Saving Graces




This story originally appeared in the Aug. 29th edition of Army Football Game Day

One wants to be the Mayor of Detroit. The other wants to help save lives. One is a vocal leader. The other is the enforcer. One hopes to be studying at Oxford after graduation. The other is looking to go to medical school. One wants to write a best-selling novel. The other enjoys hunting and fishing.

Army’s A.J. Glubzinski and John-Michael Gallogly will have completely different paths ready to unfold in front of them when they graduate from West Point next spring. But for now, they are both senior captains on the Army men’s soccer team. And both are goalkeepers.

Gallogly started the majority of the Black Knights’ games in 2005 as a freshman and was the regular starter for the first half of his sophomore year. Glubzinski came on as the starter for the second half of the 2006 campaign and was handed the starting job for 2007. Both have the confidence of their head coach Kurt Swanbeck to start on any given day.

“Not a lot separates the two of them as keepers,” commented the seventh year Black Knight boss. “A.J. is a bit more skilled with his feet, while John-Michael’s strength lies in his shot stopping skills. Both have shown great presence under pressure and have been confident in their abilities since the very first day they walked through our doors. They both have always done a great job of leading the team from the back and that has translated into them doing a great job as captains. While they are very similar on the field, they are two individuals with their own paths off of it.”  

*****

John-Michael Gallogly was at the top of several recruiting wish lists around the country after a standout career at The Woodlands High School, located north of Houston. Swanbeck originally heard about the first-team all-state pick during his junior year when former assistant coach Drew Hoffman took a trip to visit one of his club teammates in 2004. With designs on pursuing a degree in medicine, Gallogly wasn’t sure West Point would be the right place for him since cadets usually have other plans made for them after graduation that don’t include medical school. Having also grown up with military discipline thanks to his father, John, who was a member of the USMA Class of 1970, he was familiar with how tough it would be to pursue a medical degree at the Academy.

“I grew up knowing about West Point because of my dad, but once I figured out I wanted to pursue a degree in medicine, I kind of put the place on the back burner as an option,” said Gallogly. “I knew West Point could only send two percent of a class to medical school and saw how competitive it was for one of those spots.”

Hoffman asked Gallogly to keep an open mind before he left. Three days later, he called with the names and phone numbers of three doctors in the Houston area who had graduated from West Point that were awaiting Gallogly’s call.

“They all said if you want it that bad, it is possible. Whether you go straight to med school, or you go after you serve, if it is in your heart, follow it. Don’t do it for the money or for any other reason. Do it because it is what you want to do. I had already gone on recruiting trips to a bunch of other schools, but when I got to West Point, I had a feeling in my gut that it was the right place.”

Fast forward four years later and you’ll find Gallogly has a firm grip on that “two percent” that originally seemed so daunting. With a 3.5 grade point average and solid med school entrance exam scores to his credit, he is one of only 19 cadets in his class that remain from an original group of 40 that started in the program. With 21 slots available for this year’s graduates to go straight to medical school, he seems to have pretty good odds on achieving the next step in his goal of becoming a doctor.

Gallogly may have had an edge from the start as he has had Army medicine in his blood all his life. His paternal grandfather served as an Army doctor during World War II and later went on to open his own clinic in Jackson, Miss., where he would treat patients for whatever they could pay him with – including fruits and vegetables.

“My father told me stories about my grandfather and how he had wanted to apply for a spot working at Walter Reed Medical Center, but he changed his mind so he could be with his family. My parents always encouraged me to do my best, and to never settle for anything less than my potential or ability. They were always there to give me a push whenever I needed it.”

Gallogly’s grandfather would have been proud of his grandson this past summer as he completed a three-week internship in Washington, D.C. at Walter Reed. There, he not only got to work with the injured soldiers returning from war, but the doctors that are helping them heal as well.

“Seeing the great things in medicine that they doing at Walter Reed was an amazing experience. One of the soldiers I met was a triple amputee that had lost both legs and one of his arms. Just being there to help him along and see the smile on his face while I worked with him was probably one of the most inspirational moments of my life. It was great talking with the guys that had just come back from Iraq about their recovery processes and the things that had happened to them, and how grateful they were for the doctors that had been there to save their lives.”

*****

A.J. Glubzinski was volunteering at a soup kitchen on Easter Sunday when he saw a man use a baseball bat to beat another man when he was walking through the door to get something to eat. The horror that was etched into his 14-year-old mind that fateful morning on the downtown streets of Detroit made him think long and hard about where he was and what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

“That was just one particular instance that showed me the city was an entirely different setting than the suburban upbringing that I was accustomed to, but realizing that it was less than 20 minutes from my home is what really made me think.”

Those thoughts triggered more thoughts about public policy, which led him to start taking politics classes in high school and a desire to get into urban leadership. But never had a life in the military really entered his thoughts when he started to turn his focus toward choosing a college to attend.

In addition to being a standout student, Glubzinski was a three-sport athlete during his time at Novi High School, garnering all-district and all-conference honors while landing academic all-conference recognition in soccer. His impressive academic and athletic resume at first started him down a possible Ivy League path, but a chance soccer recruiting letter from West Point pushed him in a different direction.

“Once I visited West Point, I felt like it was a place where I fit in the best. I was compelled by the nature of the Army and the way it was something completely different than what I was accustomed to in suburban Detroit. There is no other institution that focuses on leadership as much as this place. Coming to the Academy was almost more of a challenge than anything. I just wanted to see how well I could do. ”

To say he has done well would be a bit of an understatement. He has amassed a grade point average that has exceeded a 4.0 while majoring in American Politics with honors. For his senior year, he is one of only 20 cadets enrolled in the USMA Scholarship Program which grooms the Academy’s hand-picked selections to be endorsed for the prestigious Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships. Also a finalist for the Truman Scholarship, Glubzinski additionally interviewed for the Rotary Ambassadorial Foundation Scholarship within the past month. He was also named one of the first two Academic All-Americans in the history of the men’s soccer program last fall.

With a determined mind and a focused vision, Glubzinski can already see a picture of what he hopes the next 25 years of his life will look like, without a hint of arrogance seeping through when he explains it.

“I hope to go to graduate school for a year or two if I get one of the scholarships and push my service commitment back until I am done. Then I’ll serve between five and 10 years, before pursuing a law degree and focusing on a spot in public office with the ultimate goal of being the mayor of Detroit. Oh yeah, then I’ll write a best-selling novel about it.”

*****

One would suspect that a pair of such driven and successful athletes competing for the same position on the same team might not exactly be the closest of compatriots. In this case however, the duo is committed to not only making each other better, but raising the level of the team to new heights.

“We have been training together since the first day we got here so we understand one another pretty well,” explained Gallogly. “We are both very competitive all the time and try to continually push each other. That is what we try to instill in the team every day. The guys on the team understand that, even if they are not a starter, their roles to push people, to train hard and to make everyone better are still very important to the team.”

Glubzinski added, “We are here to see the team win as many games as possible and win a championship this year. Both of us work hard to bring our competitive nature to the training environment se we can set the team up to do that, regardless of whoever is on the field on gameday. If we can bring that competitiveness to the way we prepare, I think that is how we are going to be successful.”
 
Tim Volkmann is an Assistant Director in the Office of Athletic Communications at West Point.

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