Staff Sgt. Ricky Mahaney: tackling a semi-pro football career

SEDALIA, Mo. - Staff Sgt. Ricky Mahaney, 509th Force Support Squadron, prepares for a kick-off during the Mid-Mo Outlaw's game versus the Sioux City Bandits May 14. The Outlaws lost at home 18-44. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cody H. Ramirez)

SEDALIA, Mo. - Staff Sgt. Ricky Mahaney, 509th Force Support Squadron, prepares for a kick-off during the Mid-Mo Outlaws game versus the Sioux City Bandits May 14. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cody H. Ramirez)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Staff Sgt. Rickey Mahaney is first serving his country as an Airman and steward of nuclear deterrence here. His weeknights and weekends are dedicated to a hobby that has shaped his life for more than a decade - American football.

Sergeant Mahaney, 509th Force Support Squadrons assistant NCO in charge and Air Force Global Strike Command member, is a linebacker and special-teams player for the Mid-Missouri Outlaws, a semi-pro football team out of Sedalia, Mo.

The sergeant started young - two-hand touch games with neighborhood children. By the seventh-grade, Sergeant Mahaney knew the game was for him, so he tried out for the team.

"Where I grew up, seventh grade was the earliest you could play (organized) football," Sergeant Mahaney said. "I figured I'd give it a try and fell in love with it."

He played through middle school, building a skill set he'd use throughout high school. Sergeant Mahaney played as a 3-year varsity starter at Mexico Sr. High in Mexico, Mo., where he holds the school's all-time leading rusher record.

Sergeant Mahaney's high school career led him to play at a division-two school in the Saint Louis area.

"I was recruited to play college football at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., where I played 3 years," he said. "I was a medical red-shirt one year because I tore my anterior cruciate, lateral collateral ligament and hamstring."

As graduation neared, Sergeant Mahaney started job searching, which led him to an Air Force recruiter. The short period of time spent in the recruiter's office was enough for the sergeant to make a life changing decision, "It sounded like the right road for me and my family."

Sergeant Mahaney removed his pads, hung up his helmet and headed for basic military training in July 2005 to become an Airman in the United States Air Force.

Almost six years later he is the installation personnel readiness representative and spends his days tracking accountability of deployments and those returning from deployments.

Sergeant Mahaney said his teamwork, leadership and physical training are just a few examples of how playing football helps with his job.

"I always thought I was a pretty good team player and that works well in my job and on the field," he said.

Sergeant Mahaney said football is about having fun while it lasts, but he has ambition toward his Air Force career.

"I probably don't have much longer to play football," Sergeant Mahaney said. "I am 29 and one of the oldest guys on the team, but I plan on being in the Air Force until they kick me out, which I hope is 25 years from now."

He added, "The road seemed right then and still is today."