It’s no secret that they grow ‘em big in Texas.

And nowhere is that more true than in Stephenville, as is evidenced by the accomplishments of former Yellow Jackets quarterback and Navy three-star Admiral Luke McCollum who has been selected to command U.S. Naval Reserves worldwide.

That accomplishment was celebrated in Washington D.C. Monday in an event attended by over 400 people, including friends and former classmates from Stephenville High School.

“I was honored to learn that on July 13th this past summer, the US Senate confirmed me to be the 14th Chief of Navy Reserve and Commander Reserve Forces. I officially was promoted to three-star admiral (vice admiral) and took command through an official change of command ceremony," McCollum said.

“I look forward to leading a force of over 60,000 professional men and women who have devoted their life to service. Since 9/11 there have been over 75,000 individual mobilization and deployments where we have sent our sailors to places such as Afghanistan, Horn of Africa and Iraq.”

McCollum, who graduated from SHS in 1979, followed that up by graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1983 and earned his designation as a Qualified Surface Warfare Officer in 1985. He also holds a Master of Science in Computer Systems Management from the University of Maryland, University College.

“I had the privilege of growing up in Stephenville and feel so fortunate to benefit from a community that invested in its youth, promoted an attitude of service, and of course loved its sports. I loved playing football and as quarterback, saw the importance of teamwork and being professional is in both work ethic and attitude," McCollum said.

“This is also where I learned that that servant leadership is the best kind of leadership and that it is important to mentor someone. I headed off to Annapolis (US Naval Academy) in the summer of 1979 where I really began my Navy career. Even though I have lived overseas, deployed around the world, I think of Stephenville as the best possible place to grow up.”

At sea, McCollum served on the USS Blue Ridge, USS Kinkaid, and USS BValley Forge with deployments to the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean, Arabian Gulf and operations off South America. Ashore, he has served in the Pentagon as naval aide to the 23rd Chief of Naval Operations.

“The challenge to be ‘always ready’ by training, planning, and investing in individual qualifications will be the continuous effort so that any of us are ready when the call comes to defend our great nation,” McCollum said.

Local rancher James Terrell – who attended the ceremony and addressed the audience in Washington − said, “This is a great accomplishment by Luke of course − we think this is the highest rank ever attained in any branch of the service by anyone from Stephenville.

“But the best thing is that Luke’s the same guy he always was when we played football with him back in Stephenville. He’s never let anything go to his head. To us, he’s still just Luke.”