Winter Garden West Orange linebacker/fullback Nate Ozdemir says he’s been playing “G.I. Joe” in his backyard since he can remember, so to have received a pair of scholarship offers this week to both of the country’s most prestigious military academies was a dream come true.
And, fortunately for Ozdemir, he didn’t have too difficult a decision to make in choosing between the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Army, opting to commit to Navy on Wednesday, joining his best friend and teammate defensive end Winston Chastang.
“It feels good. It feels like a lot of hard work has finally paid off. I’ve been working on this offer for ever and it’s the only place I really ever wanted to go and I’m just glad I got it,” Ozdemir said Wednesday after both he and Chastang took part in the Orange County Metro All-Star Game. “Winston Chastang has been my best friend since I was a little kid and I’m just excited to go there with him.”
Ozdemir has long been considered one of the best prospects in the Central Florida area and he had been getting early looks from schools like Big Ten Wisconsin before his junior season, but for whatever reason, no schools ever courted the 6-foot-2, 230-pounder.
“For the longest time I always thought I was under-looked … I was always grinding in the gym,” Ozdemir said. “I’ve played offense, defense, special teams, mowed the lawn and walked the dog.
He’s a tough, hard-nosed football player who will play anywhere a coach tells him to line up. He’s played fullback and defensive tackle for West Orange, and of course was a mainstay at linebacker for the past two seasons. He will likely play linebacker for the Midshipmen.
“I love inside linebacker,” he said. “For the longest time I always wanted to play fullback because growing up I always played offensive line and playing fullback is a lot of fun. I don’t mind blocking for the running back and getting to punch it in at the end.”
He’s excited to get a chance to serve his country and do things that aren’t necessarily commonplace at regular football schools.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Ozdemir said. “I get to play big-time D-1 ball, get an Ivy League education … I’ve been playing G.I. Joe in the backyard since I was a little kid, so I get to jump out of airplanes, kick down doors .. the whole nine yards.”
Ozdemir will still visit Army's West Point headquarters for an official recruitng trip and will also trip to the Annapolis, Md., based Naval Academy.