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SSgt Latoya Carty, a drill instructor from Parris Island, S.C., throws a pass to Arrington Farrar, a safety from Woodward Academy in Atlanta, while working on catching drills Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015, at Fullerton College in Fullerton, Calif.

Story by Sgt Jon Holmes
Thursday, January 1, 2015


FULLERTON, Calif. - The sounds coming from the gridiron are not unfamiliar to those in the game. However, the scene is different.


Ninety-nine players from across the country run drills in pad and helmets. On the surface, it looks like football practice, but a deeper lesson is being learned on this field. They're learning character – a quality that will not only help them be better players, but individuals.


Teaching them these traits are drill instructors – Marines whose sole purpose is to develop young men and women from across the country and instill them with intangible values like honor, courage and commitment.


“I’m not here to teach them about football,” said GSgt Justin Crawn, a drill instructor from Marine Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. “I’m here to teach them about respect and teamwork.”


Crawn is one of three drill instructors working with Team East for the Semper Fi All-American Bowl. Like him, they are devoted to making the players better athletes and individuals by developing traits like respect, honor and integrity.


“We know you’re talented. That’s why you’re here,” said SSgt Latoya Carty, a drill instructor from Parris Island, S.C. “It takes a better individual to be talented and have character. That’s what we want – them to be better individuals.”


The Marines work with the players daily by running physical training with them, taking part in practice and mentoring them based on their own experiences. Often, they offer lessons they learned from the Marine Corps, hoping that it will benefit the players and make them better individuals.


“Who’s the most important player on the team?” asked SSgt Victor Rodriguez, a drill instructor from San Diego, California, speaking to the team. “There’s no special position. Everyone plays a role. Just like in the Marine Corps. Everyone plays a vital role to make the Marine Corps successful. I, me, my – that’s individualism. That’s not a team.”


The lessons are vital ones, according to former NFL coach Alvin Reynolds. The character he sees developing in the athletes this week not only helps them as individuals, but as athletes.


“If I can get an athletic guy or a guy with character, I’m gonna take the guy with character every time,” said Reynolds, who has more than 30 years of professional coaching experience with teams like the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons. “If they don’t have character, you don’t want them. They’ll be a cancer to your team."


“Champs have character,” Reynolds continued. “That’s from experience. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. I’ve breathed it. I’ve been there.”


It’s that same character Reynolds sees the Marines instilling in the players.


“Marines are people of character,” Reynolds said. “It’s not something you can conjure up. It’s real. The Marines should be proud of what they’ve done.”