Last week, Tanner Morse found out he made his personal dream team, the Naval Academy.
The Sterling senior’s desire to serve his country was born out of the ashes of 9-11.
“I know I was only 5 years old when 9-11 happened, but that’s something that really stuck with me,” Morse said. “I can still vividly see it. As I’ve learned more about what happened, that drove me to serve even more.”
The best way to do that was revealed in a chat with a pilot at an air show in the Quad Cities about 8 years ago. He told Morse the straightest line to the cockpit went through Annapolis, Md.
“So I set my mind to that going into high school,” Morse said.
Anyone who watched Morse lead the Golden Warriors under center this past season knows what he’s capable of when he sets his mind on something.
His weighted grade-point average is 4.23, and he scored 31 on the ACT, a point above the academy’s requirement.
Morse passed the physical and mental examinations and, in order to obtain the required congressional nomination, wrote essays explaining why he wanted to attend the academy and why he thought he’d make the cut.
“I just told them about how I want to be a pilot, and how I want to be part of the team feel, and the family feel you can only get at the academy,” Morse said.
Last Wednesday, Morse received a call from the office of Congressman Bobby Schilling, a Republican representative of the 17th district, informing him he’d been appointed – the equivalent of being accepted to a college.
Morse’s first call went to his father, “Dusty.”
“He just kept saying, ‘That’s great,’ “ Morse said. “He must have said that 10 times. Then I called my mom and she almost started crying. But she was at work, so she fought that back.
“They were relieved like I was, because they knew I’d be facing the dilemma of what I’d do if I didn’t get in.”
Morse had received interest from a number of Division-II and -III schools for football, and had already been accepted at Wichita State and Purdue, where he had visions of walking onto the baseball team.
“But I knew the Naval Academy was my No. 1 choice, sport or no sport,” Morse said. “Even without a sport, it’d still be a team that I would be a part of, which is what I was looking for.”
“The thing that’s struck me is how many times he says, ‘Team,’ “ said first-year Sterling head football coach Jon Schlemmer, who put the reins of his office firmly in the hands of his first-year QB. “That’s what he’s all about. The whole team thing is so much more important to him.”
Schlemmer pointed out that it takes a particular young man to be academy material. During the summertime, it’s rise and shine at 6 a.m. for basic training. During the school year, the alarm sounds at the same time for breakfast. Then it’s on to formation, school from 8-4, sports from 4:30-7 and study time thereafter.
“Everything’s together,” Morse said. “You’re always with a corps of people – your battalion.”
“It’s not for everybody,” Schlemmer said. “You can’t just walk into something like this without thinking it through. They’re a different breed, and in the best possible way.”
Morse must keep up his grades, as the academy will request transcripts after the school year. He’s looking forward to creating plenty of highlights for his film reel during the baseball season, with the hopes of playing ball for the Midshipmen. They’ve currently filled all their recruiting spots and are very deep at infield, where Morse plays shortstop.
While Morse plans to play sprint football, more of a club-based program for athletes 170 pounds or lighter, he’s not giving up another dream: playing football for the academy. His first sports love was baseball, but his pecking order shifted a bit this past season.
“Coming into high school, I would’ve never imagined that I would’ve fallen in love with football the way that I did,” Morse said. “That came from the opportunities I was given as a senior, to not only play, but to lead.”
While Morse is realistic, he couldn’t help but want to be part of the team environment he basked in during the Army-Navy game Dec. 8.
“Watching the camaraderie that came out of that game on both sides … I’ve actually been thinking about that a lot lately,” Morse said. “They’ve got a lot of guys on their time that are my size. Maybe they’re 10, 15 pounds heavier than me.”
“He’s always been a realist,” Schlemmer said. “He’s not the biggest guy. But he’s a football player, and you can’t really stack him up against guys who are bigger and just compare them physically.”
But wait ... there’s more
Three people Tanner Morse sees every day have plans to serve their country
• Classmate Josh Villareal has enlisted in the Marines.
• Classmate Josh Segretto will attend the U.S. Army Airborne School
• Eighth-grader Turner Morse, Tanner’s brother, aspires to follow in his brother’s footsteps. “He’s as intelligent as me and just as athletic, if not more athletic,” Tanner Morse said.