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At Navy, summers for college football players aren’t so typical

The off-season summer program for Navy football players is far different from that of a normal college football player.

Houston v Navy Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

While the vast majority of college football players are taking the few weeks after Spring Finals to rest and relax back in their hometowns, the Naval Academy football players don’t have such luxury.

Each year, the Naval Academy players complete part of their intense military training requirements during the weeks following Final Exams. However, the specific type of training varies depending on the year of school each player is entering.

Let’s begin with the players who just completed their freshman year.

3rd Class Midshipmen (Sophomores)

Every Midshipmen at the Naval Academy spends part of the summer following their Plebe (Freshman) year aboard a naval warship. This is called the “3rd Class Surface Cruise”. The type of ship can vary from a Cruiser or Destroyer to an Aircraft Carrier or Amphibious Assault Ship. The Navy football players, too, must spend a period of time on a ship.

During their time on the ship, the players will learn the jobs and duties of the enlisted personnel stationed on the ship. They will be assigned to an enlisted member of the crew, called their “Running Mate,” who work in different departments on the ship and learn their daily jobs.

Furthermore, the players will participate just as every other member of the crew: cleaning the decks, painting the ship, sleeping in the berthings, and eating in the galley. The heart of the United States Navy is embedded in the Surface Warfare community, and within that, the enlisted crew members serving on the ships. The intent of this training is to expose the Midshipmen to life aboard the ship. Additionally, since the Midshipmen will be officers upon graduation, it is important to understand the jobs of the enlisted personnel of whom they will be leading.

The following summer, these players get a wider exposure of the options they have available within the Navy and Marine Corps following their eventual graduation.

2nd Class Midshipmen (Juniors)

Just like all rising 3rd Class Midshipmen go on “surface cruises”, every 2nd Class Midshipman participates in what is called PROTRAMID (Professional Training of Midshipmen). Again, the Navy Football players are no different. PROTRAMID consists of a small exposure to the other warfare communities that they may serve in following graduation: Aviation, Submarine, or Marine Corps.

Typically, the players are bused down to Virginia Beach and Norfolk, Virginia for a small dose of aviation training. The Midshipmen learn what it is like to be part of an Aviation Squadron by speaking with active-duty Navy Pilots and Naval Flight Officers and getting flights in Navy aircraft.

Each individual gets outfitted with aviation survival gear and fly in the T-34C Mentor(as seen above), and often, an MH-60 or MH-53E helicopter. The T-34C Mentor used to be the first aircraft that Navy and Marine Corps aviators learn to fly. The T-34C has now been replaced with the T-6 Texan II for student aviators, but the Mentor is still used for various reasons in Navy and Marine Corps aviation. If available, the players will all also get a flight in a MH-60 or MH-53E helicopter, which are used in the Navy’s daily combat operations when deployed.

Midshipmen also get a tour of a Naval Aircraft Carrier, given there is one in port. This tour includes exploring the massive hanger bay, the numerous levels(or decks), the catapult and arresting gear, and the various squadron Ready Rooms.

Navy players will also spend time aboard a U. S. Navy Nuclear Submarine. This submarine may be underway or stationed in port. While every Midshipmen has the opportunity to be assigned to the Submarine Corps, only those with the highest demonstrations of academic ability are selected (more on this later).

The final warfare community that the Navy players visit during PROTRAMID is the Marine Corps. For a few days, the rising juniors will join some of the rising seniors who are doing Leatherneck, the primary Marine Corps training and accession program for those who want to become Marine officers. While the seniors are being evaluated for their performance and leadership at Leatherneck, the juniors are simply learning the basics and getting a taste of Marine Corps operations. We will detail Leatherneck momentarily.

1st Class Midshipmen (Seniors)

Upon completing their junior year at school, all Midshipmen put in their request for their “Firstie” (short for First Class Midshipmen) summer training. While previous summer training assignments have simply been for exposure, the Firstie summer training is used to demonstrate desire and aptitude for the job that the Midshipmen want to do for their military career.

These types of training can range anywhere from doing an internship at the Pentagon to flying fighter jets in the state of Washington. Many of the training opportunities have limited availability, and therefore, are extremely competitive to earn. Conversely, some of the training assignments are required in order to enter that specific community. One example of this is Leatherneck.

Leatherneck is the Marine Corps specific training that all Midshipmen must complete in order to earn a commission in the United States Marine Corps after graduating from the Naval Academy. It is comprised of learning Land Navigation, executing the Leadership Reaction Course, finishing “The Quigley”, and demonstrating the basic knowledge of Marine Corps Fire Team and Squad Tactics.

Historically, many of the Navy Football players have selected Marine Corps as their service assignment following their time at the Naval Academy. So, you could expect that many of the rising seniors participated in the training this summer.

29 of the 34 Navy Football seniors attended Leatherneck from May 10th through May 24th. This includes star quarterback Malcolm Perry. Perry is also one of the four Navy Football captains for the 2019 season. The other captains, outside linebacker Nizaire Cromartie , linebacker Paul Carothers, and center Ford Higgins also all attended Leatherneck.

So you ask, what did the other five players do for their training? Great question. Here are some highlights.

Eric Cal, an offensive lineman, was fortunate enough to intern within the medical community. His current service assignment preference is Medical Corps. Only about three percent of the graduating class is selected to join the Navy Medical Corps and become a doctor. If selected, the individual must still graduate medical school and will then be assigned to a specialty within the Navy Med Corps.

Jeremy Griffis, a cornerback and possible starter on special teams, went on a Submarine Cruise for his training. This was extremely similar to the exposure he got the previous summer. Of note, starting defensive tackle Marcus Edwards and offensive guard Niko Yaramus have both already selected Submarines as their service assignments. Early-selecting Submarines is an extremely limited opportunity that is only afforded to those who are especially qualified.

Travis Brannan, a member of Navy’s backfield, was sent on an Aviation Cruise and had the chance to fly in an F/A-18F Super Hornet. Brannan is a standout Midshipmen, carrying a 4.0 GPA as an Ocean Engineer. In addition to his Aviation Cruise, Brannan will be a Company Commander for his company during Plebe Summer. A total of 30 Midshipmen are selected as a Company Commander each Plebe Summer, and it’s even more rare to do this while preparing for football season. Plebe Summer is the indoctrination summer for all incoming freshman (or Plebes). As a Company Commander, Brannan will lead approximately 80 Plebes and 12 other upper-class Midshipmen who will work under his charge.

As you can see, this is not your typical summer for a college football player. Navy Football players, along with those who attend Army West Point and the Air Force Academy, are special individuals who do much more than most athletes.