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Hoops gave way to football for Air Force QB

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Back before he decided to concentrate on football, Tim Jefferson had another love: basketball.

The Air Force quarterback's favorite team? Maryland.

His favorite player? Juan Dixon.

And who is listed as the person in history he'd most like to meet? None other than Gary Williams.

"I was at the national championship game in '02 because it was down in Atlanta, and that's where I live," Jefferson said. "That's my favorite [Maryland] memory."

Perhaps it's appropriate, then, that the senior will wrap up his career Wednesday not far from College Park. The Falcons (7-5) face Toledo (8-4) in the Military Bowl at RFK Stadium in Jefferson's finale as Air Force's man under center.

And what a career it's been.

Jefferson helped the Falcons to 28 victories (and counting) in his 43 career starts. Air Force reached bowl games in each of his four seasons (collecting victories the past two years) and secured the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy this year and last.

"He's just been immeasurable, just to see the kind of growth and development that's occurred across the board," Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. "I think anybody that comes to the Air Force Academy, that has to happen. Really, the place makes it, and it's arranged in a way where you're going to mature significantly. Yet his growth has been beyond significant."

Plenty of it occurred in football, where Jefferson's passing has become more accurate and he's become a vastly less timid rusher. As a senior, he's thrown for 12 touchdowns and rushed for 10. And it's occurred from a personal standpoint as well.

But physically? That ended a while back, shelving Jefferson's basketball plans in the process.

"I always thought I was going to keep growing," Jefferson said. "In the ninth grade, I was about 6 foot and I figured I'm taller than everybody else, I might as well keep growing, right? I stopped in the ninth grade. That was the end of my dreams right there."

So instead of becoming the next Dixon — "I'm a little heavier than he is," Jefferson observed — he turned himself into a superb college quarterback.

An early start helped. Jefferson was only the fourth freshman quarterback to start in Air Force history when he started the final eight games of the 2008 season.

Ever since, he's provided stability for the Falcons, who are seeking their fifth eight-win season in as many years under Calhoun.

"He's meant the world to us," senior right guard A.J. Wallerstein said. "He's been able to grow as the team grows. He started as a freshman, and it's nice to have a quarterback who's going to be playing every game. He's a real durable guy that you can trust."

His final snaps come Wednesday. In February, he'll learn his destination for pilot training, and there's little doubt his actions will soon have greater significance than any game.

Still, there's one more opportunity to enhance his legacy at Air Force — even if he's not thinking about leaving as the academy's career leader in victories by a starting quarterback.

"People tell me that all the time, and it's not really big of a deal to me because I can only do so much," Jefferson said. "I just distribute the ball, but I don't catch the ball. I don't score all the touchdowns. I don't tackle anybody. That's only one part of the game. Maybe 20 or 30 years down the road when I'm looking back at my college football career, I'll probably think about it a little bit more."

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