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Naval Academy: take two

Valencia man achieves dream after suffering injury

Posted: June 25, 2009 9:02 p.m.
Updated: June 26, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Sam Ramirez, 19, of Valencia, will enter the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., fulfilling a dream he's had since he was in fourth grade.

 
Senior year started to look like a touchdown for Samuel Ramirez and his United States Naval Academy dreams.

For the 2007-08 school year, he was prepared to lead the Valencia High School varsity football team as a defensive captain, then make his way to Annapolis, Md. - home of the of the U.S. Naval Academy.

"I knew out of high school that a major way of getting into the Naval Academy would be football," said Ramirez, 19. "I made it my goal to play football for the Navy."

But one day during summer training, Ramirez suffered an ankle injury that would put a worrisome twist on his academy dreams.

Chipped cartilage and overstretched ligaments were just the beginning.

"It kept getting worse and I kept going to the doctor," he said. "They kept casting it saying if I wait a couple weeks, I can play football again."

While Ramirez remained optimistic, his mother couldn't help but worry.

"I was very worried and frustrated for him," said Connie Ramirez. "But he was very positive, each time they put the cast on, he thought he was going to go back and play."

Sam Ramirez attempted to play on his injury.

"He didn't give up, which is really probably why the injury exacerbated," Connie Ramirez said.

But by his second casting, he realized he had to let go of football for his senior year. Ramirez missed his senior season and spent seven months on crutches and leaning on mental stamina.

"I knew my grades weren't up to getting in," he said. "After that injury, I realized I was going to have to try to focus a lot more on academics."

After surgery in 2007, the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board put Ramirez on remedial status, he said. It wasn't until May 2008 when Ramirez's doctors cleared him as healthy.

And after his first attempt, Ramirez did not get into the Naval Academy. So he moved onto "Plan B," he said.

Ramirez attended Virginia Military Institute for one year out of high school.

"I knew going to a military school would show initiative for the academy," he said. "I studied hard and got my grades up."

A couple points to boost his grade point average paid off, and one day in January, Ramirez received the good news of his acceptance into the Naval Academy.

"I was at the winter formal dance when my mom called me," he said. "I was very excited. I've been waiting for it for a long time."

Ramirez was in the fourth grade when he was captivated by the Navy SEALs he saw on television.

Ramirez said he is grateful for the year he spent at Virginia Military Institute, which prepared him for the "whole academy experience."

Ramirez's mother said she's thankful her son has a direction.

"My mission is pretty much accomplished. It's like a completed chapter," Connie Ramirez said.

Sam Ramirez left for the academy Thursday and will be inducted July 1. He will major in mechanical engineering with his ultimate goal to one day become a Navy SEAL. He will also try out for the academy's football team.

"If I had it to do over again, I probably wouldn't want to get injured - but I wouldn't change a thing," he said.

For the last two summers, Ramirez coached the Valencia High School junior varsity football team with some words of advice for his players: "Don't play on an injury."

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