Mids' Pospisil: soft-spoken, hard-nosed

College Football

Navy

December 19, 2008|By Don Markus | Don Markus,don.markus@baltsun.com

Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo calls linebacker Ross Pospisil "a meek person, a humble person."

First-year inside linebackers coach Steve Johns says of Pospisil, "He's a nice kid."

But Johns is quick to qualify his remark by separating Pospisil's personality from his on-field persona.

"He's a tough kid," Johns said earlier this week. "He's not a pushover. Don't mistake his kindness for being soft or anything like that."

Wake Forest certainly won't when the Demon Deacons play the Midshipmen tomorrow in the inaugural EagleBank Bowl at RFK Stadium in Washington. It was Pospisil's interception off Riley Skinner that set the tone for Navy's 24-17 win over the Deacons in late September in Winston-Salem, N.C.

That play came a week after Pospisil intercepted Mike Teel of Rutgers late in the fourth quarter to preserve a 23-21 victory in Annapolis. Those were among many big plays Pospisil made in a spectacular season that will likely conclude with the 6-foot, 223-pound junior from Temple, Texas, being Navy's leading tackler.

"This year is so much different than last year in the sense that I'm having so much more fun, just flying around," Pospisil said after a practice this week. "That's what football is all about. Just living in each moment. I'm living a dream in a lot of ways for the opportunities I've been given."

Early in his sophomore season, Pospisil replaced an injured Clint Sovie and finished with 67 tackles (including 20 against Northern Illinois) for a defense ranked near the bottom of several categories among Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

Since he has already made 93 tackles this season, including double-digit numbers in each of the past four games, there is a strong case for Pospisil being the most valuable player on one of the country's most improved defenses.

"He makes up for whatever he lacks athletically with his effort," Johns said. "He just plays so hard all the time."

Among the other plays Pospisil made was stripping Temple running back Kee-ayre Griffin of the ball in the final minute of regulation, leading to Sovie's 42-yard touchdown return that helped tie the score and bring the Midshipmen back from a 20-point fourth quarter deficit to win in overtime.

"I can't explain things like that, and why they happen," Pospisil said. "Why was I in that position versus why was I somewhere else? My focus is that I want to play as hard as I can and have close to as perfect an effort as I can. I'm humble to be in that position and have those opportunities."

It's not something that even Pospisil would have predicted in high school. A fullback and linebacker during his first three years on varsity, Pospisil was moved strictly to defense before his senior year.

"It was kind of a hidden blessing in itself," Pospisil said. "It enabled me to focus and start honing those skills, which enabled me to come here. I don't think I would have had a whole lot of film at linebacker that they [Navy coaches] would have come knocking."

It also helped in another way when the team didn't win a single game in Pospisil's senior year.

"That year was so necessary for me, where I placed my identity, before that I kind of placed it all in football," Pospisil said. "It kind of stripped that from me and showed me there were more important things in life."

Pospisil had been thinking about a military career since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks occurred when he was in eighth grade. Navy was also the only FBS school to show interest and the only place Pospisil was interested in attending, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, a 1957 graduate.

"It was either here or nothing," Pospisil said. "They had the whole package."

An admitted introvert, Pospisil's on-field personality began to emerge during spring practice before his sophomore season.

"Football gives me a chance to be loud and express myself in a different manner than I might elsewhere in my day-to-day stuff," he said. "If I acted like I did on the field, hooping and hollering, people might say, 'What's this guy's deal?' "

The son of a preacher who credits much of his success to his strong faith, Pospisil's antics go only so far.

"When he's in the middle of a play, I think he's got it in his mind that he wants to hit this guy and hurt them, but when you look at him, he's got that same gentle look to him," Sovie said. "He never pushes himself over the edge to where he cusses. That's what amazes me, that he can stop himself at a certain point, and all else will be taken care of."

NAVY (8-4) vs. WAKE FOREST (7-5)

EagleBank Bowl, Washington

Tomorrow,

11 a.m.

TV: ESPN

Radio: 1090 AM

Line: Wake

Forest by 3

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