SPRINGDALE -- The championship ring that eluded Zeke Laird in high school is now on his finger after a freshman season of playing Sprint Football for Army at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
"We never won a ring at Prairie Grove, but Zeke has one now," said his father, Craig Laird, one of Zeke's former high school coaches, beaming as Zeke showed off his 2017 National Championship Sprint Football ring during a sendoff for service academy appointees hosted by Congressman Steve Womack Saturday at Springdale Har-Ber High School.
The Laird family attended for the sendoff hosted by Womack for the second year. Last year, Womack appointed Zeke Laird in 2017 to the the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. He is home visiting family during the summer break. Zeke Laird cheered on Farmington 2018 graduate Javan Jowers, whom Womack appointed to the U.S. Air Force Academy this year.
"What Sprint football is, it's regular football but it's got a weight-limit," Zeke Laird explained. "You have to make weight twice a week at 178 (pounds), and so everyone in the league has to make weight at 178, so everyone is the same size."
In order to attain a ring Zeke Laird humbled himself, switching positions from the more glamorous position of quarterback he played in high school to that of an offensive lineman, the workhorse mules, whose labor in the trenches frequently goes unheralded.
"I'm actually an offensive lineman which was an adjustment period for me," Zeke Laird said.
Zeke Laird described the experience as a great opportunity for a small-town kid, who wants to keep playing football, yet at 5-9, 178 pounds, doesn't have the size to play on Army's Division I team.
"Sprint football is perfect for me because it allowed me to go out play some more football and have an opportunity to play some more football at my size," Zeke Laird said. "It is a lot of fun. Being on the team, being a part of a group of guys like that, especially when we get to go on a run like we did, going 9-0 and winning the championship (in a tenth game against Penn), being national champions of the Sprint team so it's a good time, a great opportunity for me."
Army won games over Post University, Franklin Pierce, Penn, Navy, Chestnut Hill, Mansfield, and Cornell to advance into the national championship game in a rematch with Penn. Both games were decided by 10 points. In the first meeting, Army won 24-14 on the road at Penn on Sept. 30, 2017. Army won again in the championship contest by a 10-0 score on Nov. 10, 2017, to complete an undefeated 10-0 season.
Laird and Jowers competed head-to-head in high school, each representing their schools in the Farmington versus Prairie Grove rivalry, yet the young men will not renew their football rivalry for this season, at least.
"Air Force does not currently have a Sprint Team," Zeke Laird said. "Navy does as well as some of the Ivy League schools, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell has one, a few other schools up in the northeast. It's a pretty local league."
Zeke Laird talked about comparisons between the high school Farmington versus Prairie Grove rivalry as opposed to the national stage Army versus Navy football rivalry.
"They're definitely both intense games," Zeke Laird said. "Prairie Grove/Farmington is obviously a big deal locally. Army/Navy is also a big deal. It was the biggest tents we had. The thing that's great about the Army/Navy game is that there's more riding on it. The Sprint Football, along with all of the Army teams, you beat Navy, you're honored by the superintendent. You get a gold star to wear on one of your uniforms so that everyone can see that you beat Navy."
Season Results Army Sprint Football 2017
9/22/2017^at Franklin Pierce^51-0
11/10/2017^Penn^10-0Sports on 06/06/2018
Print Headline: Laird Wins Football Ring