By Steve Arel, U.S. Army Cadet CommandJanuary 8, 2013
SAN ANTONIO (Jan. 8, 2013) -- Christopher Youhouse, a thin man standing close to 6 feet tall, looked puny compared to the dozen or so bulky lineman who loomed in a circle around him on the Alamodome field.
While the players, football standouts at their high schools, waited to exhibit their talent at Friday's National Combine, it was Youhouse, a University of Florida Army ROTC Cadet, who stood out to the students.
The players peppered Youhouse, dressed in ACUs, with questions about life as a future Army leader. Some wanted to know whether he is allowed to wear civilian clothes. Some wanted to know whether he was required to buzz his hair.
One player was curious as to whether there were aspects about the Army he wasn't supposed to reveal to them.
"He doesn't know yet," another player answered, alluding to the fact that Youhouse is not yet a Soldier.
As for the other questions, Youhouse said he wears civilian attire most days and he keeps his hair extremely short partly for financial reasons.
"It saves me money, or I'd be going to the barber every week and a half," he said. "It ain't cheap."
Youhouse was one of 20 Army ROTC Cadets from around the country chosen to serve as marshals for the combine, which is sponsored by U.S. Army Cadet Command. Their role is to ensure the high school juniors and sophomores competing are where they need to be at specific times, to help track player performance and to assist with other logistical issues as needed.
They're also there to convey to players -- many of them not much younger than the Cadets -- that there are alternatives to helping pay for college should they not receive a football scholarship -- one avenue being Army ROTC. And even if they do earn an athletic award, ROTC provides considerable opportunities for personal and professional development.
In fact, some players asked Youhouse about the commonality of college football players joining the program. He said most, at least at his school, don't because of the difficulty of juggling the demands of the ROTC with sports and academics.
But some players do participate, such as Rockne Belmonte. While a Cadet at Northern Michigan University the last three years, he was the football team's starting kicker and has earned a chance to participate in the upcoming NFL combine for a shot at playing professionally.
He spent part of Friday at the Alamodome, talking to fellow Cadets, combine athletes and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Ray Chandler, who also spoke briefly to all the players.
Sgt. Maj. Roger Howard, Cadet Command's command sergeant major, also delivered a message to the students: Although their goal is to ultimately succeed as professional athletes, they should have back-up plans.
"How many of you know what you want to be when you grow up?" Howard asked, as a few hands went up. "Those of you who didn't raise your hand, that's OK. I'm sure 99.9 percent of you want to be pro football players. If I could just touch you and say, 'You're now a No. 1 draft pick,' I would do that. Of course, I don't have that ability. Eventually, you have to have a Plan B and maybe a Plan C, if you don't make it to the NFL or the next level, which is college."
He encouraged the participants to be standout citizens, as well as standout players, and to excel in the classroom. Scoring good grades will make available other opportunities, Howard said.
"That's going to lead you to options, and options are going to lead you to choices," he said. "If you've got no options, you'll have no choices. Just in case football doesn't pan out -- and I'm sure it will -- (being a Cadet) is an example of an option to pursue."
Youhouse said a number of students at the combine were genuinely interested in ROTC as a path to college and beyond. He detailed his scholarship incentives to them and the aviation branch he will join.
Youhouse also worked to dispel misconceptions that the Army only seeks people who can carry and fire rifles.
"They're hungry for knowledge," he said. "It's always good to have options available to you."