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Dodge a leader for Texas A&M

ByCharlesWhisnand
Appeal Sports Editor

The U.S. Army used to have that commercial saying something to the effect their soldiers do more in just a couple of hours than most people do in an entire day.

Well, still in his mid-20s, Yerington’s Mark Dodge has already experienced more than most people do in a lifetime. He’s stood side by side with the President of the United States as a member of an honor guard in the Army.

He’s also provided a clutch performance that helped lead his team to a win in one of college football’s most storied rivalries.

So what was the biggest thrill for Dodge? Standing side by side with the President or making the game-clinching interception for Texas A&M in its win over Texas. For Dodge, they’re all moments to be cherished.

“I understand what’s out there,” Dodge said. “There’s guys dying for me to be able to play this football game. I understand that and realize that.”

Dodge understands his younger teammates may not have the perspective he has because of what he’s been through. “They can take it for granted,” said Dodge about the chance to play college football.

But Dodge will never take for granted the chance he’s received because of the four years he spent in the Army. And because of what happened on 9/11.

Dodge was at the Pentagon filling out paperwork for a higher security clearance when the Pentagon was attacked on 9/11.

“It makes you enjoy the game,” said Dodge about how his experience on 9/11 has affected him. “It just makes it that more enjoyable. You know what else is out there. It’s given me the ability to take things as they come. You’ve got to enjoy every day.”

During his time in the Army, Dodge served in the 3rd United States Infantry, which is the honor guard that is used for such tasks as welcoming dignataries to the White House.

“It was an honor,” Dodge said. “I got to be there next to the President on numerous occassions. It was fun. I got to talk first hand with the President. It was a great time.”

After his time in the Army, Dodge made his way to Texas A&M by way of Feather River Community College. He became a starting outside linebacker with the Aggies last year as a junior.

“They eat and breathe football down here in Texas,” Dodge said. “It’s God, family, football here. It really is.

“The student body lives for the season. It’s something else down here. It’s really incredible.”

And at Texas A&M, expectations are as high as ever. Despite playing in the tough Big 12 Conference with teams such as Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska, the Aggies hope to contend for the Big 12 and national titles with a strong nucleus back from last year’s team that went 9-4.

“It’s a lot more of a business,” said Dodge about college football. “There’s a lot of time devoted to football.

“The coaches are paid to win. You’re expected to win. A lot of people don’t understand the time and commitment it takes to play at a level like this.”

Dodge’s highlight last year came in the regular season finale when the Aggies upset Texas 12-7 on their home field in Austin. On the Longhorns’ opening drive, Dodge made a huge play when he stuffed a Texas runner deep in Aggie territory short of the first down on a fourth and short play.

At the time, Dodge didn’t realize how important the play was. But after the game he began to understand the play’s significance. “I think it really did change the aspect of the game,” Dodge said.

But Dodge wasn’t done. At the end of the game he made an interception that sealed the win. In the Aggies’ previous game, it looked like Dodge had also sealed another win against Nebraska with a late game interception. But the Cornhuskers got the ball back and went on to kick a game-winning field goal.

Dodge helped the Aggies end a six-game losing streak against the Longhorns, but it should be noted that Dodge is 1-0 against Texas.

“It was a great feeling,” Dodge said. “It was incredible to be a part of something like that. The team played trememdous and then we came back to class and got the thank yous.”

Dodge said his classmates were telling him “I’m able to talk to my friends now that go to Texas.”

He admitted he didn’t know about the magnitude of the rivalry when he first got to Texas A&M, but now Dodge said, “the rivalry is a whole lot different.”

Professional scouts have already been around to evaluate Dodge, but he doesn’t expect to go on to play in the NFL. Besides, Dodge will graduate with a degree in ag business in December and will be set career-wise.

“I’ve got plenty of good offers when I graduate,” Dodge said. “The Aggie family takes care of each other.

“Aggies take care of each other. That’s why I came here. I knew I would be taken care of. I want to still be a part of the A&M family when I graduate.”

GILMORE AT CARROLL

Another player from Yerington, Ryan Gilmore, is a redshirt freshman at NAIA Carroll in Montana. Carroll had its streak of four straight national titles snapped last year, but still had an outstanding season, finishing 11-2 and advancing to the NAIA playoffs.

Gilmore, who was a member of Carroll’s scout teams last year as a defensive player, has moved over to the offense. The 6-4, 265-pound Gilmore is a left tackle. Carroll has plenty of depth on the defensive line, so Gilmore moved over to provide depth on the offensive line.

Gilmore has been able to be a part of the Carroll program while maintaining a 3.8 grade point average as a civil engineering major.

STEWART UPDATE

Carson High’s John Stewart had been moving up the depth chart at Division 1 (formerly 1-AA) Weber State in Utah as a linebacker and was one of the team’s top special teams players. But Stewart is now out indefinitely with a back injury and his status for this season is unknown. Stewart was heading into his redshirt junior season this year.