Exclusive: McIntosh Talks About Leaving Army

When Indiana's Mr. Football spurned Ball State last December and chose to play for West Point, Army fans were ecstatic. The news that a highly-touted option quarterback was headed to Army brought hope for the future of the struggling program. However, three games into his freshman season, Paul McIntosh left the team and the school. In this exclusive interview, McIntosh spoke about his decision.

It has been over three months since Paul McIntosh left West Point, and since he made the decision, very little has gone right for the Black Knights. Army went on to finish the season 3-9, including a humiliating 34-0 loss to Navy. And just this past week they fired their head coach, Stan Brock, after two years on the job and a 6-18 record.

When McIntosh committed to Army on December 7, 2007, Brock received a lot of credit for landing a quarterback who had led his high school team (Evansville Reitz) to a state title, and who had amassed almost 4,000 yards of total offense and 56 touchdowns.

McIntosh's experience with running a spread option offense combined with Brock's commitment to install a similar scheme at Army helped convince Evansville Reitz head coach John Hart that his prized quarterback could make an immediate impact at West Point.

In an interview back in January with Armysports.com, Hart said that McIntosh had "All-American potential," and he thought the quarterback would "fit right into Army's new scheme." And since Army's depth chart at quarterback at the time was not overflowing with players with option experience, the idea of McIntosh starting as a freshman was not too much of a reach.

However, when Army officials released its first depth chart prior to its season opener on August 29 against Temple, McIntosh's name was no where to be seen. Instead, Carson Williams, a throwing quarterback with no option experience, was listed as the starter followed by sophomore Chip Bowden and senior Carlo Sandiego.

McIntosh admits that he was never surprised that his name did not appear on the depth chart. In fact, where he stood on the roster wasn't even on his radar at the time.

"(The depth chart) wasn't really on my mind at all. Whenever I was there the only thing I was ever focused on was the cadet-life aspect," said McIntosh. "To be completely honest with you, I did not think too much about (football). Football was a back seat to everything else while I was there."

Like every other new cadet at West Point, football players are required to go through a rigorous seven-week training regimen during their first summer at the U.S. Military Academy. ‘Beast Barracks' as it is called is a grueling orientation that serves a lot of purposes, including the necessity of weeding out plebes (first-year cadets) who probably may have just picked the wrong school.

McIntosh completed the summer training program at West Point and began to practice with the football team over the summer, but he never felt comfortable in his surroundings – and he was never able to get "completely focused" in his new environment.

"I didn't want to be there – in the first place – in the Army. It didn't really matter with me with the football (part). I just was not happy with myself. (I was) not happy with being in the Army," said McIntosh.

But did the fact that McIntosh did not seem to be factoring into Army's offensive plans in his freshman year have any impact on his decision to leave?

"It didn't really have to do with football. I just took a step back and decided (the military) wasn't the career path I wanted. I told the people when I left there if I was the starting quarterback I still would have left," continued McIntosh.

The Indiana native said he did not make the decision to leave the Academy until "a couple of games into the season," but it took several weeks to be processed out of the Army.

As for his relationship with the Army coaches, McIntosh had nothing but praise for Brock and his staff.

"They were all great coaches. I told them when I left that it had nothing to do with them. It was just the military lifestyle – it wasn't what I wanted to do with the rest of my life…for the majority of my life."

"(The Academy) was a lot tougher than I thought, and it was different than I thought," admitted McIntosh.

One opportunity McIntosh did not take advantage of was spending a year at West Point's prep school in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. The school helps students get acclimated to the military lifestyle and the academic curriculum that awaits them if they are admitted to the Academy.

Did McIntosh think, in hindsight, that maybe he could have benefited from going to the prep school first?

"No. I think (my decision) might have been actually been (made) quicker. It's just the same thing military-wise."

In addition to Ball State, McIntosh said he was also recruited by Air Force; however, when he decided to leave West Point, McIntosh said he never considered transferring to the service academy in Colorado Springs.

"After I left West Point, the military was done (for me). I'm not trying to make it sound like it was bad or anything. It just wasn't for me. A lot of people I spoke to (at West Point) told me that they understood completely. (They said) it was better to make the decision now then to wait," said McIntosh.

McIntosh said that he really does not have any advice for recruits who are considering whether or not to attend a service academy, but he did say he personally should have learned more about the institution as a whole.

"I probably didn't do all of my research as well as I could have. I probably looked more for football than the actual school," said McIntosh. He then added, "I gave it my best shot."

After leaving West Point in the early fall, McIntosh headed back to the Midwest and to familiar territory. He enrolled at Southern Illinois University where he received a full scholarship to play football for the Salukis, who are part of the Missouri Valley Conference.

Southern Illinois currently has four quarterbacks, all underclassmen, on its roster including sophomore starter Chris Dieker. In addition, the Salukis do not run a spread or option offense where the quarterback would be asked to contribute with his running ability – one of McIntosh's strengths.

However, the former Mr. Football for Indiana looked at the big picture this time when deciding on a college.

"(Southern Illinois) has a good business school which is what I want to major in.  It is also pretty close to home and my cousin went there and still lives in town there. And they could get me in right away and I could start (classes) this semester - so it was kind of a good deal," said McIntosh.

"And they are a good football program too. I'm going to go in and do my best…and do whatever they want me to do," he added.

As for his time at West Point, McIntosh said that he still keeps in touch with some former teammates. One of the topics he recently discussed with one of them was the firing of Coach Brock, a decision which came as a "surprise" to McIntosh.

"I thought he was doing a real good job. He was trying to move the program in the right direction. It is kind of hard to get the program from where it was (to where they want to be) in a short amount of time. I thought he and the coaching staff were doing a good job," said McIntosh.

McIntosh did not have any regrets about his decision to go to West Point because now he definitively knows that it wasn't the place for him. And instead of looking back, he is embracing the chance for a fresh start.

When asked for a major difference between his brief military career and his current civilian one at Southern Illinois, McIntosh did not hesitate with his answer.

"I get a lot more sleep (here)."


 If you have a comment about this story, send David an email at Offtheyard@gmail.com. 

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