Sherando’s Avery signs to play football in New Mexico

Ben Avery Rich Cooley/Daily

STEPHENS CITY – Before Sherando High School senior Ben Avery signed his national letter of intent to play football at New Mexico Military Institute on Tuesday afternoon, Warriors head football coach Bill Hall took a moment to praise Avery’s perseverance throughout his athletic career.

When it was time for Avery to address the group of family, friends, teammates, coaches and teachers gathered in Sherando’s wrestling room, the standout defensive lineman and all-state wrestler deflected all of the credit.

Avery received a full scholarship from the military institute, which competes in the National Junior College Athletic Association, but he doesn’t see that as a reward for all of the hard work he’s put in as a high school athlete over the last four years. He views it as a gift for a life steeped in faith.

“In James 1:17 it says every perfect gift comes from above, and so having that mindset that God has given me this gift – I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t deserve this scholarship but God gave it to me because he loves me,” Avery said. “And so that has helped me and it’s honestly taken a lot of pressure off me because I know I’m encompassed in God’s love.”

Avery’s journey to a college football scholarship hasn’t come easy. He suffers from severe asthma that often requires the use of a nebulizer to regain control of his breathing, and this past winter Avery fractured his fibula just days before the Region 4A West wrestling tournament in February.

The injury brought a little concern to the 6-foot, 285-pound Avery in regard to his football future, but he said doctors were very reassuring that his broken left leg would heal back to full strength, a status the senior said he’s very close to reaching.

Any concerns Avery may have had about a college football career were doused several weeks ago, when Avery said Hall reached out to the coaching staff at the military institute. Shortly after, Avery received a phone call from Broncos assistant coach Brian Vaughn, who offered him a scholarship. It was the first and only scholarship offer for Avery, who had 46 tackles and led Sherando with 6.5 sacks in 2015 and was a first team Group 4A all-State, all-Region 4A West and all-Conference 21 West selection.

The offer made the decision easy for Avery, who had also looked at “a bunch” of NCAA Division III programs as well as Division II Alderson Broaddus.

“I mean I’ve only talked with Coach Vaughn and the head coach (Joe Forchtner) for a little bit but they seem like just a great coaching staff,” Avery said. “I’m really excited. … I didn’t have any red flags or anything about it, so I’m feeling good about it.”

The Broncos, who compete in the Western States Football League, with a record of 6-5 – including a 5-3 mark in league play – in 2015, Forchtner’s fourth season as head coach.

New Mexico Military Institute, located in Roswell, is one of five military junior colleges in the country (NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach attended the institute for a season before joining the U.S. Naval Academy in 1961). Avery said he will not be required to fulfill any service time following his graduation in two years, although he will live the military school lifestyle as a cadet while on campus.

“Military was something that I considered (until) I found out you can’t do it with asthma,” Avery said. “… It’s definitely gonna be a new experience. But I actually I like that part of it just because it brings the focus on living excellently and they don’t take bull crap like they do in high school, and that’s what I like.

“I’m happy to live in a different place, experience a different life,” he added. “It’s gonna be exciting.”

Avery said he expects to take general education courses at the institute while he earns his associate’s degree, after which he’ll look at transferring to a four-year university while continuing his football career.

“Ideally I’d like to go to Liberty (University), finish off at Liberty,” Avery said. “But we’ll see what God has for me after that.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com