Ross Pospisil (USNA)
Ross Pospisil is a man who likes to take things away from people on the football field. From forcing three fumbles during the 2008 season, to picking off Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel in the waning seconds of the Mids’ 23-21 upset of the Scarlet Knights, Pospisil’s ability to generate turnovers for coordinator Buddy Green was a major factor in Navy’s defensive improvement last season.
Fiery and instinctive, the 6-foot, 227-pound defensive team captain is an intimidating presence for opposing ballcarriers, who all too often get a firsthand account of his gritty, no-holds-barred style of play. Off the field, however, the soft-spoken senior from Temple, Texas, couldn’t be more different.
In an offseason landscape dominated by headlines of program indiscretions and player suspensions, Pospisil stands out as a bright spot in a sport sorely in need of one. Last month, Pospisil joined 105 other NCAA student-athletes when he was nominated for the Allstate/AFCA Good Works Team. The honor is given annually to athletes who “make outstanding contributions in the areas of volunteerism and civic involvement,” with players being chosen by representatives of the American Football Coaches Association. Pospisil is being honored for a number of service activities, including his efforts to lead a holiday toy drive in Annapolis as well as speaking to local youth about the importance of staying in school. For Pospisil -- whose father, Scott, is a pastor -- the opportunity to serve others takes precedence over even the most competitive drive to win football games.
“I’m a guy who wants to win every game,” said Pospisil, who led Navy with 106 total tackles a season ago. “But even more than that, [I want] to know what we’re doing to help our fellow brothers out.”
Added Pospisil, “I see those opportunities that we’ve been given, and I think that that’s really what this is all about in some ways.”
Pospisil is modest when talking about the many service activities he has been engaged in over the past year, choosing instead to draw attention to several other Navy players who have participated in similar efforts. Among the projects Navy football players have completed this summer are a series of youth football camps held around the Annapolis area. Organized through the efforts of local alumni and Navy Sports Information Director Scott Strasemeier, these camps – such as one conducted by quarterback Ricky Dobbs in Edgewater, Maryland earlier this month – highlight the importance of community interaction for players at the Academy.
“Football has given us an awesome platform to delve into those kids’ lives a little bit,” Pospisil said, speaking on behalf of his teammates. “We’re trying to deliver a message [to the kids] to stay in school or to stay up on their grades, and treat other people with respect and to just do well in all facets of life.”
Among the 106 student-athletes whom Pospisil joins on the Allstate/AFCA Good Works Team is Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. The two gridiron stars have much in common, including their strong Christian faith and sense of outreach. The idea of using football as a ‘platform’ has been a theme which Tebow has exemplified over the course of his college career, and one which Pospisil tries to emulate.
“I just have so much respect for the guy,” Pospisil said in reference to Tebow. “He is on a whole different level than we all are. God has given him the platform of football and he works his butt off and wants to win – we saw how much of a competitor he was last year – but at the same time he is using it to just love other people and to help people out who are less fortunate and haven’t been given as much in life…I think it’s extremely amazing, especially with the time commitments he has.”
Pospisil acknowledged the Academy’s role in helping Navy’s players foster a strong sense of community outreach, which he said is uniquely tied to the Academy’s mission of service and defense of the country. Pospisil’s own sense of service extends beyond the Academy walls however, and is closely tied to both his family experience growing up, as well as his Christian faith. It is the role of his faith, which he said he is “nothing” without, which has inspired him to give back at every opportunity he has.
“The greatest commandment that Jesus gave us was, ‘love the Lord your God with all you’re heart and soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.’ So [service projects] are my way of loving my fellow neighbor, which in turn demonstrates how I love God.”
Pospisil added that his father has been equally influential in helping him take up a life of service, saying, “It’s something that I’ve had with the unique opportunity because of my dad. He’s always instilled within me a sense of community outreach. It’s really brought [my family] together, and I think service projects are really some of the neatest things you can do with people.”
With seventeen career starts under his belt, Pospisil enters the 2009 campaign as the active Navy leader in terms of career tackles (173), forced fumbles (3), fumble recoveries (3), and interceptions (3). Yet for all of his on-the-field accolades, the senior captain remains humbled by his football career, and ready to embrace a call to service that extends far beyond the blue and gold facade of Navy-Marine Crops Memorial Stadium.
“If you take a step back -- I mean 10 or 15 years down the road – people are not going to remember and say, ‘oh the 2009 football team won this many games or lost that many games.’ It’s the impact on people’s lives that we have that is going to be remembered, and so I think in the greater scheme of things that is the most important thing.”
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