An Indian Creek teenager was looking for a different experience this summer — something that would set him apart, get him in shape mentally and physically and change him.

Mission accomplished.

Austin Worth turned 18 in early May and spent the summer before his senior year in Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. Worth spent 10 weeks in Army basic training, which serves as the boot camp for the National Guard, Army and Army Reserves.

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He wanted the structure and discipline of a military setting, and to become a better person in every way.

“I just feel like I needed to accomplish something. I wasn’t really getting anywhere and I wanted to become something better,” Worth said. “This way I could get ahead, and it’s kind of like a part-time job, too. I could go to boot camp and come back ready and in shape for football season.

“Mentally, I feel like I’m a different person. Physically, my endurance is better than it ever has been.”

Worth left May 30 for Fort Leonard Wood, located 130 miles southwest of St. Louis. Basic training there is a coed Army course designed to instill discipline while training soldiers in basic skills, warrior tasks and battle drills.

Wake-up calls most days were 4:30 a.m., but there were mornings when it was as early as 3 o’clock. Worth’s internal clock adjusted. The most difficult aspect of his time away was missing family and friends and knowing football practices were being conducted without him.

His training cut into the start of the fall semester, and he missed not only the entire football preseason but the first seven days of his senior school year.

Worth graduated from basic training Thursday with his parents Luke and Rebekah watching and headed back to Johnson County. On Friday afternoon, his Indian Creek teammates welcomed him back, and he was on the sideline that evening to watch the Braves’ preseason scrimmage at Greensburg.

During the school year, Worth will spend one weekend per month training at Camp Atterbury in Edinburgh. After high school graduation, he’ll go back to Fort Leonard Wood next summer for Advanced Individual Training — but he’s not yet sure if he wants to join the military on a full-time basis.

“It’s still up in the air,” Worth said about his future. “As of right now I plan on going to trade school. I want to be an electrician, just like my dad. But I did basic training because I didn’t want to sit around during the summer doing the same thing. I wanted to do something to get ahead in life.”

Worth walked into the Braves’ locker room on Friday afternoon in his military fatigues and emerged in his white No. 42 road jersey. He couldn’t play in Friday night’s scrimmage after having missed all of the Braves’ preseason practices, but he soaked up every moment of the bus ride and watching his friends compete.

“When Austin came in (the locker room), it was a pretty cool thing,” Indian Creek coach Brett Cooper said. “He was hugging a lot of the seniors and other guys he had played football with for a long time. Down here, the community is really tight. Seniors are close with sophomores and so on.”

Worth made 26 tackles last season for the Braves, his best performance including eight stops, one of them a sack, in a 49-6 sectional victory against Indianapolis Washington.

Per IHSAA rules, players must have a minimum of 10 practices to be eligible for competition. Worth is expected to sit out this Friday’s opener at North Putnam, but he could be back as early as the Week 2 game against county rival Greenwood.

At the latest, he’ll make his debut this season when Indian Creek hosts Owen Valley on Sept. 1.

“Austin is obviously going to be behind,” said Cooper, who plans to use Worth in the Braves’ offensive backfield as a runner and blocker. “We’re going to put him in positions and situations that shouldn’t be too difficult for him.”

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Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.