Leilehua Senior Excited To Play At Legendary Stadium

On his first visit to Michie Stadium on the U.S. Military Academy campus in February, Leilehua High School’s Jaryn Villegas could feel the history come alive – so much so that he decided to spend more time there on fall Saturdays, having recently accepted a football scholarship to the school.

The Mules senior admits he hadn’t seen an Army-Navy game before, but it didn’t take him long to learn about Army’s storied football tradition.

Michie Stadium, which opened in 1924, overlooks the Hudson River and recently was rated by Sports Illustrated as the No. 3 sports venue of the 20th century.

“To be in that stadium was mind-blowing,” said Villegas. “Just to be there and to think of how many games have been played on that field was overwhelming. Having grown up in Hawaii, my whole visit I kept saying to myself, ‘I can’t believe I’m here in New York.’ ”

Villegas’ recruitment begun last May when Army assistant coach Payam Saadat visited him at Leilehua and had him fill out a questionnaire.

“I said I was interested, but I hadn’t thought about (Army),” he said. “In late October or early November, Coach flew back down here and said there’s an open spot and your name is on it.”

His visit to West Point covered four days, long enough for him to witness firsthand what life at the academy is like.

Free time is hard to come by, but Villegas likes the regimented aspect of the typical day there.

“Everything is planned out,” he said. “I enjoyed the campus, and what really hooked me was meeting a cadet up there who is also from Hawaii.

I could really relate to him and the daily schedule there.”

Villegas will spend his first academic year at a preparatory academy and will be eligible to play for Army during the 2014 season, if all goes according to plan.

“It will be like a redshirt year (football-wise),” said Villegas, who was chosen as an OIA Red West Conference’s First Team All-Star last fall.

At the high school level, Villegas was a player to take note of from an opposing team’s standpoint, according to Campbell head coach Amosa Amosa, himself a former lineman at the University of Hawaii during his own playing days.

“He was one of the anchors of their line the last few years,” Amosa said of Villegas. “He’s a nice, humble boy. His technique is sound – he’s a very good player.”

Villegas is one of two players from Hawaii who are part of Army’s newest recruiting class. Campbell standout running back Andrew Paul Rhoden also is headed for West Point.