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Evan Fochtman, Crownsville resident and Archbishop Spalding alumnus, retires from Navy football team because of multiple concussions

Evan Fochtman wants to become a Navy pilot following graduation in May. He knows getting through flight school requires a clear mind and intense concentration.

The Archbishop Spalding product has sustained five concussions during his high school and college football career, and as a result he’s unwilling to risk the chance of incurring another considering his military career that’s at stake.

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Fochtman confirmed Wednesday to The Capital he has decided to retire from college football because of multiple concussions. The Crownsville resident has been in the concussion protocol since the Air Force game.

“It’s definitely hardest decision I’ve had to make. This is more about my long-term health,” Fochtman said during a telephone interview Wednesday. “It would have been a dangerous decision to come back. I talked to my family and they gave me great perspective.”

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There was a possibility team doctors could have cleared Fochtman for a return to the field, but he elected to hang up the helmet voluntarily and taking that responsibility out of their hands. He has had long discussions with Navy football head athletic trainer Jim Berry and Capt. Rich Quattrone, the team physician.

“I had to make the call for myself that I shouldn’t come back,” Fochtman said. “I’m just not in a good place to return to play.”

Fochtman suffered the third concussion of his Navy football career during the second half against Air Force. He collided helmet-to-helmet with a teammate while attempting to make a tackle.

“It was just one of those unfortunate situations,” said Fochtman.

Fochtman played in 26 games with 16 starts over the last three seasons and amassed 91 career tackles. The 6-foot-1, 193-pound free safety started all 13 games last season and was named first team All-Eastern College Athletic Conference after finishing fifth on the team with 53 tackles (34 solo), while also notching two interceptions and five pass breakups.

“I’m very happy with how my career went. I’ve been blessed to be given opportunities to contribute,” Fochtman said. “Not many players are as fortunate to play and start as many games as I did. I don’t regret a single thing as far as football is concerned.”

Fochtman was a two-time Capital Gazette Player of the Year while at Spalding and earned the Baltimore Sun Offensive Player of the Year honor as a senior. He was co-winner of the Rhodes Trophy as most outstanding player in Anne Arundel County in 2016 and chose Navy over archrival Army.

Recruited as a quarterback, Fochtman was buried on the depth chart as a freshman and shared repetitions in junior varsity games with several other quarterbacks.

Navy played in the 2017 Military Bowl and Fochtman was promoted to the scout team since he was a local player and available during the Christmas break. He played wide receiver in practice and caught the attention of the coaching staff with his athleticism.

“I got an opportunity to dress for the bowl game, which was cool,” Fochtman said of his first time on the sideline for a varsity game. “After the Military Bowl, coach Niumat asked if I was willing to switch to defense and I said sure.”

Working at safety during spring practice as a plebe, Fochtman proved a quick study and earned a spot on the depth chart despite missing the final week and a half with a broken ankle. He recovered and continued to turn heads during preseason training camp, earning the backup job at the outside linebacker position known as striker.

Playing behind Elan Nash and also as a member of multiple special teams, Fochtman recorded 23 tackles and a sack in 10 games. Brian Newberry was hired as defensive coordinator during the offseason and noticed Fochtman when watching tape of every game from the 2018 season.

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“When I went back and watched the previous season, I noticed Evan always showing up,” Newberry said.

Fochtman had the long, rangy body type Newberry looks for in a safety, and the fact he was a high school quarterback sealed the deal.

“Any time I can get a safety that was a quarterback I do it because I know they are smart and see things from a different perspective,” Newberry said.

Newberry coaches the Navy safeties himself and came to appreciate the approach Fochtman brought to the position. He’s tough when grading effort during games and said Fochtman did not get called for a single “loaf” in 16 starts at free safety.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a player that played as hard as Evan. If we had 11 guys that gave the kind of effort Evan did, we’d be a darn good defense,” Newberry said. “He knows one speed and that’s full speed. Teammates have a ton of respect for Evan because of the way he works.”

Junior rover Kevin Brennan played alongside Fochtman all of last season and for three games this season. Brennan was sad to see Fochtman’s career come to an end.

“It’s really heartbreaking. Evan has given so much to the program and was a real mentor to me,” Brennan said. “Evan is a great player and left a legacy here. He’s one of the toughest dudes on the team and definitely set a standard.”

Fochtman ranked beating Air Force and Army last season as the best moments of his career. He played a significant role in leading a bounce-back season as Navy compiled an 11-2 record, captured the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy and upset Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl.

Personally, Fochtman will always remember recording a critical interception against Air Force last season and tackling Tulane tailback Cam Carroll in the end zone for a safety that turned around that contest Sept. 19.

“What I’ll remember most are all the little things that happen in the locker room. Just hanging out in the training room or talking to teammates while getting dressed for practice,” Fochtman said. “I developed some incredible relationships that I’ll have for the rest of your life. That’s what they sell you on in the recruiting process and it’s interesting to see that come true.”

Fred and Linda Fochtman have been watching their son play football since he started in the sport with the Western Howard County Warhawks. The family lived in Columbia from the time Evan was 8, moving to Crownsville when he was a sophomore at the Naval Academy.

Fred Fochtman admits it’s hard to believe his son’s career is over, saying “it was just so sudden. Watching the last two games and not seeing him out there was tough.” That said, both parents fully support the decision since another concussion could have prevented acceptance into flight school at Naval Air Station Pensacola.

“Given what’s at stake, you can’t roll the dice,” Fred said. “We’re happy Evan has a bright future in terms of his Navy career.”

NAVY@NO. 22 SMU

Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

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TV: ESPN2 Radio: 1090 AM

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Line: SMU by 14

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