Steve Armstrong didn't find his future in the Army. He'll be all that he can be somewhere else, thank you.
Exactly where, he's not sure, but Armstrong, who was a two-time all-league selection in football, basketball and baseball at Agoura High, said it definitely won't be at the U.S. Military Academy.
Armstrong, 18, left West Point two weeks ago with no intention of going back.
"It just wasn't for me," Armstrong said last week in the dining room of his parents' home in Westlake Village. "I'm not a full partier or anything, but I just wasn't having any fun there. . . .
"I was miserable until I knew I would be coming home. Then, I knew it would be only a couple of months before I'd never have to see that place again."
Armstrong didn't like the regimentation--reveille at 5:30 a.m., four formations a day for freshmen--or the course load he was required to take--21 1/2 units, including computer science, calculus, chemistry, history, military science, English and P.E.
Perhaps even more upsetting, though, was being cut from the football program.
Armstrong, a quarterback who led Agoura to an unbeaten season and the Southern Section's Desert-Mountain Conference championship in 1984, had been interested in West Point for a long time, he said. And when the academy showed interest in him as a football player, that was all he needed to hear.
Sure, the Army lifestyle was regimented, but if others could handle it, why couldn't he? And so what if the Cadets ran a wishbone offense? Armstrong, who passed for 18 touchdowns and more than 1,500 yards in his senior year at Agoura, believed he could adjust to a more run-oriented attack.
Wrong on both counts.
The school had recruited 11 other freshmen quarterbacks, and Armstrong found that most of them were familiar with the wishbone. "They were running the offense," Armstrong said, "and I was still trying to learn the plays. . . . I don't know what made me think I could run a wishbone."
Before the semester had started, he was cut from the team.
"I wanted to quit right then," said Armstrong, who had been at West Point for six weeks of basic training before football practice began. "I was kind of fed up. People were telling me, 'Stay there for a while and see what school's like.' It didn't get much better, so I decided to leave."
Was he not prepared for the culture shock in adjusting to military life?
"I had my doubts, not because of the military part, but because of the football part," said his father, Ned, a financial consultant. "Steve, I thought, was an excellent quarterback, but he certainly wasn't a wishbone quarterback. He's not the quick, runner type."
Ned Armstrong said that one of the coaches recruiting his son told him the Cadets wanted to pass more this season. "If I had been Steve," Ned said, "I would have said, 'Hey, I think this guy's feeding us something.' But he didn't feel that way. He wanted to try it."
His son might have stayed, Ned said, if he'd made the team. Getting cut "didn't sit very well with him," Ned said. "He hadn't had that kind of failure in quite a while. Then, of course, the whole military regimentation--at that point, he wasn't ready for it."
Steve Armstrong, happier now at home, plans to enroll at Moorpark for the spring semester, then transfer, perhaps to UC Santa Barbara, which may start a NCAA Division III football program next fall.
"It's close and it's on the beach," he said of UCSB. And the lifestyle is more in keeping with his tastes.
"I like to come and go as I please," he said. "I'm kind of laid back."
Definitely not Army material.