Albemarle football coach Mike Alley says much of the work his team has done this off-season has focused on three principles -- character, commitment, and team.
On Wednesday, the Patriots got a pep talk from a man who knows about all three.
Navy SEAL Dan Hathorn made the three-hour trip from Virginia Beach to visit Albemarle practice Wednesday morning. After putting the Patriots through a 1 1/2 mile run, he talked to the team about the importance of staying humble, and working as a team.
"Honestly, it's a blessing," senior running back Niko Troche said afterward. "I mean, he fights for our country everyday. He's doing his time. And to actually come out here and tell us how the real world is, it prepares us."
"It's a different feeling coming from him instead of, say, a teacher," agreed senior linebacker Eli Mackay. "And everyone was really quiet when he spoke. His words were really, they really meant a lot to these guys."
Alley is entering his third season as coach of the Patriots, who are coming off a 2-8 season in 2011. Alley says he and his staff are working to change the culture of the Albemarle program, even using one of the team's off-season practices as a character building workshop.
"Bringing in the Navy SEAL today just kind of solidified what we're trying to do with that program," Alley explained.
Hathorn is still a competitive tri-athlete, despite nerve damage to his left arm resulting from an injury while stationed on a Pacific island three years ago. Hathorn was intentionally hit by a truck while riding a bike in hostile territory.
"It rings a bell in your head that says, "Wow. That guy really means business when he comes out here and tells us what he had to go through,"" said Albemarle senior wide receiver AJ Willy. "I hope it transfers on to our teammates, and our teammates will care about each other as much as he cares about his country."