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In their own words: Scott Strasemeier

The U.S. Naval Academy’s senior associate athletics director for sports information is currently in his 26th year at the academy.

When 9/11 happened, I think it was obvious to everyone who went to school here that they were going to war. There’s always that chance when you come to a service academy – obviously they all serve a minimum of five years – but on 9/11 it really hit home that when they graduate, they’re definitely going to go to war. And all the students who have come since then, they’ve willingly come here knowing that they were going to go to war.

I think that’s an amazing statement for anyone who has attended any of the service academies, that they’re willing to come here to get a great education and serve their country, knowing that when they graduate that there’s a good chance they’re going to be sent into theater. You never saw any trepidation. I think people were like, “This is why we’re here.” And obviously the country was angry about what happened, and patriotism was at an all-time high. And all the students were like, “This is what we came here for. This is why we’re going to become officers in the Navy and the Marine Corps.” No doubt about that. They knew that they could make a difference.

We played Boston College, it was our first football game after 9/11. We were supposed to play Northwestern that Saturday (after 9/11) and that game was canceled. So the next Saturday we played Boston College, and that game is definitely on my list as one of the top 10 games I’ve seen at Navy. We lost the game and it wasn’t one of our best years, but just the patriotism and the feeling in the stadium, getting everyone back to normalcy, it was definitely a memorable game. And Boston College was coached by a Naval Academy grad in Tom O’Brien. Just a special feeling in the stadium that Saturday.

Obviously, the Army-Navy game was even at another level. President Bush visited both locker rooms before the game, and I remember Ed Malinowski, the team captain and quarterback, presenting him the football in the locker room before the game. That was definitely memorable as well. Patriotism was at an all-time high nationwide, and obviously the Army-Navy game is America’s greatest college football game. It just shone a spotlight bigger on it that year, and it’s been like that ever since. That Army-Navy game, people focused on it even more because they realized what these young men and women are going to do after they graduate.

I don’t think it’s changed at all. I think our coaches have seen, football-wise, our recruiting has taken off. Obviously we’ve been very successful in football and have had great seasons, but I think there are a lot of people out there who want to serve and want to make a difference and want to be a leader. I know our coaches, when the SEALs got bin Laden, our football coaches were on the road recruiting and they said the response was incredible at all the high schools they were at. One of our coaches was down in Florida and he had a Navy shirt on, and when he walked into the courtyard area, he got a standing ovation. And this is just an assistant football coach. But he had Navy on his shirt.

Every time I see one of our sports teams standing for the national anthem, it gives me chills. Just knowing what these young men and women have decided to do and what they’re going to go on to do, it’s a really special feeling to be a part of, to work at a service academy and work with these young men and women. The national anthem to me brings it home no matter what the sporting event. Every game.