From turf to the battlefield: commissioning linebackers

For the 2014 season campaign, the Norwich University football team has four commissioned officers suiting up. Two of which are the starting inside-linebackers for the Cadets.

Sir Michael Finney, 21, a Junior biology major from Killeen, TX, and James LaBell, 22, a graduate student who majored in communications and is now pursuing a masters degree in public administration from Stanhope, NJ are both in the starting defensive lineup this year for the Cadets and are both happen to be commissioned officers in the US Army.
According to Finney, he has been a commissioned officer for just over a year, after attending Marion Military Institute; whereas LaBell just commissioned around last July, branching in military intelligence after receiving his bachelor’s degree from Norwich. They both attended leadership development and assessment course (LDAC) in Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Commissioning Linebackers: Sir Michael Finney (Left), James Labell (Right)

Commissioning Linebackers: Sir Michael Finney (Left), James Labell (Right)

The two cadet linebackers have a slightly different perspective among the other starters on the field, due to their military backgrounds and experience. When asked how the military helped in comparison to playing football for Norwich, the answers varied.
“My military experience helps me take initiative on the field” said Finney.
LaBell had different views. “My leadership traits were created on the football field and carried over to my military lifestyle. Football prepared me for LDAC and my military career.”
Neither Finney nor LaBell have served overseas, but both can make clear comparisons to the football team and to military elements they have previously worked with.
“You can think of the position groups as squads, the offense and defense as platoons, and the team as a company, working together to achieve the same goal,” said Finney.
According to LaBell, coming from Norwich helped him immensely at LDAC over this past summer.
“Our school is very diverse, we have people from all over the country,” said LaBell. “When I went to LDAC I felt comfortable with all these kids from all over the country. Where it was clear that some kids felt uncomfortable because they hadn’t experienced it before.”
LaBell decided to come back for a fifth year after a devastating injury in the first game of his junior season (2012) resulting in a broken leg. LaBell received a medical redshirt from the NCAA and came back for a fifth season to finish his eligibility for football and further his education.
The Cadets play each game, and live, with the motto “Be one, believe to achieve”. Finney and Labell can both compare this to their careers’ in the military and their minutes spent on the field.
“In order to complete your mission you have to be one. You have to be able to depend on the others around you,” said Finney. “You have to believe to achieve as a leader you have to make your subordinates believe they can achieve anything as well.”
LaBell had similar words to help explain the quote as well.
“In the Army, it’s not about the individual, it’s about the team. On the field I think about the team and not individual stats. I just care about winning as a team, just like in the army,” said LaBell.
The two Cadet linebackers have a different view than most when it comes to words such as these, as far as being able to see it through the eyes of an athlete as well as the eyes of a United States soldier.
LaBell compared the team to the Army by saying that “It’s all the same training. Each week the football team trains in order to beat the upcoming opponent on Saturdays, just like the Army does to defeat the enemy whenever necessary.”
Norwich University allows young commissioned officers to come further their education as well as their military career.
“This school allows me to further my education and my military career, I came to Norwich to follow my dreams and eventually become active duty” said Finney.
“I looked into ROTC when I was in high school and heard about Norwich and knew I was going to be able to do ROTC as well as play football and it was the perfect fit,” Labell said.
The two linebackers are not only putting people in the stands to watch games, but protecting their lives at the same time as officers in the United States Army.
The Cadets 2014 season record sits at 2-1 heading into conference play with the ECFC
(Eastern Collegiate Football Conference) schedule opening up on the road at Husson
University on October 3rd. The Cadets’ next home contest will held on Sabine Field against Mount Ida at 1 o’clock.

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