Feb. 26, 2012
The following story is included in the 2012 Patriot League Basketball Tournament program, which will be on sale at all men's and women's tournament games.
By Chris Forman, Navy Sports Information
Navy senior Ted Connolly knows the importance of surrounding himself with good people to reach his dreams and aspirations.
After all, the Pittsburgh-area native is as blue collar as the city he hails from.
"We've had our problems this year, but we've got good leaders, and Ted is one of them," Navy head coach Ed DeChellis said. "He's a hard-working, tremendous kid who will do anything for the good of the team. He is the consummate teammate."
"During my four years at Navy, I have learned so much from guys like Chris Harris, Adam Teague and Scott Brooks, and am grateful and humbled by what they have done for me," said Connolly. "All of those guys out in the fleet and living it. It's awesome in the military, because you see them when you are out in the fleet, learning under them, and then one day you might be operating with them. I've had a lot of role models growing up and I am thankful for all of them."
A hard worker on and off the court at North Allegheny High School, Connolly was a three-year letterwinner on the hardwood, earning W.P.I.A.L. Section 3 Quad A MVP honors while serving as the team captain. Connolly also showed off his physical prowess on the football field where he was a starter as a strong safety for North Allegheny.
He seemed a perfect fit for the Naval Academy, except for one thing - he had no desire to attend a service academy.
Until he actually made a visit.
"A friend of mine who was a year older came here and said it was a great opportunity. I came down here for a basketball camp and for a summer program after my junior year and I really enjoyed it," said Connolly. "It presented a lifestyle that I wanted to be part of and I felt I would regret it if I didn't look into it. I wanted to do something different and exciting and that is what sold me on the Academy."
Connolly sought an appointment and surprised everyone when he said he wanted to attend the Academy.
"I had very little interest in the military and the Academy before I made that visit. It never entered my mind. My parents were shocked when I told them that is where I wanted to go to college," added Connolly. "The idea that you can do a job while not sitting behind a desk and that you could do something exciting and fun really hooked me. It helps, too, that you are getting one of the best educations possible."
Still, when arriving at the Academy, Connolly did not know which path to choose. He thought he would be on a ship after commissioning and travel to see the world. He didn't swim well and being selected to America's premier military unit (the Navy SEALs) never entered his mind. He didn't think that it was possible as a freshman.
It wasn't until late in his sophomore year that the goal of becoming a Navy SEAL started to come to fruition.
"I thought being a SEAL was cool, but it didn't strike me as something I wanted to do. I thought I was going to be on a ship and see the world, and that was the first idea that sold me on the Navy, to be able to travel with your job," said Connolly. "I wasn't much of a swimmer, so I didn't see my future as a SEAL back then. But Scott Brooks (Class of 2010) did a lot of training in the school associated with that and he helped me out a ton and really got me interested. He taught me how to swim and what would go into becoming a SEAL. It became more of a reality and a possibility to be accepted into SEAL training. He helped me out immensely."
On Wednesday, November 30, achieving that goal became a reality, when he was one of 28 Naval Academy seniors selected for the SEAL program. It made all the hours of running the E-Course, all the sit-ups, push-ups, chin-ups (which by the way, Connolly can do 101 sit-ups and push-ups in two minutes each, the maximum allowed by the Physical Readiness Test [PRT] in addition to a mile-and-a-half run) and all the training swimming sessions worth it.
"It's such a relief because you train so hard for the opportunity just to go to SEAL training. It means nothing to get selected other than the chance to go," said Connolly. "You are grateful and very humble just to see the guys you are going to training with. This is America's elite fighting unit that you get to train with. It's a great feeling that you are getting the opportunity that others give up so much for."
It doesn't mean it doesn't have its up-and-downs. After Navy played Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., on a Wednesday night, the Midshipmen had a 3:30 am wake-up call on Thursday to catch their flight to get back to Annapolis in time for classes. The next opponent on the schedule was Army on national television that following Saturday. As first-year head coach Ed DeChellis was walking to practice at Alumni Hall on a seasonably-crisp day, he spotted Connolly running away from Alumni Hall, dressed in full combat fatigues. It was revealed later that Connolly had to do a training session in the frigid Severn River, just 45 minutes before practice was to start.
When practice started, Connolly, with hair still wet, was on the court participating in warm-up drills. It's that type of attitude that Connolly displays daily as one of three seniors on this year's roster.
"You could tell he was a little slowed down, but he never said a word, just did his job like he always does at practice. Ted still runs with our scout team, still welcomes his role, whatever it is. He never complains about anything," said DeChellis.
"Basketball is a way to experiment with leadership. You are working with a small unit to accomplish a mission. It's very analogous to being in the military. You are with a group of guys on the court, off the court, when you travel, etc.," added Connolly. "It's a great experience from an aspect of having a brotherhood of guys in the hall, out of the hall, on the court, wherever it may be. It's been a great experience in that regard. Every huddle we break with the word `family' and that is the truth. We treat it like a family."
"Ted is the ultimate teammate," said classmate Jordan Sugars. "The way he conducts and carries himself, he is the most deserving person on this team for every minute of playing time he gets. He brings energy and focus every day. He pushes everybody on the court."
It's easy to see how Connolly fits the blue-collar personality of the city he hails from. And that attitude will follow him out into the fleet no matter where the Navy takes him.