When it comes to the decision to attend the United States Naval Academy, seldom are recruits drawn to Navy's recent on-field success alone. In fact, the combination of outstanding academics, military service, and the challenge of one of the most rigorous collegiate experiences anywhere in the world are often what attracts highly motivated young men to join the Navy football program. Such is the case for Keegan Wetzel, a two-sport standout athlete from St. Laurence high school in suburban Chicago. I caught up with the 2008 Chicago Catholic League Defensive Player of the Year recently, and got the inside scoop on his recruitment and future plans at the Academy.
Adam Nettina (AN): Did you attend the Blue and Gold Game in Annapolis? If so, how was your experience? Have you met any of your future Navy teammates yet?
Keegan Wetzel (KW): Yes, I attended the Blue and Gold game with my dad, Jim, and 11 year old brother, Chris. We had a great time hanging out in Annapolis for two days, just touring the town and taking in all the history around us. I really wanted to see the Yard and the town of Annapolis one more time before I arrived for good on I-Day. I had been there twice before (once on my official visit) but now that I knew it was definitely my school and the place I was going to be spending the next four years of my life there was an entirely different atmosphere surrounding my visit. The town is amazing and definitely does not have a shortage of ice cream shops. I pledged my allegiance to the Blue team, which unfortunately let me down, but the game was a blast to watch from up close in the stadium and I enjoyed it nonetheless. I have met a few of my future teammates both from my official visit and my most recent trip to Annapolis for the game. The majority of the other future Mids I met are going to go to NAPS, but I will be coming direct. Some of the guys I talked to are Jake Juriga, Caleb Lucas, Josh Patton, Justin Iwuji, Andrew Glaize, Darius Staten, Travis Keating and a few others.
AN: Were you recruited by any other schools besides Navy? If so, which schools showed the most interest?
KW: Other than Navy, I was recruited mainly by Ivy League schools including Harvard, Brown, Princeton, and Cornell. A few FCS scholarship schools showed interest (such as Eastern Illinois and Northern Iowa University) but I was looking for more in academics. Many Patriot and Pioneer League schools also heavily recruited me, but I knew that I was going to school for both academics and to play the highest level of football I could. Some of the other schools to recruit me included Dayton, Butler, Colgate, and Fordham. When December rolled around I ended up with nine official visit offers, including Division II Truman State, but I had already narrowed it down to Harvard, Brown, and Navy at that point. Those were the three schools I took visits to before making a decision.
AN: What was it about the Naval Academy – both on and off the field- which led you to choose Annapolis as your college destination?
KW: From day one Navy sold me on the $350,000 education. My parents really liked that one too. Not only is it a great deal for my 529 account, but the education is top notch and the Academy has one of the best engineering programs in the country, which I hope to major in. I received a 33 on my ACT and am very interested in academics, specifically math. The Yard is beautiful along with the city of Annapolis, and I liked the idea of going to school on the east coast, having previously lived in the west and currently living in the Midwest (Chicago). On my visit I learned that the Academy is much more like a college campus than I had expected, and the players are still just normal football players, which was very attracting and reassuring and influenced my choice as well. On the field I don't think anyone could ask for much more than the facilities Navy offers and the ‘Brotherhood' I am excited to join. Playing Division 1 football, especially the game against Notre Dame each year close to home, is going to be a dream come true for not only for myself, but also for my family, my community, and my school.
AN: I understand you played defensive back in high school. Is that the position you will be playing at Navy, or has there been talk of shifting you down to linebacker?
KW: I played FS this past year at 6'3'' and 195-lbs. The coaching staff at Navy has told me they like the way I run and the way I play aggressively - especially with how I run the alleys. They have recruited me to play OLB/SS or the ‘striker' position. I was always a linebacker at heart, but never quite put on the weight throughout high school so I was moved back to safety. I think I will feel more comfortable closer to the line because it will allow me to move better laterally, and I am excited to get on the field in whatever way possible.
AN: I think some Navy fans may be concerned about your size when they see you listed at 6'3'', 190-lbs by Superprep.com. Is that your current height and weight? Are you trying to bulk up at all before the start of plebe summer and the beginning of the season?
KW: I have seen that I am listed as a 6'3'', 190-lb. MLB on Scout.com. It just shows you that the website is wrong, because I'm not even a middle linebacker...Right now I am 6'3'' and currently about 195 which is what I played at last year. I am putting weight on after a long basketball season and now in track season and will likely be at about 200 pounds by the time Plebe summer gets here. I have been concentrating on building a lot of good muscle mass this year, rather than just consuming all carbs in arms reach as I had to do the past 2 years just to put on any weight at all.
AN: What do you feel is the biggest strength of your game? In which area would you like to improve in before taking your skills to the college level?
KW: I feel that my biggest strengths are my vision, aggressiveness, and ability to run alleys and take good angles to the ballcarrier. I have always had a natural nose for the ball and simply feel comfortable reading and reacting on defense. I have always been able to run well on the football field and surprise a lot of people with my closing speed. The area of my game I would most like to improve will be moving laterally and flipping my hips when I move up on the line next year. I know that I will be doing a lot of speed work and strength training which I also know I need to work on.
AN: Do you know what you want to major in?
KW: Engineering, specifically electrical or mechanical. It will be a lot of hard work, especially with most of my focus on football, but I know you have to work hard for anything worth having. I love the quote, "The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary."
AN: What do you know about the service commitment for after you graduate? Have any potential service selections (Marine Corps, Surface Warfare, Aviation, etc…) especially interested you?
KW: I know the service commitment upon graduation is 5 years and I hope to be working in something with engineering. Unfortunately, I do not know enough at this point for a certain selection to interest me career wise. However, my father was a Marine (as were both of my grandfathers) so I am biased towards the marine option at this point.
AN: Finish the sentence. The one thing Navy fans should know about me is…
KW: I do not accept failure in my life, and I am never satisfied with just one success. I strive to be the best in everything I do, and once I accomplish a goal I set my standards even higher, always pushing for that next breakthrough.
GoMids thanks Keegan for speaking with Adam Nettina, and wishes the high school senior only the best during his career as a Midshipmen and a Division I athlete. To get in touch with Adam, feel free to drop him a line at AdamNettina - at - gmail.com
Past Future File Interviews: