NORMAL — Normal West High School senior quarterback Arion Worthman was looking to be challenged on the next level.
Consider it done.
In making an oral commitment to the Air Force Academy, Worthman has chosen a military environment, a top-flight business school and a Division I football program coming off a 10-3 season.
“I just really like being in uncomfortable situations. You learn a lot about yourself,” said Worthman, who plans to sign a national letter of intent on Wednesday. “Challenging yourself really brings the most out of you.”
A two-time Pantagraph All-Area choice, Worthman accounted for 2,362 yards and 31 touchdowns this past season while earning Co-Big 12 Conference Player of the Year honors. He threw for 1,058 yards and 14 scores while rushing for 1,304 yards and 17 TDs.
As a junior, Worthman was the Pantagraph Player of the Year at University High, totaling 3,432 yards and 59 touchdowns (32 passing, 27 rushing).
The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder visited the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs recently. He also made an official visit to Army and was considering Dartmouth.
Air Force coach Troy Calhoun incorporates a lot of option in his offense. Senior quarterback Kale Pearson ran for 687 yards and threw for 1,590 this year. Overall, the Falcons rushed for 3,550 yards and passed for 1,893.
“They like a quarterback who can run and also has the ability to pass,” Worthman said. “I think the offense fits my skill set pretty well.
“The Air Force Academy sold itself. It’s an awesome school with a lot of opportunities academically and athletically. They’re the No. 1 business school in the nation and that’s what I want to study. That made the decision a lot easier. It’s a great fit for me.”
It was in many ways “love at first sight” for Worthman, an honor student whose commitment includes service to the Air Force beyond the four years of college.
“As we were driving to Colorado Springs (from Denver), it felt like Bloomington-Normal. It felt like home,” Worthman said. “As soon as we stepped on the base, I just knew it was the place. I could feel it.”
Worthman said he connected with Calhoun and quarterbacks coach Blane Morgan. While that bodes well for the football aspect, there was a deeper connection.
“When you’re on the base, you really feel patriotic,” Worthman said. “You feel proud to be an American. It’s something I think a lot of people take for granted at times. You realize, ‘Wow, this is awesome.’ It’s bigger than yourself to get to serve the greatest country in the world.”
Worthman called the recruiting process “extremely stressful,” saying friends and family and in particular his parents, Antoine and Nichele, helped him through it.
His commitment caps a journey that began with the Twin City Tigers youth program.
“Coach Mike Riordan, I really respect him for giving me the opportunity to join the Tigers,” he said. “He and the Tigers really helped my development.
“I had great high school coaches at U High as well as Normal West. The faculty at U High and the administration showed a lot of support. I got a lot of great support at Normal West from the faculty and administration as well. My teammates, too … I wouldn't have this opportunity without all the people who have been in the process.”
Also a talented baseball player, Worthman said he will play this spring for Coach Chris Hawkins and the Wildcats.