NORTH ADAMS - Last year only Brandon Czarnecki joined the military out of 14 seniors on the McCann Tech football team. That number could be 400 percent higher come June.
Of the six seniors on the Hornets roster, two have decided to join the armed forces. Another is strongly leaning toward doing the same. For another, it's one of two choices. John LeClair, T.J. Therrien and Anthony Duprat have all made the commitment to serve. Justin Cote is weighing his options, but knows it's a real possibility.
"Us four seniors are really good friends. We've had a lot of time to talk about it," Therrien said. "We're really committed to what this country is and why we believe in fighting for it."
But four teenagers off the same varsity football team?
"There's been a lot of people, it hasn't been just the football team," LeClair said. "It's a lot of seniors. I think there was nine last year [from the school] "I do think it might be tech school thing. It's not that nobody from any other schools aren't."
For LeClair, this choice has been a long time coming.He's known since he was about 6 years old he wanted to serve in the military. He's made several visits to West Point and Annapolis over the last 12 years. He's already been accepted into Norwich Universtiy, a military college in Vermont, but he's also finishing his application to West Point.
He isn't throwing away his high school education, though. He's studying computer assisted draaing (CAD) at McCann and plans to use that in the Army as a combat (civil) engineer. He said Norwich is a good school for that, but West Point is West Point.
"It seems like forever, since I was in elementary school I wanted to go in the military," he said. "Just watching stuff on TV, it sounds dumb, but seeing that stuff, my parents have always been strong for me to go in the military. Seems like the kind of person that I am that I'd want to do that in my life."
Therrien plans on using his time in the Army National Guard as a springboard to a career as a police officer. He decided to join last year and plans on serving as a military police officer before earning a criminal justice degree in college.
"I felt going into the Guard would give me a better chance over other that say, just do the regular four years of college," Therrien said. "After I get through the military part of it, I can get into college and then after college, I will be looked at a little bit higher than the rest of the college graduates."
Unlike his classmate LeClair, Therrien realized his calling wasn't the electrical field, which is what he studies at McCann. He said his uncle, who has been a positive role model, influenced his decision. The National Guard is mostly stateside, but there is a very real chance of deployment, but that didn't deter Therrien at all.
"I'm going for my career," he said. "But if I have to go, I'm going."
Duprat is leaning toward joining the Air Force, and, like LeClair, he will be a civil engineer. That would be along the same lines as what he studies at McCann, machine technology. But a stronger influence was his cousin, a Hoosac Valley graduate, who recently joined the Air Force and is headed to Germany soon.
"My cousin went in there and I just kind of want to follow in her path," he said of his interest in joining the military.
As for Cote, he's thinking of joining the Marines. He's long felt the call to join the armed forces. Both of his grandparents served, which has had a lasting impact on him.
"I just always wanted to serve because they did," he said. "Seeing Brandon Czarnecki going into the Marines kind of helped me choose the Marines, too.
Four senior football players on the same team joining four different branches of the military was not something LeClair saw coming.
"Four out of the six most likely going, I wouldn't have thought that four years ago," LeClair said.
"We were all young, so I wouldn't have thought about that right away. But seeing them grow over the years, seeing them develop into the kind of men they are, I can definitely see it now."