Center High football standout invited to exclusive Navy-based foreign exchange program

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It won't be long before high school football season blasts off again.

Many Missouri schools are working out now in preparation for opening night kickoffs on Aug. 24. Kansas schools will begin their seasons seven days later on Aug. 31.

The bar is high at Center High School, where the Yellow Jackets turned heads again (10-3) last season. But many of the talented upperclassmen from a year ago have graduated, and tenth-year coach Bryan DeLong will need to fill many vacancies.

Something big is on the horizon for Center High's resident sailor.

Jeremy Rice

Senior Jeremy Rice is one of three American teenagers accepted into the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps exchange program. He's been part of the Sea Cadets for seven years, and next week, he'll ship out for England where he'll spend two weeks training to be a Navy corpsman at two British military bases.

"I've always wanted to be in the military. Now, that I'm getting older, I've figured out what I want to do," Rice said. "As an Eagle Scout and a Sea Cadet, I've always helped people. It's just something I do."

The U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps is a national youth leadership program that trains young people in various vocational disciplines. Being asked to join this exchange program is considered to be one of the biggest honors the U.S. Navy can give a young civilian, Rice said Wednesday.

Rice, who plays various positions on the Yellow Jacket football team, said he'll enlist as a Naval recruit once he graduates from Center High School in 2019.

For now, the European training mission has him and his family excited for whatever comes next.

"We're going to be out on the English Channel in boats and stuff. That's going to be a lot of fun," Rice added.

The 17-year-old rises to this honor despite his struggle with dyslexia, which has presented challenges in the classroom, according to Catherine Rice, Jeremy's mom. Catherine Rice said her son has to work harder than other students, and now his efforts are paying off.

Jeremy Rice

"He has a servant's heart. He's always willing to offer his time," Catherine Rice told FOX4. "When he goes to these military functions, he's the first kid that says, 'Hey, can I help do something?' People have noticed that."

"Ever since I've known him, he's talked about wanting to be a medic and wanting to help others," Coach DeLong said. "That's probably not a big -- going to be a millionaire and do those things a lot of kids set as goals, but going into a battlefield type of arena and serving others and trying to save lives. I think that says a lot about that kid right there."

Rice said he`s never been outside the United States before. He said the two-week training program will give him a world of new opportunity. Rice said he'll leave Kansas City to rendezvous with other Sea Cadet members in Miami before flying to England.

He plans to return for the start of the school year and Center's first football game, which is scheduled against Central High on Aug. 24.