When Cody Ahola suffered a devastating injury a week before the season-opener in March, he was understandably melancholic. After all, the junior season for many high school athletes are key in the recruiting process.
“When I got injured, I thought it would put a halt in the whole recruiting process, so I was kind of bummed about that,” the incoming Christopher High senior tight end/receiver said. “So when those offers came in, I started getting excited and looked forward to what the future had for me.”
That future will be at the Air Force Academy, a Division I Football Bowl Subdivision level team that plays in the Mountain West Conference. Even after Ahola suffered a torn ACL, meniscus and a partial tear of his MCL in his left leg in a scrimmage against Milpitas, Air Force and Davidson College made offers.
Army also made an offer to Ahola before he got injured, giving him three solid four-year schools to choose from. After mulling things over for approximately three months—during which time he visited all three campuses—Ahola chose the Air Force.
“I looked into what life would look like after college and liked what I saw from the Air Force,” he said. “They obviously have a great football program. It’s a really exciting time, and it’s just amazing to me how in my sophomore season we could go 0-9 as a team and then I would have no junior season and possibly no senior season that I could still go D1. It’s just really shocking.”
Indeed, the fact that Ahola had three offers despite having just one varsity season under his belt speaks to his talent, work ethic, grit and the potential college coaches see in him. During his sophomore 2019 season, Ahola had 86 receptions for 1,019 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging nearly 11 catches per game.
For his performance, Ahola was named the Central Coast Section Sophomore of the Year.
“I honestly did not think I would put up those types of numbers,” he said. “I was very surprised by that.”
Ahola’s best game came in a 48-34 loss to Carmel, when he racked up nearly 300 yards in receiving and four touchdowns, consistently making big plays and feeling unstoppable from the moment he caught his first ball.
Already motivated, Ahola’s breakthrough season made him realize he had the potential to play football at a solid Division I program.
“After sophomore season, I decided to focus on football because at the time I was still balancing playing other sports,” he said. “I started lifting (more seriously), playing for a 7-on-7 team, all that good stuff.”
From the end of his sophomore season in November 2019 to March 2021, Ahola put on 25 to 30 pounds of muscle. Despite the 2020 football season not being played in the fall because of Covid, things improved to the point where the Cougars would get to play an abbreviated season in March and April.
Ahola was prepared to have another terrific season until he got injured in the scrimmage. He underwent surgery, was in crutches for six weeks and since then has been doing physical therapy twice a week and other exercises daily to strengthen his left leg.
“It’s definitely a lot different, especially remembering what my leg used to look like to what it looks like now,” he said. “It’s kind of shocking to see how much muscle I lost, but I’ve gained most of it back and in time I’ll be all good.”
Ahola said he’s four months out from being able to play again, which means he could be eligible to play in a game or two at the end of the season.
“If I’m ready, if I’m 100 percent, I’m going to play,” he said. “I’ll never get to play with any of these kids in my life again, so it’s important to me. I’ll be back.”
Carrying a 4.33 GPA, Ahola takes pride in his academics. But sports have been his calling, as he transitioned from soccer to football in his sixth-grade year with the Pop Warner Gilroy Browns. At Brownell Middle School, Ahola also competed in baseball, basketball and track and field.
“Constantly being on the field in different sports helped shape me as an athlete,” he said.
Fortunately for Ahola, suffering a major injury didn’t prevent offers coming his way. He enjoyed his conversations with Air Force offensive coordinator Mike Thiessen, who mentioned some of Ahola’s strengths.
“Coach Thiessen said he was impressed with my size, how I am able to maneuver around with how big I am and my explosiveness,” Ahola said.
Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]