Green says that while Haberer's on-field accomplishments may not receive the same acclaim as those of Pospisil or Sovie, they have been no less important. Once more, Haberer has been influential in not only continuing Navy's tradition at linebacker, but in helping to enrich and cultivate it for the future. It's a point of emphasis that Haberer takes special pride in now that he's a senior, and one which he tries regularly to reinforce to Navy's up and coming group of underclassmen linebackers.
"Ross [Pospisil] and I – and even Tyler [Simmons] – we preach the tradition everyday. Inside linebackers are key in this defense, and we need to know what everyone else is doing even if they don't know what they're doing. So we need to correct guys when needed and just be the leaders on the defense."
As for 2009, Haberer is gearing up for what he hopes will be his most successful campaign yet, and looking forward to cementing himself as one of the leaders on Navy's veteran defense. Saying that one of his personal goals for the year is to "start every game," Haberer speaks confidently that his offseason conditioning will pay dividends once Navy takes the field this September. Instead of taking two weeks off during the summer as he has in the past, Haberer spent his entire summer in Annapolis, furiously working out to get stronger and faster. In the process he's dropped his body fat percentage and improved his overall athleticism, adding to a theme of offseason improvement which Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green says started in the spring.
"The thing about Tony that I think you will see from 2008 to 2009 is that he has really worked hard," explains Green, who enters his eighth season as Navy's defensive coordinator. "His body weight is down and he has gotten faster. I think he'll be a quicker linebacker for us, and I think he's improved with his coverage skills at the linebacker spot."
While Haberer hopes to start every game of the 2009 season after starting only five contests in 2008, the senior linebacker knows that he is in for a continued position battle through the month of August. No longer the up-and-coming underclassman pushing for playing time, Haberer expects to be challenged by junior Tyler Simmons during preseason camp. It's a challenge which the native Texan is more than happy to take on, and one which he says will make the entire team better.
"[Tyler] has been doing a heckuva job," says Haberer in reference to Simmons, who was named Navy's Most Improved Player following spring practice. "I have a feeling that he and I are going to be competing for that second middle linebacker job all year. Game in and game out, it's going to stay competitive."
Whether or not Haberer comes out of camp as the clear starter at inside linebacker or if he'll have to split time with Simmons during the year remains to be seen, but for the player whose college football career almost never came to be, the chance to play a role in Navy's gridiron success remains a dream come true. Unfazed by any perception that he's overlooked or underrated compared to Navy's other linebackers, Haberer maintains that he's just grateful for the opportunity to play at Navy, and thankful that his college experience has worked out up to this point.
"[Being overlooked] doesn't bother me at all. Everything Ross gets he deserves, and everything Sovie gets he deserves. I'm just glad to be a part of it really… after it was all said and done, it couldn't have worked out any better I think."
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