By JOSH RIZZO
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
MOUNT STERLING, Ill. -- Most Saturday mornings, Clint Lewis, Nathan Fisher and Nathan Banta pile in the car and head to the Armed Forces Center in Quincy for physical training.
All three offensive linemen for the Brown County football team are starting to make preparations for basic training in the United States Marine Corps.
It's not always easy after playing football on Friday. They have to be up at 7 a.m. and be in Quincy sometime between 8 and 9 a.m. After the Hornets beat Greenfield-Northwestern 8-6 Week 1, they were rewarded with a tough test the following morning.
"Week 1 was the toughest," Lewis said. "It was pretty bad. We had the game and then had to run an (Initial Strength Test), where you have to do as many pull-ups and sit-ups as you can in two minutes. Then you have to run a mile-and-a-half as quickly as you can."
All three have gone through Military Entrance Processing (MEPS) and will head to basic training at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, Calif., after graduation. Lewis and Fisher will leave June 5, and Banta will leave July 21.
Brown County road its senior-laden line to a 3-0 start. The Hornets have 909 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, including a 7.1 yards per average carry. Brown County coach Tom Little said the three seniors have shown right work ethic since they were freshmen.
"I think they like that discipline and the grind of having to push your body to the max everyday," Little said. "For them, I see that as a perfect fit for what they're getting ready to go do. They've demonstrated for the last four years, they are going to work hard, and they are going to be teammates and protect our country like they have our running backs and quarterbacks."
Fisher signed first, joining when he turned 17 last November. He then came up with his best sales pitch for Lewis but couldn't close the deal. Lewis just wasn't interested.
"I knew he likes something
competitive," Fisher said. "I told him the Marines were the best. He was more interested in the Air Force because he's smart."
A few months later, a chance occurrence guaranteed Fisher wouldn't be shipping off to basic training at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, Calif., alone.
"I went in to talk to an Air Force recruiter," Lewis said. "The Air Force wasn't there, and then my Marine recruiter came out and said, ‘Have you ever thought about Marines?' I went in and talked to him, and it completely changed my mind. ... The Marines are the best of the best."
Banta waited a little longer before making his decision. Along the way, he learned a quick lesson in sacrifice. After he signed up, he was required to go to St. Louis to do his MEPS Aug. 23, which is when the Hornets' football team had their Gatorade scrimmage.
"It kind of sucked," Banta said. "I was excited to be in St. Louis. Then again, I couldn't stop thinking about my friends playing here, and I wanted to know everything that was going on. There are chances you have to take and things you're going to miss."
Brown County has two Western Illinois Valley Conference North Division rivalry games coming up the next two Fridays against Triopia and Central.
The following Saturdays, Fisher, Banta and Lewis will hop in the car and continue to work on the next goal: surviving basic training.
"Basic (training), I know it's going to be tough," Fisher said. "I'm looking forward toward getting the EGA (Eagle, Globe and Anchor) emblem and being a Marine."