates we play Fresno State, here or there, I’m already looking forward to it.”