Jake Wolinski isn’t your typical athlete. While growing up, he of course enjoyed the football, basketball and lacrosse games he starred in.
But it was the preparation that put an extra jump in his step.
He always loved the early morning lifts in the winter and the hot, summer double sessions.
He loved the intermittent 5-mile runs and the camaraderie of others.
Basically, he was born for the military.
And wouldn’t you know it, later this week, those things will become part of Wolinski’s life as he officially becomes a “plebe,” as in a newly entered freshman at a military academy.
Our 2020-21 Eagle-Tribune Student-Athlete Award winner heads to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland to begin his college career with a seven-week “boot camp” as a precursor.
No cell phone. No laptops. No emails. No immediate contact with the outside world.
Every day, from 5:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., the North Andover resident will be on a schedule, most of the time on the move.
“I’ve always embraced the military way of life, the work ethic and the discipline,” said Wolinski. “I’m excited for it, in a lot of ways. But it also hasn’t totally, really hit me yet; that it’s here.”
It has been an interesting year for Wolinski because in April of 2021 he suffered a torn lisfranc ligament and dislocation in his left foot during the spring “Fall 2” football season.
It ended any hopes of going to the Naval Academy in the fall of 2021. He received a deferment to this fall and attended Suffield (Conn.) Academy the last year as a post-grad.
“You can’t go through boot camp with a bad wheel. It can’t be done,” said Wolinski. “You have to be 100 percent.”
Finally, about a month ago, Wolinski felt back to his old self. He played two football games at Suffield, but with the football not feeling up to par he sat out the basketball and lacrosse seasons to get healthy for the Naval Academy.
“Sitting out the basketball season was really tough,” said Wolinski. “But it was the right thing to do. Right now, I’m in the best shape of my life.”
Wolinski recently got his first lesson in handling a firearm, taking some shooting practice at a facility in New Hampshire.
Arguably the area’s best shooter of the basketball during his senior year, this kind of shooting is incomparable.
“Not even close,” said Wolinski. “It was recommended you have some experience before getting there. I was working with a military veteran at an indoor range. It was a big help. He taught me how the guns worked. We shot them. I thought I got pretty good.”
As for sports, Wolinski is hoping for a shot at playing football.
“I loved all the sport I played, but football is different,” said Wolinski. “It gives me the biggest sense of where I belong, where I tune everything out. It sort of resembles life in that it depends on everybody doing their part, not just one person or two. The camaraderie is special in football.”
The Navy football team will hold a tryout for walk-ons only if there are any empty roster spots.
“If I was able to try out it would probably be as a defensive back,” said Wolinski, who has put on 20 pounds since graduating NAHS, now at 200 pounds.
“But who knows? I’d try anything, maybe even slot receiver,” said Wolinski. “If not football, I would consider giving lacrosse a try. If not, then maybe a club sport. I know I do want to play something.”
In the end, though, it will be secondary to the reason he chose the Naval Academy.
“The culture, atmosphere, values and career path,” said Wolinski. “It is setting me for the career I’ve always wanted, being challenged every single day, surrounded by a bunch of people push me who probably become best friends for rest of life … I’m ready.”
You can email Bill Burt at [email protected].