FOXBORO, Mass. — Senior quarterback Xavier Arline had options. He initially committed to play Division I lacrosse for the North Carolina Tar Heels and had other offers to play at Virginia, Notre Dame and Duke. Arline, a rare two-sport athlete at the academy, garnered interest from a handful of Division I football programs as well.

Senior linebacker Will Harbour had choices, too. A product of Rick Reedy High School in Frisco, Texas, some 30 miles north of Dallas, Harbour considered playing football at Rice University, which is now a conference rival.

As did senior defensive end Jacob Busic. Standing at 6-foot-4 and 256 pounds, Busic had offers from the University of Connecticut, University of Massachusetts and Western Michigan. He also likes to think he could have played college basketball, should he have wanted to take that route.

“Every school that I visited, nothing compared to the academy,” Busic told

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So Busic didn’t go that route. Neither did Arline nor Harbour.

All three, similar to so many of their classmates, chose to attend the United States Naval Academy. They wanted to put forth the effort it takes to represent the Midshipmen on and off the field.

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They’ll now take the gridiron at Gillette Stadium on Saturday and compete against the Army Black Knights in the 124th edition of America’s Game. For many of the Midshipmen, it’s everything they have worked toward.

College athletes across the country get to live out their dreams, too.

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But that doesn’t mean their experiences are exactly the same. Because while the Midshipmen and the Black Knights, specifically, face the typical challenges many student-athletes grow accustom to, their day-to-day tends to be a bit more demanding.

As Busic summarized it, “less sleep, less food, more work.”

“There’s so many added things to our schedule because we’re not only student-athletes, but we’re student-athletes at the military academy,” said Harbour, whose day routinely starts at 6:45 a.m. and ends some 12-plus hours later after classes and practices along with the occasional highly-scrutinized exam.

“And so their expectation is so much higher for us,” Harbour added.

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Harbour said one of the biggest differences between academy athletes and those representing other universities is the time to recover. The Midshipmen don’t benefit from that, Harbour said.

“It’s a struggle, it’s tough,” said Harbour, Navy’s thumping linebacker who plans to serve as a pilot in the Navy.

Arline, who is joining the Marine Corps, called his day-to-day lifestyle “non-stop.”

“It’s the constant go, go, go, go, go. No rest. And having to do it over and over again with no excuses,” Arline told “And everything you’re doing you’re getting judged and ranked upon how you’re doing it. It’s not like you can just slack around and end up in the same place. You’re kind of deciding your future. So, that’s huge.”

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You’re kind of deciding your future. So, that’s huge.

Navy senior quarterback Xavier Arline

Busic agreed. And he said the added layer of difficulty is exactly why he, a product of Westminster, Md., chose to attend the academy in nearby Annapolis. Many others surely feel the same way.

“It was harder, and I think that’s what makes the men that go to this institution so great. Because we know that,” Busic said. “We know, no matter what the coaches say, they try to butter this place up, get more recruits, but we know it’s a tough place. It’s a hard place.”

Despite it all, though, Harbour, Arline and Busic wouldn’t have it any other way. They couldn’t imagine competing in the classroom or on the field anywhere else.

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“I just wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself,” Harbour said. “It’s really cliché, but it’s the truth. I didn’t want to be a meathead football player just at any school, I wanted to go out there and serve my country.”

Arline added: “I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Featured image via Reggie Hildred/USA TODAY Sports Images