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Penrose making progress at Navy

Luke Penrose knew what he was getting into when he accepted an appointment to the United States Naval Academy and a chance to play football for Navy.

He knew that freshmen who walked onto the Annapolis, Md. campus were about as low on the food chain as could be. But with a long, arduous freshman year behind, Penrose is upbeat about his sophomore year while still realizing his progress will be slow.

During fall practice, Penrose has been working with the scout team on offense at slotback against the first team defense. But Penrose also had the chance to receive some time with the offense due to injuries and transfers.

Penrose said he’ll suit up with Navy during home games and hopes to receive some playing time on special teams. He expects to also be playing some again with the junior varsity team — at least at the start of the season — as well. Penrose started at slotback for last year’s JV squad.

“I’m still trying to work my way up,” Penrose said. “It’s been kind of slow.”

But sometimes even at Navy, progress comes faster than expected. Last season, two players that began with the JV team ended up as starters with the Navy varsity.

At virtually any other school, Penrose would be a redshirt freshman.

“It’s kind of disappointing that we can’t have a redshirt year,” he said. “That’s one thing that makes it tough here.”

Penrose said he struggled to learn the offense last year, but has a much better grasp this season. He also said he still hasn’t played his best on the field.

At Galena, Penrose ran 40 yards in 4.56 seconds. But he weighed only 165 pounds then and has since become stronger and bulked up to 185 pounds.

He was also slowed down by an ankle injury and last spring ran just a 4.7 in the 40. “That was kind of disappointing,” Penrose said.

But Penrose said he’s confident that he’ll again reach where he once was speed-wise.

Penrose said he thought he would have been given the chance to suit up for last year’s Army-Navy game, but couldn’t do to his injury. He definitely plans to suit up for this year’s Army-Navy game.

He was still there for last year’s Army-Navy game and was also in Baltimore for last season’s game against Notre Dame.

The only way to fully appreciate the experience of the Army-Navy game is to be there, Penrose said.

“It’s pretty amazing,” he said. “I’m sure it’s more amazing to be on the field. It’s kind of hard to describe.”

Penrose was able to bulk up and become stronger despite being delayed last year during “plebe summer,” a notorious six-week program that indoctrinates incoming Midshipmen into Navy life.

Penrose went from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day for six weeks. “I lost quite a bit of of weight and strength then,” he said. “Sometimes it was more mentally tough than physically tough.”

The same could be said for Penrose’s freshman year. While the physical hazing part of the Naval Academy’s past is no longer allowed, the mind games continue.

“They’ve really cut back a lot,” said Penrose about the physical hazing. “They can’t even make you do push-ups any more. It’s probably worse in some college fraternities.”

But that still doesn’t mean upperclassmen don’t make sure that they keep freshmen in their place. “They get on you and yell at you,” Penrose said.

“It went O.K.,” said Penrose about his freshman year. “I’m obviously glad it’s over.”

Penrose took 16 units in his first semester and 18 units during his second semester and managed to carry a 2.4 grade point average, which is about average for football players at the Naval Academy.

Making it more difficult was the fact that there was an 11 p.m. curfew for freshmen, meaning Penrose had just 2 to 2 1/2 hours to study each night.

Penrose went to summer school so he would only have to take 15 units this fall. He also no longer has a curfew, so with a lesser load and more time to study, Penrose said he’ll be able to do much better academically.

Last year’s highlight came for Penrose when he scored on a long touchdown run for the JV team against the Naval Academy Prep School, a team made up of players the same age as Penrose who were preparing for the Naval Academy.