Jimmy Legree was once the defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals but last month, he took a different career path and joined the Army to fulfill his childhood goal.
Legree, 28, always had a passion for the military, and wanted to become a communications specialist in the military, so he joined the U.S. Army and began basic training last month, Fox News reported.
Legree is now assigned to D Battery, 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery, based at Fort Sill, Okla., according to the U.S. Army.
Legree played for the Cardinals for two seasons in 2014 and 2015. He also played briefly for the Seattle Seahawks in 2014. He previously played college football before graduating the University of South Carolina in 2013.
“I went a different route by going to college and playing football, but once that window was closed, I reverted back to my Plan A, which was joining the military,” he said. “I just felt myself getting older and before this opportunity closed, I wanted to take advantage of it, so I just decided to jump up and get on it.”
Legree doesn’t come from a military background, although he says he has many friends who have been in the military and has received much support from his former teammates.
Comparing the similarities between football and the military, Legree noted that the “expectations for accountability and discipline were the same.”
He said, “You have your head coaches and that’s similar to drill sergeants who are correcting any mistakes that you make. In football, you wear a helmet and shoulder pads, and here you wear your ACH (Advanced Combat Helmet) and all your equipment.”
“Every day it is a mental challenge, and every day you have to remind yourself why you joined, why you’re here and get through the day the best way you can,” Legree said.
Senior Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Jason Aqui, D/1-19th FA said, “I’ve definitely noticed that he brings the platoon together to accomplish its tasks. He was also one of the more physically fit trainees coming into BCT.”
Legree said when recruiters learned he was a former football player, they were eager to get him enlisted.
He said, “Once they (recruiters) found out I played for the NFL they were all ecstatic, but definitely excited to get me enlisted, get me going.”
Capt. Steven Paez, D/1-19th FA commander said that Legree gets no special treatment and all trainees are treated equal.
“I noticed he was a little older (age 28) than everybody else, and I asked him what he was doing before he got here. He said, ‘I was in the NFL,'” Paez said.
Legree says the transition wasn’t too difficult for him and that former Arizona Cardinal and Army Ranger Cpl. Pat Tillman is his inspiration.
“He is definitely inspiring, his passion for the game, and his passion for the country was motivation for me,” Legree said.