Why former NFL player decided to join the Army
A former NFL Arizona Cardinals cornerback is training for his new team — the Army.
Spc. Jimmy Legree is in his second week of Basic Combat Training; after he graduates he'll continue training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, to become a communications specialist.
Serving in the military was one of his childhood goals, said Legree, who is assigned to D Battery, 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery.
"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," said Legree, who graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2013.
There are similarities between football and BCT, and it was an easy transition for him, he said.
Spc. Jimmy Legree, D Battery, 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery, is in his second week of Basic Combat Training at Fort Sill, Okla.
(Fort Sill Tribune staff)
"You have your head coaches and that's similar to drill sergeants who are correcting any mistakes that you make, said Legree, who played two seasons for the Cardinals.
"In football you wear a helmet and shoulder pads, and here you wear your ACH (Advanced Combat Helmet) and all your equipment."
Former Arizona Cardinal and Army Ranger Cpl. Pat Tillman is an inspiration for him, said Legree.
"He is definitely inspiring — his passion for the game, and his passion for the country was motivation for me," Legree said.
Legree's parents were not in the military, but other extended family members and some of his friends have served in the armed forces, he said. His brethren of former teammates supported his decision to join the military.
Legree enlisted at Charlotte, North Carolina.
"Once they (recruiters) found out I played for the NFL they were all ecstatic, but definitely excited to get me enlisted, get me going."
Legree is treated no different than the other 215 trainees in the battery, said Capt. Steven Paez, D/1-19th FA commander. The trainees came here to become professional American soldiers and everyone is treated the same.
Spc. Jimmy Legree (with mouthpiece) practices combatives Dec. 11, 2019, with Pvt. Anthony Randolph at Fort Sill, Okla. Legree, who played two seasons for the Arizona Cardinals, is in his second week of Basic Combat Training.
(Fort Sill Tribune staff)
Paez said he learned Legree had played in the NFL when he was serving him Thanksgiving dinner. (It's an Army tradition where senior leaders serve junior soldiers the holiday meal.)
"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.'"
Legree is not the oldest trainee in the battery, Paez said. The oldest is 34 years old; the youngest is 17.
Senior Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Jason Aqui, D/1-19th FA, described Legree as a mature, humble, positive, and quiet trainee.
"I've definitely noticed that he brings the platoon together to accomplish its tasks," Aqui said. He was also one of the more physically fit trainees coming into BCT.
Drill sergeants will take advantage of Legree's maturity and put him into leadership positions as the 10-week BCT progresses, Aqui said.
The battery will graduate Feb. 21, 2019, and Legree said he is already thinking of a long military career.