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Nick Possley: Receiver, ROTC member does double-duty

Matt Gamber | Thursday, November 15, 2007

Three hours after becoming the first walk-on in recent memory to speak at a pre-game pep rally, Nick Possley read a text message that struck him even more than the ovation he had received earlier from the thousands gathered in the Joyce Center.

“My dad just texted me one word: ‘Unbelievable,'” said Possley, a senior wide receiver and Navy ROTC member whom coach Charlie Weis asked to speak at the Navy pep rally on Nov. 2.

After learning just two days in advance that he was slated to address the crowd, a nervous Possley prepared a speech in which he would recognize his fellow walk-ons, praise the Navy traditions, and even throw in “a little bit of self-deprecating humor” for good measure.

What he didn’t do, however, was tell his family about it.

“I knew [several relatives] were coming, so I figured I’d surprise them,” said Possley, a Wheaton, Ill., native. “I didn’t want my dad taking pictures; I just wanted him to enjoy it. It was fun, and I’ll never forget it.”

Possley’s public speaking debut marked the culmination of more than three years of balancing not only daily football workouts and academic commitments, but also the rigors of the Navy ROTC program.

“ROTC has been really accommodating, letting me get out of most everything,” Possley said. “Football, in turn, has served as a lot of leadership training. I’m observing coaches and players, leaders and followers, and I’m filling both roles, which has been as valuable as anything I could’ve gotten just from ROTC.”

Possley, an all-area wide receiver as a senior at Wheaton-Warrenville South High School, said he had “no intention to play football in college,” but watching a season from the stands changed his mind. Possley began attending off-season workouts in the spring of his freshman year, eventually securing a place on the roster.

“As long as we were able to hang around and not hurt each other, [we walk-ons] were good to go,” Possley said. “The main thing was I just missed being on a team, being a part of a group of guys and having that special bond that you get, at least for me, from playing a sport. I couldn’t find that anywhere else, so I figured I’d give it a shot.”

Possley has since made the traveling squad and has seen special teams action in several games for the Irish during the past two seasons.

“Somebody must have put in a good word for me at some point along the way,” Possley said of how his role increased. “I had to catch a break, everybody does, but if you work hard and you’re ready to capitalize on it, good things will happen.”

And, Possley hopes, they will continue to happen in his post-graduate career. He will travel to Washington, D.C., later this month seeking approval to attend nuclear power school in preparation for a career in submarines.

Regardless of what his future holds, Possley will look back on his times at Notre Dame, especially those spent with the football team, with both pride and appreciation. In fact, he’s already begun to do so.

“I’ve been so fortunate to play and be a part of this team,” Possley said. “This has made me realize, more than anything, that sports are something I love and always want to be a part of. I wasn’t happy when I wasn’t part of a sport, and this has been very fulfilling me. I don’t regret anything, and I’d definitely do it all over again.”