Charles Dimnwaobi is about to become one of the rarer graduates of Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville.
This fall, he’ll be suiting up for the Air Force Academy — on the gridiron as a wide receiver.
“It’s nice out there,” Charles said of Colorado Springs, Colo.
Of the approximate 120 graduates last May, only a handful matriculated to a service academy, according to school officials.
Most students attend public universities.
The same is true this year.
Riverside, after all, is not a “feeder program” to the U.S. military, but a college prep boarding school that strives for its students to attend the college of their choice.
For Charles, boarding school was a major adjustment when he arrived from Suwanee on the Riverside campus his sophomore year.
“Oh yeah, for sure,” he said with a chuckle.
The supervision and “constant pressure” means you have to be on your game all the time.
“That’s just how it goes here,” Charles said. “It takes some getting used to.”
Both his parents had attended boarding schools, and Charles’s cousin had gone to Riverside before him.
But his family never imagined where it might lead Charles.
“They never thought I’d actually end up going to a service academy,” he said. “They were surprised.”
The opportunity to attend the Air Force Academy on scholarship goes beyond playing football, however, Charles said.
For example, he may serve professionally in the military.
And that’s what seems to have gotten his parents’ attention.
“They kind of came to and realized the opportunity I’m getting,” he said. “It’s a great place to go for life after sports.”
But, if “doors continue to open through sports, then I’ll continue to go through them,” Charles said.
That could include running track at Air Force. Charles set records at Riverside and said an upcoming state championship, next to graduation, will be the best day yet attending Riverside.
“If I could run track there, too, that would be cool,” he said. “Just to compete on that level.”
Charles’ success has grown along with friendships and bonds he’s made with students and faculty at Riverside.
Charles said he learned self-discipline at Riverside and how to manage all the pressure that once felt new.
The old sports adage that any game is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical seems to apply in Charles’s case.
“I’m more mentally developed and can handle adversity better than when I first came in here,” he added. “I can take that with me … I’m ahead of the game. It’s an advantage.”