Active Navy SEAL Tom Hruby, left, talks with Timmy Vernon during Northwestern football practice in Evanston, Ill., last week. (Michael Schmidt / Associated Press)
Evanston, Ill. — A 32-year-old active Navy SEAL is hoping to earn a spot on Northwestern University’s football team.
Tom Hruby, a junior at Northwestern and a father of three, is trying to walk on as a defensive end. Northwestern lists him as 6-foot-3, 230 pounds. He will compete against scholarship athletes in his quest to make it onto the Big Ten football team’s roster, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
“I don’t feel like where I’m at today is some outstanding or amazing thing,” Hruby said. “It’s just more of a challenging route . . .the way I kind of think about finding and accepting and trying to take on these challenges that most people would probably say are impossible, one, or very unlikely or just plain dumb.”
Hruby still works as a SEAL instructor at Great Lakes Naval Station. He saved up his leave so he could participate in the Wildcats’ three-week training camp this month.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald admires Hruby’s drive. Fitzgerald said he doesn’t think he could handle that many responsibilities at once.
“He was relentless, absolutely relentless, like you would suspect from a SEAL,” he said.
Hruby was one of 32 people to graduate from his Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL class in late 2006. He then served as a breacher in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
“One day you’re blowing things up, the next day I’m fast-roping out of a helicopter, the next day I’m parachuting at 20,000 feet,” Hruby said. “It’s inherently dangerous. When you start, you’re like, ‘God, I could die any minute. Any one of these things today can kill me if I don’t do it right.’”
Although he has already taken on many difficult challenges as a Navy SEAL, Hruby thinks there’s still more for him to prove to himself. SEAL Team chief David Goggins is among few people who understand Hruby’s latest endeavor.
“Without a challenge in front of guys like Tom, what’s the point of living?” Goggins said. “That first six months (of SEAL training), they want to see what you’re made of. Tom has always had that character in him.”
Hruby committed to four-hour study days to prepare for the SAT and training at EFT Sports Performance in Highland Park to prepare for football. He and his wife, Jen, sold their home in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, and moved in with Hruby’s mom in Crown Point, Indiana. Because of the long commute, Hruby stays in a dorm room on campus and visits his family on the weekends.
“Our family really likes to challenge each other, and it’s important to us to aspire to our dreams because I don’t think that you can truly be happy unless you go after those dreams that you think are unattainable,” Jen Hruby said.
Hruby thinks his experiences as a SEAL will help him secure a spot on Northwestern’s football team.
“What’s the next step? How do we get out of here? And you’ve just got to stick to those thoughts, stick to what’s important, stick to what you know and just kind of have an attitude,” he said.