A smile quickly spreads across Troy Mairs' face as he sits up in his chair. He is remembering the time he set his desk on fire.
It was about 2 years ago, and the recent AFC graduate was immersed in the middle of one of his creations.
Sometimes he customizes things he finds, like the old, worn bow he recently purchased at a garage sale, and redid the paint work and restored the wood. Other times he starts from scratch, which was what he was doing when his desk lit up.
"I was building a small, gas-powered Airsoft gun," Mairs said. "It started to work at first, but the gas caught fire, and it just went downhill from there."
In an instant, the wooden desk in his bedroom provided the fuel for a fire that was started due to another ambitious project.
Luckily Mairs, whose mother Michelle calls him the creative one in the family, found a quick solution.
"My whole desk went up in flames with all my papers," he said. "I was scared. There wasn't any water nearby, so I pulled off my comforter and was able to put out the fire."
The best part, Mairs explains, is that his parents largely shrugged it off, chalking it up to another one of their son's experiments. And by now, Dave and Michelle Mairs are used to these happenings.
There was another time when his latest invention called for a lot of springs.
"None of the pens in our house would work," Mairs said. "I took all of the springs."
"We've learned to love it," Michelle said with a laugh. "He is very much hands-on with everything."
The drive to invent and create has been with him ever since he can remember, and he explains it as having an unscratchable itch to build and create things. He remembers whittling sticks into bows, and he even made homemade catapults.
"He has always been playing sports, but when he's not, he never just sits on his hands," Michelle said. "He likes always to be doing something. He's not your typical boy."
As he grew older, his passion grew with him, and his interests evolved from primitive weapons to guns.
He plans on spending the next 2 years at Sauk Valley Community College, after being awarded a full scholarship because of his strong grades and ACT score of 28. After that, the plan is to attend Murray State in Oklahoma, where he will enter in a 2-year program that will give him his gunsmithing license.
With that, he aims to open a shop in Ashton that will serve as a one-stop shop to all things guns. Customization, repairs, buying and selling. Similiar to one of his favorite shows that airs on the Discovery Channel: 'Sons of Guns'.
"I'm an avid gun collector," Mairs said. "Every gun I get, I customize. They either get a new stock or a paint job. I've got a lot of creative ideas, and hopefully I can use them to get my shop running."
He currently teaches NRA classes, specifically rifle and pistol courses, and wants to become an officer in the U.S. Army. Next summer, he will go into basic training for the National Guard where he plans to get into officer candidate school.
But for now, the three-sport athlete (baseball, basketball and football) has shifted his focus to trying to get in shape for basketball, something he hasn't played competitively since the winter sports season.
Mairs, 18, will step back onto the hardwood on Thursday, when he will be playing for the Telegraph squad during the SVM All-Star classic. He used his big frame to average 16.1 points per game last season, and, standing at nearly 6 feet, 8 inches, will be the tallest player on the floor.
"Man, I started running back-and-forth on the court a little bit and after 5 minutes, I was so tired," Mairs said. "But it should be really fun. I'm looking forward to it."
College plans: Sauk Valley C.C., then Murray State for gunsmithing license.
FYI: Taught his parents about gun safety and how to shoot.