By 2nd Lt Nick Goirigolzarri
4th Space Operations Squadron
When then Cadet First Class Aaron Kirchoff finished his senior football season at the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2009 as a free safety, he thought that would be the end of his playing days on the gridiron. But because of some recent exposure from some of his old teammates, now 2nd Lt. Kirchoff, 50th Comptroller Squadron, is preparing for the next step in his football career: the National Football League.
“Coming out of the Academy, the NFL wasn’t even a question. You weren’t even asked if you were training for the combine. Then when Chad and Ben started getting exposure, I thought, ‘Why not?’” said Lieutenant Kirchoff of 2nd Lt. Chad Hall and 2nd Lt. Ben Garland who are both involved with NFL teams.
Lieutenant Hall graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2008. DoD policy allows for service members to apply for an early release from their active duty commitment after two years from their active duty service commitment date. If granted, the service member must then serve in the Reserves for double the time remaining on their commitment. Lieutenant Hall signed a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this summer and is currently on the active 53-man roster.
Lieutenant Garland graduated from the Air Force Academy in May, and reported to the Denver Broncos training camp this summer. After playing in the preseason with the Broncos, Lieutenant Garland did not make the active 53-man roster. Lieutenant Garland must first serve his two year commitment before applying for an early release to go play full time with the Broncos, but he is still very much involved with the organization.
After seeing his former teammates donning their cleats and pads again, Lieutenant Kirchoff became motivated to get his shot at the NFL.
“After seeing those guys, a fire started up underneath me. Seeing them perform at that level is my motivation to try to get there. Those guys did it. They were on an NFL roster and now the window is open for other players,” he said.
Lieutenant Kirchoff knows he has a quite the battle in front of him. To attend the NFL combine, you must first receive an invitation to do so. Lieutenant Kirchoff is hoping to receive such an invitation after he performs for NFL scouts at the Air Force Academy’s Pro Day next spring. Many colleges hold pro days for select players to get their shot at being noticed by scouts who are in the area. If scouts like what they see, they may ask for an individual to appear for a private workout or perhaps receive an invite to the combine. From here, contracts are offered out to a potential player which at least secures a spot at summer training camp if signed. But let’s not forget the entire physical regimen Lieutenant Kirchoff has lined out for himself to endure until the spring.
Working with a training company based out of his hometown in the Chicago area which has developed several professional athletes, Kirchoff utilizes the Fitness Center facilities day in and day out. His trainers from the company have really pushed Lieutenant Kirchoff.
“They have been kicking my butt. They have me doing a ton of lifting [weights] and I have agility and sprint workouts too. I’m trying to glow on paper with my stats and the fitness center has been awesome for my workouts. The facilities have everything I need for my training,” says Lieutenant Kirchoff.
By “glow on paper,” Lieutenant Kirchoff is referring to the typical three tests NFL scouts will have players run before considering anything else. “If you don’t glow on paper, you won’t even get a chance to glow on the field,” he said. The tests include a maximum repetition bench press of 225 pounds, a 40 yard dash, and a vertical jump to test agility.
Lieutenant Kirchoff’s plan is to continue to ramp up his training until January, and then begin to focus entirely on speed while maintaining his strength and weight. Since beginning his training a few months ago, Kirchoff has gained 17 pounds of muscle, and increased his bench press maximum from 265 pounds to 330 pounds. On top of at least two hours in the gym every day, Lieutenant Kirchoff also pays close attention to his eating, monitoring calorie intake and making sure he is receiving sufficient amounts of protein and other nutrients needed for the intensity of his training.
While physical fitness is important, Air Force members must obviously find a balance between fitness and the mission. Lieutenant Kirchoff’s rigorous training requires him to often times be at the fitness center from the end of the duty day until 7 p.m.
“Lieutenant Kirchoff’s personal sacrifice, discipline, and drive outside of duty hours, after the mission is satisfied, will be the true force behind whatever happens to him not only in the NFL, but in life,” says Kirchoff’s Commander, Maj. Thomas Smicklas, 50 CPTS. “Shooting for the NFL is certainly a one in a million shot, but I know his fire and passion to overcome the odds pumps up every Airman here in the CPTS and is a lesson in perseverance and determination for the entire 50th Space Wing.”
If no scouts take interest in him this coming spring, Kirchoff plans on trying out for the semi-professional football team in town, the Colorado Springs Flames.
When not training for the combine, Kirchoff also helps his squadron with their fitness goals, leading squadron physical training twice a week. Major Smicklas has noticed that Lieutenant Kirchoff’s training has not only helped himself, but his squadmates as well.
“His attitude is infectious and his natural ability to balance the requirements of his job with the intangibles may just be enough to carry him to the next level; and we’ll be there for him every step of the way,” he said.