Thomas Stone has always dreamed of playing football at the United States Naval Academy. So when a scholarship offer to play for his dream school finally came in, the 6-foot-3, 285-pound offensive guard just couldn’t say ‘no,’ becoming the first known high school player from the Class of 2010 to verbally commit to the Midshipmen.
Stone, who also plays defensive tackle for Melbourne Central Catholic (FL), says that Navy assistant coach Ivin Jasper visited him earlier this month and offered him a scholarship during the impromptu visit. Jasper may have been visiting the Florida prep standout for the first time, but after reviewing tape from Stone’s junior season, Navy’s offensive coordinator decided to offer Stone a scholarship on the spot.
“Coach Jasper actually just showed up to my school one day to watch my film,” recalls Stone. “That same morning he called up my head coach and told him that he liked me and wanted to offer me. My head coach then gave him the thumbs up.”
Stone says he gave coach Jasper a commitment that afternoon, although notes that his commitment is a verbal commitment and isn’t yet “official” as far as the NCAA is concerned. Like all prospective Navy student athletes, Stone will remain a recruitable prospect up until he takes the Induction Oath upon entering the Academy. Nevertheless, Stone describes his commitment as “very strong,” and says he chose Navy over an offer from Dartmouth, as well as heavy interest from the likes of Florida International, The Citadel, and Virginia Military Institute.
Stone is no stranger to military life, and points to the structure and discipline provided by a service academy like Navy as playing a key role in his initial attraction to the school. “My dad was in the Air Force, and I have bunch of cousins currently in the Coast Guard,” Stone explains. “My Grandpa was also in the Army, so I’ve grown up with a military background. I’ve always just wanted to go to Navy, though.”
Despite being the son of an Air Force man and the grandson of an Army veteran, Stone says he was not being recruited by Army or Air Force at the time of his commitment. While he recently attended high school leadership seminars in both Colorado Spring and West Point, Stone maintains that the attraction he feels towards Navy can’t be matched by either of the school’s sister service academies.
“West Point and Air Force haven’t been recruiting me because I haven’t sent them my film. I actually went up to both schools already for summer leadership seminars, but I just didn’t feel any connection to the schools as much as the [connection] I have towards Navy.”
Another major attraction for Stone is the Academy’s prestigious academic standing. The senior guard – who runs the 40-yard dash in 5.3 seconds – says that the seriousness which Navy student athletes conduct themselves on the classroom and on the field is a major “plus” in his mind.
“That was definitely a plus. I love how the school is so scheduled and disciplined,” explains Stone, who reports a maximum bench press of just over 300-pounds. “Everyone at Navy is serious about their future and there aren’t too many distractions there. I feel it is the type of place I can succeed at.”
From a purely on-field perspective, Stone says that Navy’s continued dominance over rivals Amy and Air Force also sets the Naval Academy above the other schools. Saying that Navy’s seven game winning streak over Army was a “big deal” in his attraction to Navy, Stone also says that he likes the national exposure that comes with playing football in Annapolis.
“I like the teams that Navy plays. I love the Navy-Notre game, the Army-Navy game…I like [Navy’s] competition better [than Army’s competition.]”
Stone says that while he is still open to hearing from other schools, he doesn’t consider his verbal commitment to the Academy to be of the ‘soft’ variety. If anything, the aggressive and athletic guard says that he only expects his commitment to grow stronger as he plans a visit to Annapolis this July.
“I am still open to other schools, but Navy has always been at the top of my list so it will be pretty hard to sway me away from my commitment.”