Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2009 | 11:29 a.m.
Garrett Sherwood remembers his first day at the Naval Academy's prep school in Newport, R.I., like it was yesterday.
The 2008 Faith Lutheran graduate, who like most Navy football recruits is spending his first year at the prep school to get acclimated to the academy's strict standards, was introduced to those requirements during three weeks of basic training.
It was a wake up call to the military way of life.
There is a certain way to fold your clothes, make your bed and behave, and Sherwood got a crash course on the fundamentals. It made summer football training in the 110-degree Las Vegas heat seem like a walk in the park.
"Their job is to stress you out and make your life a living hell for those three weeks," said Sherwood, who started every game at linebacker last fall for the prep team.
"The first day you walk in the door, they tell you to make your rack and get all your clothes folded in your drawer. You try to do your best and what you think is right, but it never is at first. They yell at you and make you do again until you learn. They break you down to build you up."
Sherwood will not be the lone local in the academy's football program next year.
Bishop Gorman offensive lineman Sam Womack and Faith Lutheran safety David Sperry each signed with the academy Wednesday on national signing day. Womack said he is headed to the prep school while Sperry hopes to start at the academy.
Either way, both will have more on their plate than playing football.
Their daily routine will be planned out to the minute. Sherwood knows he will wake up at 6 a.m. and go to bed at 10:30 p.m. during the week, with all three meals, classes and scheduled weight lifting sessions every day at the same time.
It's a grind that tests dedication and commitment.
"It is a constant struggle here," Sherwood said. "If you ask everyone if they like it here, I'm sure the response would be not really. But it is what you are working toward that makes it all worthwhile — job security, a good education and the chance to play Division I football."
The job security is what makes playing for Navy — or other service academies like Army and Air Force — unique. Midshipmen, athletes or not, are required to serve five years after graduating.
Given the rank of a commissioned officer, the job could be fighting in war with the U.S. Marine Corps, holding down a desk job or serving on a submarine. Sherwood said the starting salary is $60,000 annually and could increase if you have a special skill, such as being certified in nuclear power.
For Womack, the package of academics, athletics and military was too good to pass up. In addition to the guaranteed job after graduation, midshipmen receive free room and board, a monthly stipend of about $800 and all college expenses.
"I found this to be the best of both worlds," Womack said. "I get to serve my country and play football."
While the grind is often overwhelming — Sherwood says being a part of the military, especially the prestigious academy, is an admirable way of life.
"I have to have a positive attitude when you come in here," Sherwood said. "If you are negative, the days will be 10 times longer. The days are already long as it is, but as you get more comfortable, the weeks get shorter."
Sports Editor Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected].