Athletic Recruit who isn't "into" the military


10-Year Member
5-Year Member
Jan 29, 2008
DS has dreamed of Annapolis since he could say the word. We always told him to work hard, be a leader and perhaps he'd get the chance. He followed our advice and received a nomination, he's academically and physically qualified and we are waiting to hear on DoDMERB status.

DS informed us today that a classmate has been recruited by USNA and USAFA to play football. He was excited until his friend said: "Yeah, I'm going to accept the appointment...I'm just really not into this whole military thing." DS is devastated...there's the possibility that he might not get the appointment he desperately wants (you never know until that envelope arrives) and his classmate who could care less has two...


Its very frustrating I'm sure.

Some people want it for different reasons.

Money is a large part of it.
It is frustrating as a parent to watch our children in any situation be upset. As a citizen it is more upsetting to know that there maybe someone who is serving for the wrong reason. I hope for your son that he does get his dream, but I also hope he has a back up plan. My ds wants the AFA and that is it. If he doesn't get it he will be going to get his commission via AFROTC, thus he will get his ultimate dream of being an officer and that is all that matters. How you get there doesn't matter, the only thing that matters is that you get there.
We have a friend who got only 1 nom for the AFA, but not the USNA, when they found out another cadet took the AFA our friend was than offered the USNA (which was their 1st choice), so you never know what may happen.
In the end if your sons friend hasn't really thought about what the next 9 years will be like (if they take flight training 8 yrs after finishing UPT or @32)he might be very sorry.
Unfortunately, there are people there for the wrong reasons, but there are also people in the AFA that are attending to get a pilot slot and will leave as soon as possible to become a bus driver in the sky. Everyone is there for different reason, we just have to believe that no matter what happens it happens for a reason.

My best wishes for your son that his dream comes true.

Yes, it is frustrating. DS definately has a backup plan. He'll also go the ROTC route. He has been accepted to 2 very good colleges and each has offered him scholarships (although he is waiting to hear about NROTC). He wants to be a Naval Officer. His first choice is to go to Annapolis but if that doesn't happen, he knows there are other ways to accomplish his dream. The most upsetting thing is that we look at an appointment to any service academy as an honor reserved for the very best of the best. How sad that there is someone who isn't there with his whole heart into it while there are others who would do anything to be given the chance.
I know your feeling, but I still believe that in this day and age with the military being overtaxed and overburdened that I actually pity the child. Free education or to be able to play ball is never the reason to join. If my ds did not have a back-up plan for ROTC, I would tell him don't take it. 4 yrs of educ., 5 yrs, active and 3 yrs res., before you add on any committment to train for your "real" job, i.e. flying is 8 yrs after pinning on your wings (@ 18 mos to get at least for the AF) means that he will be @32 before he can say goodby to the service, no free education or playing a sport is worth that...only if your heart and soul is in it will you look at it with joy and glee. I had a friend who did it for the free education, she was called up from the reserves from Desert Storm I and stated to me that she felt like she made a deal with the devil. She resigned her commission as soon as she got back.

My DS originally wanted to go to Notre Dame AFROTC for a long time, he eventually decided he wanted the AFA. I am sure that your DS is the same as mine, they want to serve as an officer and they will.
I talked to a local mom whose son is an athlete at a SA. She knows my son is an athlete, too (although for a non-revenue generating sport, unlike her son). She asked if mine will be entering through the front door or the back door. Her son was recruited and did not have to seek a nom (read: did not jump through the hoops and mass of paperwork associated w/ seeking mulitple noms). He hadn't considered an SA until the recruiters came to call...but he has loved the academy and looks forward to being an officer after his athletic career ends. The young man you speak of may have a change of heart, or may choose not to attend. The academies cannot fill their sports rosters with top athletes who have dreamed of nothing else their entire's just the facts. If they did that, bball and football would be simply intramurals, wouldn't it?
I agree, but I also wonder, when the SA's were created did they recruit athletes, or just potential officers?

I honestly have no problem with it, because these candidates must also meet the rigors of gpa, sat, act, etc. We have a friend whose son is a jr. the AFA has already contacted him back in OCT for swimming. They are considering it and I know he will be a fine officer and would have made it in either way. I am not sure he will do it b/c he was a military brat, but Dad retired many moons ago and he likes his home bet if he gets UNC, he'll go there otherwise he'll go AFA
What you say happens -- kids attend SAs solely, or at least primarily, b/c it is their best chance to play Div I football. A couple of comments (my opinion only).

1. Some kids make comments like the one made by the son's friend b/c they think it's cool or macho ("yeah, I don't care"). Deep down, maybe the guy does care -- who knows.

2. Even if they're going to a SA to play football, some will end up loving it and, to everyone's surprise, end of making the military a career. I personally know several examples. Not suggesting this is common, but it happens.

3. If they really don't like USNA, my guess is that they'll transfer after one or two years. Doesn't solve the "admissions" issue, but it's hard to commit for 9 years to something you don't like at all.

4. While I'm sure the situation is discouraging, like so many things in life, it happens and there's not a lot you can do about it. As an adult, you know this will happen over and over again in various contexts (jobs you should get but someone else does, etc.). Thus, worrying about it only makes you more depressed and won't do a thing to improve your son's situation.

I really hope it works out for your son and that he gets the chance to fulfill his dream. Try to keep your (and his) focus on that and forget about what may or may not be going on with those around you.
This reminds me of Eckel. That is the USNA grad who wasn't really into his commission as an ensign in the US Navy and never made it to LTjg because the Navy gave him the big ole boot. He has to pay back the US govt. for the investment the tax payers made. He now plays for the New England Patriots (hate them), and people want to say he's a good guy because he served in the Navy. Well to those people, he didn't serve honorably and he was able to do what few people can, NOT make O-2. That's just pathetic.

He's pathetic...and I'm done with the Patriots (for a variety of reasons, BOOOOOO).
For another view -

read "Absolutely American" - he highlights and follows a recruited football player. This guy was into football and only football. WP was his only DI choice so he went. They seriously doubted he would make an officer.
He was just so bad militarily - wouldn't shave, shine his shoes etc.....
he almost didn't commit. they put him in charge of beast summer before committment and it clicked. all of it.
then the Giants wanted to draft him. something line $800,000. they said come now or never.
won't spoil it for you but in my copy is a picture of him leading troops in Afghanistan.
I remember being at a squadron party many years ago, and the ringknockers were talking about when they decided they wanted to go to the AFA...There were 3. I will always remember the answers and where they were standing b/c it shocked me...please realize Bullet wanted college life, but to be an officer so he went ROTC. This also goes back to the day when acad grads received a full commission upon graduation and could not be rif. Just to let you know I was shocked b/c DH always wanted to be in the AF, so I thought this would be true for acad grads

Here were the answer:

1st guy (LTC and CO of his own squadron): When I didn't get accepted to USNA...retired as a full bird

2nd guy (LTC and ADO): when they recruited me for sports and I learned I could fly... followed by I am just waiting until I can go fly the airlines...retired as LTC

3rd guy (Maj and ADO): when I was 3...he is still in and a full bird now.

So you see 3 guys, who all were at the academy at the exact same time, different grad yrs., all went to the acad for different reasons...all did 20+ yrs...IMHO, they were/are all great officers and flyers.

Remember, there will be people who also go through ROTC for the "free" education...I personally couldn't care less what their motivation is, as long as they give their heart, soul and everything in between when they are active duty.
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I want to add another viewpoint. A lot of kids are going through the same thing, but involving civilian colleges. There are only so many slots at some of the most sought-after colleges, and the retention rates vary for those, too. There will always be kids going away to college (and SA's) that find that they don't belong there and end up leaving.

For those more dedicated young people, I'll say - Don't give up. If you don't get an appointment your first year out of high school, keep applying. Go to Plan B, work hard in Plan B, and then reapply. That will also show that your persistent and dedicated - someone will notice.

It's very common for those recruits that aren't into the military not to last long once they get to a SA. It takes a huge commitment and dedication to go the distance. And from what I hear about the added issues of being on a corps squad like football (at WP), they may even have it harder than a non-corps cadet.
I'm not worried about my son. I know he'll be a naval officer one way or another. I sincerely hope his friend has a change of heart, gets there and finds he loves it. If he weren't an athlete, he'd likely be a very competitive candidate and he can certainly handle the academics. With any luck there will be 2 new officers come 2012, and I'll know and love them both!
My hopes, wishes and thoughts that your words will become reality...either way, AMerica can feel wonderful knowing that we have the top of the tops as our officers.

Good luck, keep us posted...maybe someday our AF son will cross paths with your Navy son at the Pentagon:thumb:
It has been mentioned that kids come to the SAs for various reasons. Not all of them are noble and/or patriotic. The difference with the recruited football player is that he is on a team, a team where he will continue to learn teamwork and a place where he will learn that it is not for self but for the team. A place where quitting is not an option. Noble traits for a grad. Therefore, it is not surprising, for USNA at least, that varsity athletes in general, football players in particular, do measurably better in the fleet both in performance and in retention.

I assume you're overlooking Eckel, that USNA football grad who get the boot before making LTJG (and that's obviously not easy). Sure, he's playing for New England...but how much negative attention has he brought. Not honorable, sadly.
I don't buy that for a second. Wasn't it a vasity athlete, a USNA football in particular that was Court Martialed a few years back? Not just a football player...but the QUARTERBACK. Have we already gone over Eckel? The star USNA football player who apparently wasn't in it for "Service to Country", when he had mutliple problems while at the academy, got his commission, and with in a year lost his commission. As I remember it, he applied for a wavier for his obligatory 5 years AD service so he could play for the New England Patriots, however when that was denied, he some how found himself in a great deal of trouble and found his way out of service early. That's ok though, because the NE Patriots were right there waiting for him, and he knew it.

My classmate, a vasity football player, was also Court Martialed (first in the Academy's history). Another varsity football player from my class also lost his commission, never making O2 because of some "problems" after he graduated.

Are football players visible? Yes, I would say so. Do many of them make it through, so at some point a service academy team that has trouble competing against civilian colleges can compete? I think so.

Are all football players bad? No. A good number of my friends played (granted it was Div. III).

Do I buy the claim that football players in particular do better in the fleet? No. I think if someone is performing and played club ice hockey well then someone might say "yeah and he went to the academy", and if they played football, then that would invariably come up "yeah and he went to the academy and played D-I football!"

I don't buy it, too many court-martials and lost commissions in the past few years for me to classify them in particular as "better in the fleet".
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The predicted retention rates of graduates who letter in a varsity sport is 4.39%
higher than non-athletes; 52.42% for letter winners compared to 48.03% for non-athletes.

This is the result of a recent NPS detailed study which is probably more accurate than wild speculation based on one or two individuals. The football difference was the greatest, around 8%.
Here’s an example of CGA football making a impact on a coastie’s career decision:

Washington Post Article

First Person Singular
Adm. Thad Allen, commandant, U.S. Coast Guard

Sunday, October 14, 2007; W16

I thought I was too small to play Division I football, and Coast Guard had a Division III team. Strange reason to go to [the Coast Guard Academy], but that's what happened. I was only going to stay five years and get out -- I think that's what everybody says -- but it just starts growing on you, especially when you're involved in search and rescue.

We encounter people every day that have been thrown overboard, that are in an airplane that's crashed in the middle of the ocean, on a boat that's capsized or sinking. It doesn't take very many life-and-death cases where you pull somebody out of the water, you give them back their life, to get pretty stoked about this line of work.

When I was a lieutenant in the winter of 1980, we had a barge with about 3 million gallons of oil that grounded at the entrance to the Brigantine wildlife refuge, just north of Atlantic City. There were two men trapped in the deckhouse on the barge. It was almost a whiteout with the blizzard, and we couldn't get anybody to the barge.

Finally, one of our motor lifeboats was able to get near the surf line and could see the barge. I was in the command center talking to the boat on the radio, and the coxswain said: "I think I can make it. I'm going in." Then there was nothing on the radio for 30 minutes. If [the crew members] couldn't get back to the surf line, they were going to be in peril, too. I remember them coming on the radio saying: "We got them! We made it!" -- and by that time I think I'd aged 10 years. The barge was the Michelle F, and the coxswain's name was Matthew Greer. You don't forget that stuff. It's physical and it's emotional. It kind of takes your whole being.

Interview by KK Ottesen.......................................................................

Adm. Thad Allen told the present football coach George that he thought about Dropping On Request five times, but football helped him to persevere. Look at him now, one of the most admired leaders in the US.