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Former Navy football players sorting out their future after breaking regulations

Jabaree Tuani and Kriss Proctor had much different football careers at the Naval Academy.

Tuani started from the third game of his freshman year and became one of the most accomplished defensive linemen in school history. Proctor sat behind star quarterback Ricky Dobbs for most of his first three years and wound up as the starter last season, when the Midshipmen had their first losing record in a decade.

After getting in trouble off the field earlier this year, Tuani and Proctor also exited the academy on separate paths.

Tuani graduated Friday, three months after the rest of the senior class, four months after he and three teammates he declined to name were found to be in violation of academy regulations that prevent midshipmen from having any type of off-campus housing other than to stay with a guest family.

Academy officials learned about the house after a party was held there the night of the spring football game in mid-April.

"We knew what we were getting ourselves into, and we knew we were putting ourselves at risk," Tuani said recently. "We didn't think anything like this was going to happen. We thought it was going to be a low-key, under-the-radar-type deal where we could just relax."

Proctor resigned from the academy around the same time, two months after he said he was caught cheating on a thermodynamics quiz. Proctor is now enrolled in classes for the fall semester at Boise State, where he is working as an unpaid intern for the school's No. 24-ranked football team.

Though on the brink of graduation, Proctor said he chose to resign from the academy rather than fight the honor-code violation because he wanted to start working toward a career as a college football coach and didn't want to become a Navy pilot. Proctor will have to repay the Navy the cost of his college education, approximately $160,000.

"If I didn't have to pay back that check, I would have had to pay back a life's worth of regret of not doing what I love," said Proctor, who is taking a full load of classes to get his undergraduate degree in political science from Boise State next spring.

When he learned he was not going to be able to graduate with the rest of his class, Tuani said, he was "very scared" he had risked losing his college degree and a chance at a military career for what he called "a rash decision." Tuani thought there was a "high chance" he was going to be dismissed from the academy.

Tuani, who is expecting to be sent to Japan shortly to begin officer training in surface warfare, said he chose to take his punishment because he didn't want to let down his family and the coaches who supported him during the remediation process and eventually came to his graduation.

The punishment included Tuani being restricted to the academy grounds for 45 days, marching in full uniform at 5:30 a.m. several days a week and then spending three weeks with the fleet this summer.

"I had to prove myself worthy again of being an officer," Tuani said. "Being an officer is all about decision-making, and our decision-making was in question."

Proctor said the honor-code violation "started a chain reaction of thoughts and [reflecting] and putting things in perspective about my future."

After being restricted to the academy during a spring break he planned to spend in the Dominican Republic — ironically, he was on restriction the night of the party at Tuani's house and didn't attend — Proctor said he began second-guessing his decision to continue with a career in the military.

"I was in my room by myself for a week and began to think, 'What would my life look like in a year? What would my life look like in 10 years?'" Proctor recalled. "Ever since my sophomore or junior year in high school, I have known I want to be around football. I always thought about after college football, I wanted to get into coaching.

"During my junior year [at Navy], I was selected to be an NFO [Naval Flight Officer], which requires seven to 10 years of commitment. I came to grips with the fact that maybe that I wouldn't start coaching until I was 30. I was kind of OK with that at the time, we were in the middle of football and you're not thinking long-term."

Proctor informed several of the coaches of his dilemma and after talking with family members back in California — including his mother, Sandie, who initially had trepidations about her son's postgraduate military commitment because her father had been a prisoner of war during World War II — decided to resign.

Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo got in touch with Hawaii coach Norm Chow about hiring Proctor. Assistant coach Steve Johns got in touch with a member of Chris Petersen's staff at Boise State. Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk wrote a glowing recommendation to a number of schools on the former quarterback's behalf, saying that Proctor had "developed into a well-rounded, impressive young man" who "can continue to be a role model to those around him."

Gladchuk concluded by writing, "He leaves the Academy with our very best wishes and every expectation that he will continue to be highly successful in the future as a well-educated young man with an indisputable competitive spirit. He is a winner."

Commander William Marks, who heads the academy's public affairs office, said in an interview last week that Proctor's honor-code case was in the early stages of a review process that typically begins with peer remediation and works through several steps, potentially all the way up to the Pentagon.

Marks said Proctor's case was considered serious but that it was not clear whether he would have been dismissed from the academy.

As for Tuani's situation, Marks wrote in an email to The Baltimore Sun: "The Naval Academy holds people accountable for their actions. Holding people accountable is just half the equation; we also give them an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and to improve on their leadership skills. Tuani is a good example of a midshipman who made a mistake, was held accountable, then learned from his behavior and became a better leader for it. I think he'll be very successful as an Officer."

Though not speaking on the specifics of either case, Niumatalolo said last week of his former players: "They're human. We all make mistakes. The standard is high here, and nobody makes any apologies for that. We're trying to play football at the highest level and compete, and the administrators, professors and company officers are trying to prepare these young men and women to be officers in the military. If you don't live up to the standard, there are consequences.

"I just feel grateful that Jabaree stayed the course, he's going to graduate [and] I think he's a wonderful young man. ... He made a bad decision, he suffered the consequence and the academy was going to push him to see if he really wanted to be here. They said, 'Here are some priorities, here are some steps you have to do and any missteps you're gone.' Kriss got the same choices. He decided to go a different route. I wish he would [have] stayed and graduated."

The players said in separate interviews that they take full responsibility for their actions and still cherish the four years they spent in Annapolis.

"First and foremost, I'm definitely lucky to be in the positon I'm in," Tuani said. "I'm grateful for my coaches who came to my adjudication hearings on my behalf. ... I put myself in the position I'm in right now. I don't blame anybody but myself. Hopefully if I get the opportunity to be an officer, I won't waste it and make those same decisions."

Said Proctor: "I wouldn't trade my experience at the academy for the world. I had four years of meeting some of the greatest people in this country and building relationships with them that I will have the rest of my life. I grew up so much as a person, physically, mentally, all of that stuff. I got to experience a lot of things that normal college students don't get to experience. I got a top-notch education, not just academically, but in character and integrity. I feel nothing but blessed."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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