SALT LAKE CITY — When Jared Tew played football for Park City High School in 2007, he likely had no idea the opportunities the game would bring in his future.
Now, as a recipient of the National Football Foundation's Distinguished American Award, he knows.
"First of all, I have to pretty much give a lot of credit to football for giving me all the opportunities and opening all the doors that it did," said Capt. Jared Tew.
From Park City, he went on to play football at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He won MVP at the 2010 Independence Bowl. The same year, the Falcons won the Commander in Chief Trophy and Tew presented the commemorative football to President Barack Obama.
He became an F-16 fighter pilot and was once ranked No. 1 wingman in the 35th Fighter Squadron while deployed in South Korea.
His squadron is on the front line in the fight against the Islamic State group. He believes the rough-and-tumble game of football prepared him for what he considers the country's toughest threat.
"I think the challenge is just a not very traditional enemy and traditional war and a more unpredictable enemy that we have," said Tew.
Through football and F-16s, family has been the constant in Tew's life.
He's following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who served in the U.S. Army and in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars.
His family still lives in Park City but has traveled to cheer him at games. They're perhaps the only ones who can keep an F-16 pilot "grounded."
He thinks of his family when defending our country.
"The opportunity and the trust that the Air Force has in me to be able to fly airplanes means so much to me," he said. "I love that I have the opportunity to go out there and protect what I think is right and protect all the people back home that I love."