Zach Hester can finally relax. The long, stressful task of getting his appointment to the United States Naval Academy is complete.
The Boyle County senior accepted his appointment to Navy on Wednesday, ending months of interviews, medical tests and having to essentially divulge his whole life for the honor of going to college at one of the best schools in the world and getting to play football for the Midshipmen.
“It’s definitely a relief. I can kind of exhale and smile because at the Academy, it is a lot to do with the application,” Hester said during a ceremony at Boyle. “It’s not a normal school. There’s a lot of stuff that goes into it. It’s a big process.”
Hester’s application included his medical history from age 10, any injuries he has had and all waivers saying he is healthy to compete. He had to provide all of his grades, test scores, information on extracurricular activities and a fitness assessment.
Then he had to go through the process of getting a congressional appointment, which he got through Rep. Ben Chandler, Kentucky’s 6th District congressman.
“That was a big process. I went before four board members, and I just kind of sat in front of them and they just pounded me with questions,” he said. “I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, but I came out OK and I was happy with that.”
Hester also had an interview with a Blue and Gold Officer, who was a retired Navy captain. Blue and Gold Officers are volunteers who assist in the candidate admissions process.
“He asked me even more question about a variety of things. It was a long and lengthy process, a lot of medical stuff, which took the longest,” he said.
But all of it was worth it to Hester, who had wanted to be a pilot and was a fan of the Air Force Academy when he was younger.
When the recruiting process began, he talked with Navy and came away impressed.
“Navy came in and talked to me and really opened my eyes to not only opportunities during school, the education I could get, but out of school,” he said. “Then they got to the football. That was the real big difference, it was all academics, what you want to in the military, and then football.”
When he took his visit to Annapolis, Md., last year, he was surprised how nice the athletic facilities were.
“It was even more like, ‘Wow, this is definitely a place you want to be,’” he said.
While the academics are first and football is basically a vacation from daily life, the Midshipmen have become a successful program under Paul Johnson and current coach Ken Niumatalolo, who is 32-21 in his five seasons, including 5-7 last season. Navy will also be joining the Big East as a football-only member in 2015.
Hester did just about everything for the Rebels last season. He was on several all-state teams at linebacker, including The Associated Press team. He led Boyle in tackles with 179, had three interceptions and three fumble recoveries. On offense, he had 862 total yards and 10 touchdowns.
Now with the process of getting into the Naval Academy finished, Hester’s next step is preparing for what life will be like as a plebe, the academy’s term for freshman.
“A lot of people say enjoy your summer while you have it,” said Hester, who reports June 30 for Plebe Summer, a summer training program that lasts approximately seven weeks.
While he knows Navy life will be grueling, Hester cannot wait for his opportunity.
“I really loved that I could travel the world. And one thing that struck me was my Blue and Gold officer told me, you’re not just representing yourself, your family or even your hometown,” Hester said. “You’re representing the United States of America. When you set foot on foreign soil, you may be the first people they’ve seen from America, and that really stuck to me that I could have that kind of impact, and I really appreciated that.”
See Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo talked about his recruiting class at www.navysports.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/020112aaa.html.