The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SPORTS

The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

It’s NFL Draft Weekend! Besides the excitement of seeing our favorite college athletes make it to the pros, we also get to learn about the players themselves and their stories.

One of my favorite stories comes from the 1995 NFL Draft. It’s about a player who was drafted that didn’t even like football, but used his talent in the sport to help others. It’s a great message that has application outside professional football.


When Curtis Martin was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2012, he shared something with the crowd. Even though he was now a Hall of Fame running back, he wasn’t a fan of the game — matter of fact he didn’t even like football or running. At first glance, you might think he wasted valuable years of his life doing something he didn’t like, but in reality it was the opposite. He spent his NFL career playing for a purpose. Playing football helped him achieve his “Why,” which was to help others.

In the book “Die Empty,” author Todd Henry writes, “In [Martin’s] rookie season with the Patriots, [he] began committing a minimum of 12% of his paycheck to his newly formed Job Foundation, which he formed to help single mothers and disadvantaged youth.” He kept with football because it gave him a platform to help his mother and other people who struggled to help themselves. During his acceptance speech, Hall said the following:

Most of these guys have lived for the game of football and eat, breath, sleep football. I was someone who was somewhat forced to play football. I can remember draft day like it was yesterday. My family and I were sitting around and were watching the draft. The phone rings and it’s Bill Parcells. I answer the phone and say, “Hello,” and Parcells says, “Curtis, we want to know if you’re interested in being a New England Patriot?” I said, “Yes, yes, sir.” And we hang up the phone. As soon as we hang up the phone I turn around to everyone and I said, “Oh my gosh, I do not want to play football.”

No, you’re laughing, but this is the truth. I turned around and said, “I don’t want to play football. I don’t even know that I like football enough to try to make a career out of it.” My pastor at the time was a guy by the name of Leroy Joseph, and I’m so glad he was there to talk some sense into me. He says, “Curtis, look at it this way, man.” He said, “Maybe football is just something that God is giving you to do all those wonderful things that you say you want to do for other people.” I tell you, it was like a light bulb came on in my head.

That became my connection with football. I don’t know if he wouldn’t have said that to me if football would have gotten out of me what it got out of me. I definitely wouldn’t be standing here. And ever since he said that, I knew the only way I was going to be successful at this game called football is if I played for a purpose that was bigger than the game itself because I knew that the love for the game just wasn’t in my heart.

His story illustrates the importance of connecting our lives to a higher purpose and understanding our “Why.” By knowing that he wanted to help people, Martin took a career path that gave him a stage to potentially help far more people than he might have otherwise. His purpose motivated him to play at a level greater than that of other players.

When we follow Martin’s example, and make that connection between action and purpose, our performance will always be better than if those two are disconnected. It will also give us fulfillment, something that many of us spend our entire lives chasing. Martin’s connection not only let him help others, it led him to the NFL Hall of Fame.

As you watch the Draft this weekend, pay attention to the stories. You never know, you might hear one like Martin’s and it could change your life.

For another great story about this year’s draft, watch:

MIGHTY SPORTS

Golf made my friend a better Marine

We all know that Marines win our nation’s battles, and their discipline under pressure is a matter of life or death. However, and as weird as it may seem, there is a lot that the driving range and the fairway can teach us about winning battles. I know because I recently joined my friend Marine Major Ben Ortiz and his fellow golf warrior, Erik Anders Lang, for a round at the Desert Winds golf course on Marine Corps Base Twentynine Palms.


The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

Major Ben Ortiz or, ‘Bennie Boy’ as I call him, have known each other since our first days at the Naval Academy. I already know what you’re thinking… of course, two Academy grads and officers are golfers. But literally, nothing could be further from the truth. Golf was never supposed to be part of either of our lives.

“Seriously, dude? You play golf, now?” I ask a little sarcastically as Bennie and I walk to the clubhouse.

Bennie is a Mustang (an officer who was enlisted first), and he grew up in a neighborhood outside of Chicago where even the mention of golf could get you ridiculed for life or worse. After joining the Marines he deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan where he’s been a kind of intelligence officer that grunts love and terrorists hate. So when he asked me to play golf with him, I immediately started to question his mental state.

“Dude, you have no idea. Golf has made me a better Marine. More focused…lethal.” Bennie smiles as he justifies why we are on a golf course at 0730.

The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

Major Ortiz tees off with focus

As we approach the clubhouse, I meet a squad of Marines who have been recruited to play with us this morning, but we are also joined by a true golf warrior, Erik Anders Lang. Erik is a bit of an anomaly himself. He never picked up a club until his thirties, and now he travels the world for his series Adventures In Golf. At first, I am a little wary that Erik, who looks a little like he just rolled out of bed, can compete with the Marines on their home turf. But after watching Erik tee off with a nearly 350-yard drive down the center of the first hole, I realize that I am not only watching a true golfer but a sniper.

As Bennie, Erik, and I walk the desert course we begin to chat about the game and the Marine Corps. At each hole, I realize the golfers are fighting the terrain, the weather and even their own subconscious, an enemy more elusive than the adversaries Bennie and other Marines face abroad. As we near the end of the course, Bennie begins to explain his theory a little more.

“Intel is all about collecting and analyzing information and then turning it into something useful for the Grunts. A lot of people think that bad intel is a result of bad information, but there is a second and even more important component, the analyst. If I am distracted or unfocused, I can be the weak link. Golf, and the battle on each hole, has taught me about mental and physical discipline.”

The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

Major Ortiz (4th from left) and Erik Lang (center) after a round of golf.

Erik smiles and nods in agreement. He knows the mental strength it takes to master the club. After a quick competition on the driving range, which Erik (the sniper) wins, we sit down in the chow hall for an After Action of the morning’s performance. Bennie has changed out of his golf clothes and into cammies, and Erik begins to explain to us how Tiger Woods inspired him to pick up a club.

“Not everyone is perfect in golf,” Erik starts. “He’s human, he’s obviously made mistakes, but if you watch carefully you can see how he processes the course and the ball with each shot.”

Erik’s got a point. Now, I am pretty sure that when Tiger Woods stepped onto the 18th green, poised to win the 2019 Masters, there was almost nothing going through his mind other than the basics of putting. In the seconds before Tiger’s final stroke, there was no time for self-doubt, fear or even distractions from the thousands standing around him and the millions watching all across the globe. With one quick putt, Tiger was back on top of the world and his pure calmness, poise, and discipline under such pressure is something we all can admire, especially Marines like me.

But unlike Tiger, Marines must use these same attributes for something much bigger than a green jacket. Now, I begin to see what both Bennie and Erik are stressing to me. Golf is a sport of discipline and focus which can extend beyond the course and onto the most stressful battlefields abroad.

Bennie now speaks to the group before we roll out for the day.

“I hope that other Marines will realize that the course is much more than a game. It’s about training too.”

I think Bennie’s onto something that both Erik Lang and Tiger Woods already know: maybe we can all be better Marines if we spend a little time on the course.

The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

Major Ortiz (left) and the Author (right) after our round of golf. Bennie’s war face is the same from Quantico.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Here are some tips to prevent ACFT injuries

Over the past year, a selected set of Army units have been piloting the new six-test Army Combat Fitness Test as the first phase of replacing the three-test Army Physical Fitness Test.

Used since 1980, the APFT includes the 2-mile run, push-up test, and sit-up test. The ACFT is an almost hour-long series of the six tests described in Table 1: the dead lift, the standing power throw, the hand-release push up, the sprint-drag-and-carry, the leg tuck hold, and the 2-mile run.

The ACFT is designed to better assess soldiers’ abilities to perform common tasks that reflect combat readiness. “It’s much more rigorous, but a better test,” agreed several members of the units testing the ACFT. Some studies are still underway, but transition to the ACFT is imminent:


The ACFT will be conducted by all soldiers Army-wide starting Oct. 1, 2019. Soldiers will also conduct the APFT as the official test of record during a one-year transition until Oct. 1, 2020. While some aspects of standards, training, and administration are being finalized, procedures and techniques are documented in Field Manual (FM) 7-22, Army Physical Readiness Training (PRT), 2012.

The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

Capt. Jerritt Larson, executive officer, 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait performs the “maximum deadlift” element of the new US Army Combat Fitness Test.

(Photo by Kevin Fleming, 401st AFSB Public Affairs)

The ACFT and associated training requires soldiers to use several parts of the body not previously addressed by the APFT. This supports a more holistic, balanced approach to Army physical readiness. While ACFT is intended to improve soldiers’ physical performance while reducing injuries long term, as with any new physical activity it comes with new injury risks.

Observations by Army experts suggest certain injuries that may be anticipated. While the Army is sending out ACFT trainers to every unit to help train soldiers, everyone should be aware of potential new problems and how to avoid them.

Why and how were new ACFT tests selected?

Leaders and soldiers alike have long expressed concerns that the APFT doesn’t adequately measure soldiers’ abilities to perform common required tasks important during deployment.

Not all aspects of the APFT are bad, however. Studies have demonstrated that the 2-mile run is an excellent way to test soldiers’ cardiorespiratory endurance, also known as aerobic fitness. Aerobic capacity is linked to performance of more military tasks than any other aspect of fitness.

“Aerobic capacity is the most important measure of a soldier’s fitness,” says Dr. Bruce Jones, a retired Army colonel and medical doctor with the U.S. Army Public Health Center. “And weight-bearing physical activities such as running or marching are inescapable routine military aerobic activities.” Jones also explains that “Poor run times are not only associated with poor performance, they are associated with higher risk of injury.” So the 2-mile run time is a reliable way to monitor both aerobic fitness and injury risk.

The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test.

(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)

The push-up test is also linked to key military tasks, and is a good measure of upper body muscle endurance. However, evidence did not support the value of using the sit-up test to measure military task performance.

An in-depth review of key fitness elements and their association with military tasks found that muscle strength and power are critical to military task performance. Agility and speed are also very important. The APFT does not measure these key fitness elements. The ACFT will now ensure soldiers’ combat readiness determinations include these additional fitness components.

What injury risks are associated with the ACFT?

Historically, the majority of soldiers’ injuries have occurred in the lower body, which includes the knee, lower leg, ankle, and foot and the lower back. Excessive physical training emphasis on distance running and long foot marches have been to blame.

“While lower body injuries may be reduced with more cross-training, they are expected to remain a primary concern,” explained Tyson Grier, an APHC kinesiologist. “Soldiers spend the majority of their time on their feet. Their lower body is constantly absorbing forces from carrying their body weight in addition to other loads.”

The Army updated its training doctrine to the physical readiness training program in 2012 to reduce lower body injuries. The PRT deemphasizes distance running and encourages a mix of training activities to promote strength, agility, balance, and power.

The PRT has been associated with a reduction of injuries in initial entry training. Army operational units have not shown comparable trends in injury reduction, however. Since the APFT has continued to be the test of record these units may not have fully embraced the PRT.

With the implementation of the ACFT, the Army will still monitor soldiers’ aerobic fitness with the 2-mile run, but training time will need to be devoted to a variety of other activities too. The new tests are not risk-free, but the goal is to slowly build up the body’s ability to perform activities than might cause soldiers injuries on the job. While this is to enhance physical performance, Army experts recognize that the training for and conduct of the ACFT could also increase risk of injuries to the upper body such as the back and spine, shoulder, and elbows.

The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

Sgt. Traighe Rouse, 1-87IN, 1BCT10MTN, carries two 40 pound kettle bells during the A 250-Meter Sprint, Drag and Carry event of the new Army Combat Fitness Test.

(U.S. Army photo by SSG James Avery)

Some items used for the ACFT, such as the trap/hex bar for the deadlift, have been specifically selected to reduce injury risk. To avoid injuries caused by excessive weight lifts, the maximum weight for the deadlift was limited to 340 pounds, considered a moderate weight by serious lifter. Procedures are designed to avoid injury. For example, the grader must spot the soldier during leg tuck to reduce falling injury. A required warm up before the ACFT and a specific deadlift warm up period will reduce injuries. Despite these efforts, there will be a learning curve.

“A primary reason for injury resulting from the new test and training activities will be due to improper form and technique,” says Grier. “These are new activities to learn. It is very important that soldiers learn proper technique from the start, and avoid developing bad habits.”

“We also worry that “too much too soon” will cause injuries,” notes Maj. Timothy Benedict., Army physical therapist. “Some soldiers will start this training by lifting too much weight, conducting too many repetitions, or not allowing days of rest between sessions that stress specific muscles.”

While only future surveillance of soldiers’ injuries will be able to identify actual changes to the Army’s injury trends, a review of existing evidence suggests potential injury risks associated with the new tests and associated training. Table 1 highlights key injury concerns.

Some injuries associated with the ACFT will be sudden acute injuries. Acute injuries are usually associated with sudden sharp pain and typically require immediate medical attention. These include strains or tears in arm, shoulder, chest, or back muscles, torn knee ligaments, dislocated shoulders, herniated discs in the back, pinched nerves, or fractured bones (such as from falling during the leg tuck).

While these acute injuries can occur when soldiers are conducting military tasks or other personal activities, specific training activities may raise the risk. For example, studies of both professional and amateur and weightlifters and power lifters have indicated that use of extremely heavy weights during the dead-left is associated with lower back disc herniation and knee injuries. On the other hand, some rehabilitation studies have suggested that using lighter weights during the dead-lift may be useful to strengthen the back and knees.

An acute tear of fatigued muscles and tendons in the chest, arm, or shoulder during bench-pressing of heavy weights, such as a pectoralis major rupture, is another highly studied injury. This injury is almost uniquely associated with the bench press activity — only a couple past military cases were other causes (parachuting and push-up training). Though the bench press is not part of the ACFT, there is concern that soldiers may use this activity to train for the ACFT.

The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

Pfc. Tony Garcia, an infantryman with 2nd platoon, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, pumps out pushups during a ranger physical fitness test.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Ford)

Injuries that develop gradually over time from over training are known as cumulative or overuse injuries. Overuse injuries occur when a repeatedly used set of body tissues haven’t had adequate time to heal and rebuild. “Continuing to stress tissues already injured from improper or excessive use or weight will only make the condition worse,” warns Benedict.

While delayed muscle soreness can be a normal sign that muscles are rebuilding stronger, pain in a joint or bone is not normal. Pain associated with overuse injuries may dull during the activity, but can become more serious if use continues.

Overuse injuries to the lower body are the most common type of soldier injury. Overuse to joints in shoulders, elbows, as well as knees and spinal joints are concerns because of the new ACFT tests. A common shoulder overuse injury is a torn rotator cuff – though it can occur suddenly, tissues have often already been worn from excessive use. Other common overuse injuries include tendonitis, bursitis, and pain syndromes in the knee and the lower back. These injuries may lead to long term chronic or permanent tissue damage.

Why it matters

Though injuries will continue to be experienced by soldiers — most are preventable.

Injury can mean out of commission for some time — and can notably increase your chances of getting injured again. Or develop chronic life-long conditions as you get older.

Injuries critically impact individual, units, and Army performance. Injuries cost the Army billions of dollars annually for medical treatment, rehabilitation and re-training, medical disability, and reduced productivity from restricted duties, and attrition. Training-related musculoskeletal injuries are the leading reason for temporary medical non-deployment status.

What you can do

In order to optimize U.S. military performance, soldiers and Leaders must do their part to train smarter which includes avoiding injury.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So do what you can to avoid getting injured in the first place. Table 2 provides some general guidance. Using proper technique, slowly building up intensity and weight levels to acclimate your body, and allowing rest days between similar activities are the primary keys to minimizing your risk.

To minimize risk follow procedures as taught by Army ACFT trainers. Seek guidance from Army Fitness Centers, doctrine in FM 7-22, a certified trainer, such as a Master Fitness Trainer, and use a buddy system during training to be warned of poor form and for hands on help as a ‘spotter’ to ensure proper balance and range of motion.

And if you are injured? Stop activities at early signs of pain and seek medical advice. Taking a break from activities temporarily to let the tissues heal can minimize the likelihood of a more serious injury. An injured knee can require weeks or months of rehabilitation. A worn rotator cuff tear can mean surgery. Lower back pain can result in a long term health condition.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

First a pandemic and now Tom Brady is leaving the Patriots?

Tom Brady is no longer a Patriot – after 20 years.


It’s the end of an era. Whether you love him, hate him, wish you could be him, wish you could be the guy that beat him, Tom Brady has loomed large in two decades of NFL dominance.

20 years. 6 championships. A lifetime of memories. Thank you, Tom.pic.twitter.com/exQPrweT5h

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His resume includes:

  • Six Super Bowl titles
  • Three time NFL MVP
  • Four time Super Bowl MVP
  • Nine Super Bowls appearances
  • 14 time Pro-Bowler
  • 30 playoff wins
  • 219 regular-season wins
  • 16 AFC East titles
  • Second all-time in passing touchdowns
  • Second all-time in passing yards
  • Fifth all-time in QB rating

Today, Brady will become something he has not been since the 1990s, an unrestricted free agent. The 42-year-old ageless wonder will test free agency (it should not be much of a test) and will be wearing another team’s colors next season. Brady released a statement via Instagram in which he thanked the Patriots organization, teammates and the fans for his two-decade run. As many football fans know, the Patriots were nothing like the franchise they are now, usually being a struggling team that did not have much success. They had made two Super Bowls previously losing both, including one of the worst losses in Super Bowl history.

The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

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Then, as the story famously goes, the Patriots drafted a quarterback in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL Draft. Pick #199 was a quarterback out of the University of Michigan that not too many people were excited about. While at Michigan, he was a backup for two years before becoming the starter for the Wolverines his junior year. Heading into his senior year, Brady thought he was a lock to be the starter… only to find out that he had to compete with highly heralded recruit Drew Henson. Brady found himself the unpopular guy on campus as Wolverines fans (and some coaches) seemed to favor the younger QB. The plan was for Brady to start while Henson would come off the bench in the second quarter. Brady would have none of it. He fought tooth and nail and during the season cemented his status as the only QB that Michigan needed that season. Many NFL teams should have seen the tenacity and determination that Brady showed as a potential leader for their team.

Instead, they focused on mechanics and how he looked.

Here is his NFL Combine workout:

Tom Brady 2000 NFL Scouting Combine highlights

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The Patriots drafted Brady and had him set as a back up to Drew Bledsoe. By this point, the Patriots had turned their franchise around first under the coaching of Bill Parcells and then under the helm of Bill Belichick. Bledsoe was their quarterback for the future. In 2001, he signed a 10 year, 100 million dollar contract, and was their guy that would lead them to glory. A big hit from the New York Jets Mo Lewis changed that fast. Bledsoe suffered massive internal injuries (doctors almost had to perform open chest surgery), and Brady had to step in.

Well, you all know what happened next.

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Brady (to the delight of Pats fans and despair of literally everyone else) would go on to have a career that will be hard for future quarterbacks to match. Yes, you can argue if Montana had it harder. You can argue if Brady is truly the best football “player” or the best at his position. You can argue it was really Belichick’s football genius and Brady is a “system quarterback.”

You can argue all that, but really the argument will fall on deaf ears.

Tom Brady will play for a different team next season. Rumors right now say the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the San Diego Los Angeles Chargers (ugh that still hurts to write) are the front runners. He might go to these teams and do amazing, he might do average or he might really suck.

But he will also be 42 years old. There aren’t too many 40+ players in NFL history. There are even fewer that will have teams fighting to bring them on board to win a Super Bowl.

No matter where he ends up, hats off to an amazing athlete and all-time great!

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents

New events for this year’s Best Warrior Competition will come from the experiences of operational advisors deployed around the world by the Asymmetric Warfare Group, the lead organizer said Sept. 25, 2019.

The competition will take place Oct. 6-11, 2019, at Forts Lee and A.P. Hill, Virginia, with 22 competitors from the Army’s major commands and components vying for Soldier of the Year and NCO of the Year. Winners will be announced at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2019.

A small Asymmetric Warfare Group detachment at Fort A.P. Hill has been preparing for the competition since February 2019 under the leadership of 1st Sgt. Hunter Conrad.


Conrad served as an AWG operational advisor for three years, undergoing half a dozen deployments to nations such as Senegal, Uganda, Somalia and Tunisia. He also served for a year on AWG’s Leadership Development Troop, teaching brigade combat teams how to operate in a subterranean environment.

The competition’s events, though, don’t just come from his experiences; they’re based on real-world situations observed by operational advisors across all combatant commands, he said.

The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

Spc. Hunter Olson, Maryland National Guard, dominates a water survival event involving a 100-meter swim in full uniform at the 2019 Region II Best Warrior Competition.

(Photo by aj. Kurt M. Rauschenberg)

“It’s been a team effort,” Conrad said, and that doesn’t just stop with the preparations. A team of about 15 soldiers from First U.S. Army at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, will be joining his detachment to conduct the competition.

Another 20 or so soldiers from AWG at Fort Meade, Maryland, will be going to A.P. Hill to help run the competition, he said, and a handful from the Army Medical Command will also be there.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston went to Fort A.P. Hill September 2019 for a validation and mission rehearsal of the competition. He made minor course corrections, Conrad said, based on his preference for enhanced, realistic training.

“The Best Warrior Competition is the essence of what we want to accomplish,” Grinston said. “We want to enhance Army readiness by building cohesive teams who are highly trained, disciplined and physically fit. Cohesive teams are the key to winning on any battlefield.”​

In order to enhance the realism, Conrad spent hours studying after-action reports that describe recent incidents around the world that tested the combat proficiency of soldiers. Many of those incidents will be re-created for the competition.

The competition actually begins at Fort Lee with the new Army Combat Fitness Test. Then competitors depart for the operational phase of Best Warrior at Fort A.P. Hill. There they will be tested on various soldier skills as part of a fictional combatant command scenario, Conrad said.

Every year, different skill level 1 tasks are tested, he said, in order to keep competitors guessing. They don’t know ahead of time what skills will be assessed, or in what order, so Conrad said they must be proficient in all of them.

Competitors won’t be able to “just memorize the sequence of events and perform them in a sterile environment,” like they do in warrior task testing lanes at many units, he said.

The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

Spc. Collin George, U.S. Army Reserve Soldier of the Year, reassebles an M240B machine gun with his eyes covered during a crew-served weapons class at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, Aug. 14, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Kevin Long)

“We actually try to place them in a real-world scenario and grade them on their ability to execute the same tasks in a more stressful, realistically-simulated environment,” he said.

Last year the operational phase of the competition began with a ruck march in the dark carrying 50 pounds of gear. The initial event will be different this year, but Conrad added competitors “can expect to exert themselves physically.”

Additionally, Grinston noted, as the Army continues to study ways to enhance readiness, it must better understand biomechanics and cognitive performance to quantify soldier lethality.

“We need to establish a baseline for soldier performance through the Soldier Performance Model,” he said. “We have a team who will place sensors on each competitor to measure everything from stress and fatigue, to how their bodies process nutrition during the competition.”

“This will help us collect data to evaluate the impact of those factors, and others, on soldiers, and what we can do to help them perform better,” Grinston said.

Last year, Cpl. Matthew Hagensick from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia, earned the Soldier of the Year title. Sgt. 1st Class Sean Acosta, a civil affairs specialist with the 1st Special Warfare Training Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, became NCO of the Year.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Women’s Soccer — Boise State at Air Force (Friday, 10/12, 8:00PM EST)

The Air Force Academy women’s soccer team returns home to play the first of its final two home matches of the 2018 season when it plays host to Boise State, Friday, Oct. 12. The Falcons had their third straight 0-1-1 weekend, as they dropped another 0-1 match, this time to Colorado State. They followed that up with a 1-1 draw at Wyoming.

They’re looking to turn their luck around this Friday.


MIGHTY SPORTS

How Gary Steele changed West Point football forever

Tight End Gary Steele became the first Black player for the United State Military Academy’s Black Knights football team in 1966 and went on to a 23-year Army career after graduation.

His daughter Sage Steele has become a successful sportscaster at ESPN and currently anchors the 6 p.m. ET edition of the network’s flagship show “SportsCenter.”

Sage is working with USAA for the Army-Navy House sweepstakes to let fans of each team celebrate their fandom since they can’t attend this year’s game in person.

Visit www.ArmyNavyHouse.com and upload a photo that shows off your fandom. You’ll be entered into a sweepstakes for a chance to win a fully paid trip to the 2021 Army-Navy Game in New York City with airfare, hotels and game tickets included. There’s one winner from the Army side and one from the Navy fan base. There will also be 2,000 souvenir commemorative tickets awarded to entrants.

Gary Steele’s first season in an Army football uniform in 1966 was also President Donald Trump’s first year as a student at the Wharton School of Business and President-elect Joe Biden’s second year of law school at Syracuse.

Navy’s first Black football player was Calvin Huey, who suited up two years earlier in 1964. It’s sometimes easy to forget how much America has changed over the past few decades and how our leaders were adults at a time of so much resistance and turmoil.

Huey and Steele’s playing careers coincided with the most turbulent years of the civil rights movement and the mere fact of their presence on the field was a force for change in a divided country.

Steele recognized the impact when she saw pictures of her father’s playing career. “When you look at that black and white team photo from 1966 and it’s pretty easy to spot my dad, right in the middle of this sea of his white teammates, and it’s just crazy. That’s just not what football teams at any level look like anymore.”

Sage says her dad always downplayed the importance of his role.”My dad didn’t ever really talk about it. Because to him, it didn’t matter. And his answer always was, ‘Well, somebody has to be first. It just turned out that it was me.’ All he ever wanted to do was play football and specifically play at the United States Military Academy. He was heavily recruited by Joe Paterno at Penn State, which was obviously an incredible program at the time. He chose to go to the right program for him and represent the Steele family and represent West Point and then represent his country.”

Gary Steele graduated from West Point in 1970, married in 1971 and Sage was born at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas in 1972. Steele retired a full colonel in 1993 but, before then, the family lived the peripatetic military life. By the time she was 11, Sage had lived in four different countries and spoke several languages.

She loved that military childhood. “It was the best possible upbringing,” she remembers. “The most difficult part came after I moved out of that protected world. I call the military the most diverse, yet sheltered, upbringing possible.vIt doesn’t matter what you look like. My parents are in an interracial marriage. My dad’s black, my mom’s Irish and Italian and nobody cared.”

“The military was diverse, but everybody accepted and took care of each other. When I got out in the civilian world, I learned about a lot of issues because I was biracial, or not being black enough or white enough for some people. So it was kind of scary to go out where people aren’t as accepting and tolerant as they are in the United States military.”

The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football
Gary Steele in football gear with his father, Frank Steele, and his brother, fellow cadet Michael Steele.

Steele thinks part of the reason that her dad underplays his pioneering role was that he also grew up as an Army brat. “My dad’s father was a Buffalo Soldier. He knew about the race issues in the ’30s and ’40s and during World War Two,” she said.

“Dad thought that others had already been through so much more than him. As he’s gotten older, he has so many people reaching out to him to say thank you for being that brave face of change. But he raised us in the spirit of the West Point cadet prayer: ‘Help me to choose the harder right, instead of the easier wrong, and to never tell a half truth when the whole can be won.'”

We’re lucky that Gary Steele is still with us and that he has a daughter who’s so determined to champion the values that made him. Here’s hoping we’re all back to normal next year and that the Army-Navy game will be played before a packed house in New York City.

If you see Steele at the game, make sure to thank him for his service in the U.S. Army and his contribution to all the progress we’ve made over the last 50 years.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Help Jared Allen’s Wounded Warriors by voting for Maxim’s cover model

Football is back! That means it’s time for me to remind everyone about the best organization around, one that provides homes for America’s wounded warriors, Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors. Allen has long been one of the U.S. military’s biggest fans. In his 12 years in the NFL, Allen was one of the hardest-hitting defensive players around. His foundation builds houses for wounded vets that are specifically adapted for their wounds, at no cost.

Now the Jared Allen Homes for Wounded Warriors is teaming up with Maxim, allowing readers to vote for their favorite cover model, with all proceeds going to building more homes for wounded vets.


Allen has been working with veterans for ten years now, ever since returning from a USO trip to visit troops in the field. He saw what U.S. military veterans experience in combat zones and wanted to give thanks to those who sacrificed themselves for service. The goal is simple: raise money to build or adapt homes suited to the needs of wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans – and do it at no cost to them – even if they can only help one warrior at a time. That’s where Maxim – and you – come in.

Readers can vote for their favorite potential Maxim cover model once per day for free, or they can make a “Warrior Vote” where they pay one dollar for every vote, with a minimum donation of . After voting for their free daily vote, all subsequent votes cost a dollar, with again, a minimum of . In order to generate votes, models are able to offer voting rewards, similar to rewards offered on Kickstarter. The winner receives ,000 and a Maxim cover photo shoot while other proceeds go toward Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors.

The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

Robin Takizawa is a Los Angeles-based model and makeup artist, currently in second place in her group. Her father is a Vietnam vet and Purple Heart recipient.

“I was extremely excited to find that the competition was also a fundraiser for Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors,” says 2019 entrant Robin Takizawa. “Sadly, there isn’t enough support for veterans once they return. Sometimes home no longer feels like it. This is a cause close to home because my father is a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient. His combat wounds healed without physically altering his life, however many he knew and served with did not meet the same fate.”

“Ever since I was a little girl, I always dreamt about being in Maxim. I loved the glamor and over-the-top sexiness that comes from being self-confident,” she continues. “It’s an honor to know my bid in this contest is also a chance to fundraise for such an amazing cause.”

The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

Allen with Navy Corpsman Thomas Henderson and family after giving Henderson the keys to his new home. Henderson lost his leg in an IED attack in Afghanistan.

For Allen, the ten-year journey is one of the best things he’s ever accomplished. Even though his grandfather and younger brother were Marines, the experience changed Allen, inspiring him to create Homes for Wounded Warriors.

“I knew I had to do something to serve our country,” Allen once said of the Jared Allen Homes for Wounded Warriors. “I feel the best way to do that is serve those who serve us.”

If you’re a veteran of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan who is in need of housing or alterations to suit your disability, apply to Jared Allen Homes for Wounded Warriors on the organization’s website.

MIGHTY SPORTS

This is how two WWII veterans changed baseball forever

There have been many iconic moments throughout the storied history of baseball. Every team has their collection of defining moments, immortalized in photos hung on the walls of stadiums across the nation. And then there are those transcendent plays that everyone knows, like when Babe Ruth pointed to a spot in the bleachers, calling his shot perfectly — a move that’s often imitated, but rarely ever repeated.

But fans of baseball know that the top two moments are universal and unrivaled: The greatest moment was when Jackie Robinson took his first step over the white chalk and entered the Major Leagues. The crowds heckled Robinson, game after game, until the Dodgers’ team captain, Pee Wee Reese, was fed up — which led to the second greatest moment: Reese placed his arm around Robinson, sending a message of friendship into the stands, silencing the jeers.

But their story didn’t begin on the diamond. It began when both Army 2nd Lt. Jackie Robinson and Navy Chief Petty Officer Harold “Pee Wee” Reese served their country during World War II.


The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

Your wartime experience may differ.

Reese had a fairly light military career compared to most. Before he enlisted, he’d already made a name for himself in the baseball world. In 1940, during his rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he hit a grand slam against the New York Giants in the bottom of the ninth to win the game. He went on to play in the World Series in ’41 against the Yankees, but his team got swept, losing all five games. He gained national recognition when he made the ’42 All-Star Team. He missed the next three seasons as he signed up to take to fighting in WWII as a U.S. Navy Seabee.

But he never got the chance to see combat. Despite his constant petitions, Pee Wee Reese was stuck playing for the U.S. Navy’s baseball team, which, as you can imagine, was mostly for recruitment purposes. While he was playing in Guam, Reese learned that a black baseball player — Jackie Robinson — had been signed by the Dodgers, and was up for his old shortstop position.

This bothered Reese — and not because of Robinson’s race. In fact, others were mad at him for refusing to let race be a concern of his when evaluating a purely baseball decision. In response to critics, he said,

“If he’s man enough to take my job, I’m not gonna like it, but, dammit, black or white, he deserves it.”
The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

Members of the 761st Tank Battalion “The Black Panthers” would go on to earn a Medal of Honor, 11 Silver Stars, and almost 300 Purple Hearts.

Robinson didn’t enjoy the same luxuries while in the Army. Previously, he had attended UCLA and became the school’s first athlete to win a varsity letter in four sports: baseball, basketball, football, and track and field. He used this to apply for OCS, knowing that the Army had just changed the OCS guidelines to be race neutral — but it still wasn’t easy.

After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Robinson was placed in a segregated Army cavalry unit at Fort Riley. It was through a friendship with fellow OCS candidate, the professional boxer who KO’ed Nazi Germany’s favorite fighter in the first round, Joe Louis, that both men were allowed to attend OCS.

His career was unceremoniously cut short after an entirely one-sided court martial was levied against him. Even though Robinson was a commissioned officer of the United States Army and segregation on military buses was banned, the MPs arrested him after he refused to give up his seat when he was taking his friend’s wife to the hospital.

He put up no fight but was cuffed, shackled, and strapped to a hospital bed because they believed he was “intoxicated.” He wasn’t. The charges he faced were slowly dropped before his court-martial. He was narrowly acquitted. Despite this, he was sent to Camp Breckinridge, KY, as his former unit, the 761st Tank Battalion, was deployed. It was the first black tank unit to see combat in WWII. Instead of seeing action, he was quietly mustered out with an honorable discharge months later.

The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

Through his own talent, he’d prove them wrong by earning Rookie of the Year in 1947.

So, Robinson went back to playing professional baseball for the Kansas City Monarchs, a team in the Negro American League. It wasn’t long before Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, saw how talented he was. The news quickly got out that the Dodgers had signed the first black ballplayer.

Fearing fan backlash, they sent him to their Minor League affiliate team, the Montreal Royals. With Robinson on the team, the stands were packed during Royals games. Fans came in droves to see him play — so they called him up to play for the Dodgers, who’d taken Reese back after the war’s end.

Then, on April 15th, 1947, the Dodgers faced off against the Boston Braves at Ebbets Field. Robinson stepped onto the field and became the first black player to play in the MLB since 1884. For the most part, the home crowd loved him. Away games, however, were another story entirely.

The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

This led way for many more black baseball players to join the MLB and their friendship would serve as a proof that desegregation of the military was possible through Executive Order 9981.

It’s been said that while playing the Cincinnati Reds, Robinson received death threats. Understandably, this made him very nervous. He’d turned the other cheek so many times before, but with his life at stake, this wasn’t so simple. Reese saw what was happening and decided to take a stand.

Reese and Robinson had become best friends over the games they played together. They bonded in the locker room and on the field. They would talk and share stories for hours at a time about what they had in common — military service being one of them.

As the Cincinnati crowd and players on the Reds hurled obscenities at Robinson during pre-game infield practice, Reese raised a hand in the air and walked from shortstop to first base and placed his arm around Robinson’s shoulders. The two didn’t say anything — they just stared into the dugout and the bleachers. The jeering stopped.

The captain of one of the greatest baseball teams at the time had shown the world that these two men were teammates, friends, and brothers-in-arms — and that race didn’t affect any of that.

MIGHTY SPORTS

This swoll soldier will compete at the CrossFit Games

After placing fifth at the Rogue Invitational in Columbus, Ohio, an armor officer and member of the Army Warrior Fitness Team has stamped his ticket to the CrossFit Games starting Thursday in Madison, Wisconsin.

During the four-day competition, Capt. Chandler Smith said he looks forward to sharing his Army story at one of the largest fitness contests in the world.

“My goals at the CrossFit Games are reflective of my Army career goals as a whole,” Smith said. “My efforts there could potentially [bring in] a Soldier that will help educate my [future] son or daughter when they decide to join the Army.


The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

Capt. Chandler Smith stamped his ticket to the CrossFit Games Aug. 1-4, 2019, in Madison, Wisc., after placing fifth at the Rogue Invitational in Columbus, Ohio. Smith, an armor officer and member of the Army Warrior Fitness Team looks forward to sharing his Army story at one of the largest fitness contests in the world.

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army Recruiting Command)

“I want to do something at the games that [helps] the Army, and the world, become a better place,” he added. “If someone sees my positivity and chooses to reflect that in their daily life — that is a win.”

Smith was born in Gainesville, Florida. His father, Cedric, was a former NFL fullback and currently works as a strength and conditioning coach in the league. As an aspiring young athlete, Smith had ample opportunity to interact with many players and coaches, which taught him to remain humble, he said.

During high school, Smith decided to get into wrestling. His coach, Nage Damas, was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, and a three-year letter winner on its wrestling team. Through their interaction, Smith decided to enroll in the academy.

“I am the person who is big on discipline,” Smith said. “West Point presented the hardest road … and presented the biggest challenge in comparison to the other academies.”

At the time the Army was highly involved in Iraq and Afghanistan. Smith believed the Army provided the best opportunity for applied leadership.

“Those were conflicts I saw myself in. As an aspiring leader, you want to place yourself at points of friction,” he said.

As both a cadet and wrestler, Smith worked hard to exceed West Point’s academic, physical and military performance standards, he said. He strived to be a positive example for all of his teammates and peers.

“I have been given some gifts in the physical realm,” Smith said. “It is something that the Army has helped me foster by putting me around similarly-minded [people].

“I’m big on putting a focused effort toward whatever it is that I am in charge of doing,” he added. “Anything less than my best would be to sacrifice my gift — that’s how I see it.”

The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

The Army goes to great lengths to support competitive athletes. Here, Capt. Brian Harris completes the half Murph on the Assault AirRunner during the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team Tryouts.

(U.S. Army image by Lara Poirrier)

A NEW PATH

Smith’s respect for CrossFit started long before his time at West Point, he said.

“I wanted to do all the cool guy stuff that you see on TV. [CrossFit] helped me out with wrestling during high school and college,” he said.

After Smith graduated in 2015, CrossFit presented the most natural transition to help “stoke that competitive fire,” he added. In between his duties as a new lieutenant, Smith would spend hours in the gym. He was determined to make the CrossFit Games by 2020.

However, Smith’s fitness career almost derailed in February 2016. During an Army exercise, Smith sustained an injury, which broke his left ring finger in two places and sliced off the tip.

The injury happened a day before the CrossFit Open, the first qualifying stage for the CrossFit Games. The year prior, Smith placed 174th overall out of 273,000 total participants, according to CrossFit officials.

Smith took some time to recover and had to learn to operate with his new hand. He took a step back and started to reevaluate his ability to compete.

I didn’t realize that grip strength is a weakness of mine until I had something that affected my ability to grip. I began to specialize in the type of fitness my musculature can naturally support,” he said. “It ended up being a case of traumatic growth as this setback led to greater results.”

Through it all, Smith continued to move up in the ranks. He placed 128th overall in 2018 in the CrossFit standings. Coming into this year’s CrossFit Games, he is ranked 40th overall, according to program officials.

“I’ve gotten a chance to work out with [Smith],” said Master Sgt. Glenn Grabs, the first sergeant of the Army Recruiting Command’s outreach and recruiting company. “He speeds up as the workout gets longer, which makes him such a great competitor. Even though he’s maybe suffering inside, he’s just so positive and never backs down.”

As an overall athlete, Smith is relentless and the true embodiment of the warrior spirit, Grabs added.

“Captain Chandler Smith is not only a great Soldier, but he is a great person,” he said. “When I see him interact with people at competitions or in public, he goes the extra step to connect with people. That’s just who he is as a person and what makes him so remarkable.”

The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

Army Strong: Capt. Kasandra “Kaci” Clark completing the half Murch on the Assault AirRunner during the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team Tryouts.

(U.S. Army image by Lara Poirrier)

ALL IN

As a Soldier, Smith looks forward to more milestones he hopes to accomplish in his career. He was recently selected to lead an infantry platoon as an armor officer, which ended up being one of his crowning achievements thus far, he said.

“That’s not something that happens too often. We went over to Bulgaria for nine months as part of the Operation Atlantic Resolve,” he said. “Knowing that my command trusted me enough to take on a role that I wasn’t necessarily trained for — it empowered me a lot.”

For the most part, Smith has not experienced a lot of difficulties while balancing his fitness goals and Army career, he said. However, anything that falls outside those two priorities is sometimes pushed aside.

“I think I am overly focused on doing my nine to five at work. I also take my fitness hobby very seriously. It doesn’t leave much time for anything else,” he said. “I haven’t done too much vacationing or maybe spent as much time with my family as I would have liked to.”

These sacrifices were necessary to keep him relevant in the Army and fitness community, he said.

“[Making the CrossFit Games] is a goal that I’ve had in mind since 2012, and I’ve been in the Army the whole time,” he said. “So figuring out a way to do this all while balancing my Army requirements was going to be a challenge, but I wouldn’t have it in any other way.

“I’m super happy that it has paid off with a trip to the games this year.”

MIGHTY SPORTS

A Super Bowl ad honors first responders with true rescue stories

There are at least 11 NFL players that would be dead now had it not been for the lifesavers that came to their rescue. An ad set to air during Super Bowl LIII pays tribute to them and the many, many like them who risk their lives to save others.


“The Team That Wouldn’t Be Here” is comprised of 11 players and a coach who share their rescue stories as they came close to death in natural disasters, car accidents, and more. One iteration of the campaign aired during the NFC and AFC Championship games, but an all-new one is set to air during the big game.

included in the campaign is a microsite, AllOurThanks.com, that houses a dozen stories, told by the NFL players who were rescued, as they offer their thanks to the first responded who saved their lives and the lives of their loved ones. The stories were directed by Peter Berg, the Emmy-nominated director of Friday Night Lights and 2013’s Lone Survivor.

“The idea of acknowledging first responders is something I believe in,” Berg told USA Today. “It’s something that I don’t think ever gets old.”

Raiders Quarterback A.J. McCarron would be dead now after a jetski accident as a child. The Packers’ Clay Matthews wouldn’t be here because of a bicycle accident. For the Texans’ Carlos Watkins, it was a car accident. The videos also feature the players family and other loved ones – as well as some of the first responders who actually rescued these players.

The website, launched by Verizon, allows anyone to give thanks to a first responder by uploading a photo along with your first name and last initial. The beautiful, heartfelt thank-yous play on a rotating ticker at the bottom of the page as the ad reads “First responders answer the call. Our job is to make sure they can get it.”

MIGHTY SPORTS

Why the NFL used to have barefoot kickers

The 1980s were a crazy time for America and its institutions. The White House was occupied by a B-movie actor, Hollywood seemed to want to make any cocaine-fueled idea for a movie that it could find, and football kickers were punting and scoring field goals in the dead of winter. Shoeless.


The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

Barefoot kickers, cats and dogs living together, MASS HYSTERIA.

You don’t see barefoot kickers in the National Football League anymore but there was a time when kicking with their shoes off was so common, it was cause for zero notice. Players for the Eagles, Broncos, Rams, and Steelers were all known to kick off their shoes before kicking off the game (except for the Rams – their kicker always wore shoes on kickoffs). The New England Patriots kicker Tony Franklin even made a 59-yard field goal while completely shoeless.

The video below features Franklin kicking in the 1985 AFC Championship game. It’s not the 59-yarder, but at 23 yards, you can’t even tell he’s kicking barefoot, just as he had during every other game of his career.

The reasons some kickers preferred a barefoot kick were twofold: kickers believed they could control their kicks better with their feet than they could wearing kicking cleats of the time period. Other kickers had trouble hitting the football’s “sweet spot” wearing their issued uniform cleats.

Why barefoot kicking went away is because the rise of the NFL as a big money sport finally created a market for shoe companies to create an athletic shoe designed for kickers. And nowadays teams have so much invested in their players, kickers and punters included, that kicking a ball barefoot poses an undue risk for a potentially season-ending toe injury, to say nothing of the idea that the opposing team always seems to fight their way to the kicker these days.

Also, it can get really cold out there. For you barefoot kicking fans, here’s a better video of Franklin kicking barefoot, this time for the Philadelphia Eagles.

MIGHTY SPORTS

First Army goes back to basics to prepare for the ACFT

The upcoming Army Combat Fitness Test is intended to improve soldier readiness, transform the Army’s fitness culture, reduce preventable injuries, and enhance mental toughness and stamina.

But the new test leaves one question: How do soldiers train safely?

First Sgt. Daniel Ramirez, the first sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, First Army, answered this question for his soldiers by partnering with a local functional fitness gym. He and fifteen other soldiers of the Detachment recently attended a four-day, in-depth class at Foundation in East Moline, Illinois on proper techniques for lifting, squatting, and other exercises essential to safe completion of the ACFT. The goal of the workshop was to “Train the Trainer,” enabling First Army personnel to be subject-matter experts in advising their teammates on safe and efficient methods of exercise.


“We want to get everyone on the same page technique-wise so we can prevent injuries,” said Ramirez. The Foundation coaches, Ramirez said, were ideal instructors, due to their knowledge and experience.

The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

Soldiers of First Army practice lifting techniques and proper lifting posture at Foundation in East Moline, Illinois.

(US Army)

Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Sims, Command Sgt. Maj. First Army, also attended the training. He agreed with the idea of partnering with fitness professionals to learn the fundamentals.

“It’s crucial to have a better understanding of what we are asking our soldiers to do,” explained Sims. “By working with professionals in this, it’s only going to build our knowledge base when we go back and train the rest of the team.”

The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

Brandon Bartz, Co-Owner of Foundation in East Moline, Illinois, observes Soldiers of First Army practicing their technique that will be used during the standing power throw of the Army Combat Fitness test.

(US Army)

Brandon Bartz and Josiah Lorentzen, owners of the Foundation, instructed the soldiers in the proper exercise techniques.

“We just want to help the soldiers get ready for the new test,” explained Bartz. “We just want all of you to be able to train effectively and safely.”

In addition to developing First Army’s philosophy as a team of Fit Army Professionals and preparing for the fitness test, the event also strengthened ties to the local community and the Rock Island Arsenal.

The NFL Draft pick who didn’t want to play football

Josiah Lorentzen and Brandon Bartz, Owners of Foundation, in East Moline, Illinois, demonstrate the proper dead lift technique to First Army Soldiers.

(US Army)

“It’s awesome to work these soldiers, said Lorentzen. “They are close to home, so we love getting to work with them whenever we can.”

The Army Combat Fitness Test becomes an official for record test staring in October of 2020.

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